Everyday Obituaries: Vale Tommy Searle



by Matt O’Hanlon


‘St Patrick’s day will never be the same again!’


I first met Tommy in Beaudesert when he was mine host at one of the pubs in the community in the Gold Coast hinterland. It was at a schoolboy carnival and I was coaching a school regional team. Tommy loved footy – junior footy, school footy, club footy, state footy – and a beer. We got on. He also loved the Tweed Seagulls. They were his team regardless of the comp they played in. Initially I thought he was a Gold Coast bloke. He knew everyone on the coast and anyone who played for the Seagulls.


We always had a beer at schoolboy and junior carnivals and talked footy and horses. I was coaching senior teams in Bundaberg and Tommy always had an interest in the player in his early 20s who could play. We would talk about players Tommy might recruit but the Chargers were soon gone and we kept in contact through Tommy’s work in Traineeships. As my family lived in Central and North Queensland, we only caught up at carnivals which he still managed to get to and our mateship continued. At carnivals, whether they be regional, state or national, we always tried to catch up for a feed of Chinese. In 2006, my wife (G-squared) met Tommy in Perth at a schoolboy carnival where we went to – of all places – a Chinese restaurant with a mate of Tommy’s who gave us a lesson on the difference between a piccolo, a macchiato and a short black. Tommy rolled his eyes!


In 2009 we moved to the Gold Coast and. early in our time there, G-Squared bumped into her old friend Helen from our days in Atherton who said she was with a great bloke who was a friend of ours named Tom. G-Squared had no idea which friend of ours named Tom it was. I bumped into Tommy a couple of weeks later and we joined the dots. From that time on, we got together regularly. Tommy was a New South Welshman from Tamworth who had represented Country Seconds as a kid and went to play in England at Keighley for 3 seasons before replacing Barry Muir as coach of Seagulls in 1972 where he took the last placed Tweed from last to runners up in ’73.  They were beaten by Southport who had a young centre called Steve Rogers. Tommy said to me he was special that day. Over the next 10 years, he would Captain/Coach and play in 5 premiership sides. He loved footy, he loved the Seagulls and he loved the Gold Coast! In any country town in Australia, in any team sport with that record, you are going to have street cred from your own club but, more importantly, your opposition.


People always knew Tommy. We had regular events we tried to go to. The Broadbeach Blues fest was one, the Guy Christmas party another. Fun times where, if US Forces came on, Tommy would do his best Peter Garret – centre stage – broad hand and all. But it was St Paddy’s day we really enjoyed. Just as G-Squared and I had been to Ireland, so too had Tommy and Helen. In 2018 we went to Harrigan’s Drift where an Irish mate of Tommy’s with an English accent said we had to go to Bell–ee–naa (Ballina) and visit the pub over the river Moy that is a funeral parlour at the front but a pub out the back. After G-Squared and I had 6 pints and 6 whiskeys we gave up and tried to find our way home. In 2019 we went to the D’Arcy Arms on the coast where torrential rain hit at about 3.00pm and we had to stay until 10. We talked about footy.


In 2020 I took a 6-pack of Guinness tins around and G-Squared said to remember Tommy wasn’t well, COVID was an issue and to take it easy. With great bravado I told her that I understood and it would be a quiet arvo where she could spend time and have a wine with Helen (and I’d drive home) as I was sure Tommy wouldn’t be up for a drink. When we walked in, Tommy gave me a bear hug (I’d just broke the COVID contact with vulnerable persons rule) and 8 minutes later we were on our second Guinness. (I was on wood for driving home but we only had 2 left – I thought) Tommy said, “I got a dozen of those cans in the fridge so let’s go.” (I was now advising G-Squared it was a cab home) We watched the footy, we talked, we drank Guinness and we drank Whiskey for the last time. As always, I said to Tommy on leaving, “Are you sure you are not a Brothers’ man- St Paddy’s day, the Tweed Butchers stripes?” He replied as only he could,  “Maate- we’ve been around since 1908- we had the stripes before you blokes!”  I know the wind will now be blowin’ at his back and I will always remember that if you have Irish heritage it doesn’t matter where you go, you will always have friends! My thoughts go out to our friend Helen and Tom’s family and extensive group of friends.


“Nior bhris focal maith fiacal riamh” – A good word never broke a tooth!


St Patrick’s Day will never be the same.


Tommy’s funeral is on Friday 9/7/2020 at his beloved Seagulls.


For those interested, obituaries and stories on Tom are on the net from the QRL, NSWRL, Titans and the Tweed Seagulls. There is also an excellent podcast by Tommy’s mate Matt Francis on ABC Gold Coast.



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.



  1. A wonderful tribute, Matt – what a character. The wake should be a beauty!

  2. Greg Mallory says

    A great tribute Matt

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