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Vale Doug Laing and Bill Orchard

28 October 2014

Vale Doug Laing 1931-2014

WATER POLO: The Olympic community is in mourning following the passing of two time Olympian and former senior national team goalkeeper Doug Laing.

Laing had an international career that spanned seven years from 1950-1956, where he accumulated 50 caps for the national side and competed at the 1952 Helsinki games and as well as being one of the lucky Australian’s to compete at a home Olympics, Melbourne 1956.

Laing truly announced himself on the water polo scene in the 1950/51 at the NSWAWPA competition playoffs where he was a member of the Bondi B side, a team dubbed the ‘young heads’.

The young Bondi team were quick to assert their dominance over their club counterparts, the Bondi A team (or ‘old heads’) 5-1, before beating the undefeated Spit side 5-3 in the final.

Spit exercised their right as minor premiers to call for a re-match, however Bondi B again won, 8-5 this time to secure Bondi’s fourth successive first grade premiership.

For his efforts, Laing was promoted to the Australian team to compete at the Canterbury Centenary Games in Christchurch. Interestingly, Laing and Bondi teammate Keith Whitehead were promoted prior to being selected to represent the NSW state side.

When the 1952 Olympics were on the horizon, Laing along with his teammates had to pay their own way to the Olympics, with the Australian Olympic Council only covering costs for the half of the 85-strong Australian team.

The team eventually raised enough to travel to Helsinki by boat aboard the P&O Liner S.S. Strathmore, with the Bondi boys providing belts normally reserved for surf rescues as a tool for training. The belts would be strapped to the ships pool railings, while the team would line up four abreast for swimming sessions.

At the 1952 games, Laing was considered one of the three best goalkeepers at the tournament, however the team lost both of their games to finish 19th and came home determined to accelerate the development of water polo in Australia.

In between his international campaigns, Laing had continued to play for Bondi in the NSWAWPA, where in 1955/56 they won Bondi its ninth consecutive first grade premiership following an undefeated season.

At that point in time it had been four years since the national side had played an international match and in the lead up to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics the Australian’s played a number of warm up games, almost defeating favourites Yugoslavia.

The 1956 Games yielded just one win, over Singapore, with the Australian’s again finding that the game had further evolved in their four year absence from international competition.

Laing retired following the 1956 Olympic campaign, although continued to compete for Bondi in the NSWAWPA, where he again won the first grade competition in 1956/57 to make it a decade since any club other than Bondi had won.

Following his retirement Laing went on to found Laing Real Estate, with his daughter Vicki following in his footsteps, and remains at the business today. 

The Australian Olympic Committe and Water Polo Australia extends their sympathy to Doug’s family and friends at this sad point in time for them.


Messages from the water polo community:

John Harrison: “I first met Doug at Rushcutters Bay Baths around 1960, when the state colts training was ‘intruded’ by the Bondi and Bronte.

“Even though Doug had retired he was there with old greats such as Ray Smee and Keith Whitehead who would always find time to coach and encourage other players.

“As a coach, Doug stuck to fundamentals on skills training and basic tactics learnt from his exposure to playing at national level, and with what he learnt from several Hungarian players from his era who remained to play in Australia following the 1956 Olympics.

“To me he was inspirational as a goalkeeper and coach. Vale a great player and man.”

Peter Montgomery: “Doug had an extremely warm and friendly personality, never speaking ill of anyone. He was a great optimist, which suited his occupation.  It was a pleasure always to be around him because of his beaming smile, warm disposition and funny sense of humour."

David Johnson: "Doug taught me how to keep goals and was an inspiration as well as an outstanding source of practical advice. This helped me during my relatively short career playing for Homebush Boys High School and then Bondi and Sydney University.

"I only ever recall the few times he wasn't smiling as when someone scored a goal against him. He was always a great social companion.

"He was a great teacher due to his love of the game, and never put down the clumsiest player. Thanks for being our friend and teacher Doug, we will miss you."


Vale Bill Orchard 1929-2014

For the second time this week the water polo community is in mourning following the passing of two time Olympian Dr William (Bill) Orchard.

The news comes just one day after that of the passing of Doug Laing.

Ominously, both Orchard and Laing were teammates on the Australian team at the 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, with Orchard’s career also spanning from 1950-1956 and accumulating 50 tests for Australia.

Orchard’s trajectory towards the Australian team truly began in the 1949/50 Victorian AWPA where his side, Olympic, secured both the A grade premiership as well as the Victorian Championship. However, his personal performance wasn’t enough to secure a spot on Victoria’s national championship winning team for that season.

Bill’s efforts at state level were repeated the following season, however he was again overlooked for the Victorian state team. Like Laing, Orchard’s inexperience at a national level didn’t prevent him from being selected in the Australian team for the 1950 Centenary Games in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In 1952 Olympic captured their third successive state championship, with Orchard this time being selected in the state team, where they finished runners up to NSW.

Following a testing Olympic campaign in 1952, Orchard returned to Australia with his teammates and in 1953 tasted success at the national championships for the first time with the Victorian state team.

That success was repeated in the 1954 season, albeit with Victoria and NSW as co-champions, with both teams inseparable after two games. While a decider was scheduled, the Victorian team could not stay in Sydney and therefore the championships ended in a draw.

After missing the 1955 national championships, Orchard returned in 1956, with the event also doubling as selection for the 1956 Olympic Games. Victoria won the championship for their fourth successive year (1954 drawn with NSW), no doubt a shot in the arm for players such as Orchard who were hoping to contest another Olympic Games.

With the European game having made serious development since the 1952 Helsinki games, the Australian’s were again on the back foot in Melbourne against a new style of play that involved more swimming than the old style of play.

Despite this, the team managed to win twice in the pre-games tests, pushing Yugoslavia to the wire in another game, while a solitary win at the Melbourne Olympics was an improvement on the Australian’s previous campaign in Helsinki.

Following his time as an Australian water polo player, Orchard was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and commenced study in the USA and England to become a psychiatrist.
After completing his studies, Orchard practiced in the medical field for over 50 years.

The Australian Olympic Committee and Water Polo Australia extend their condolences to Bill’s family and friends at this sad point in time.

Water Polo Australia

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