The Spirit of Rob Hancock


It’s a small circle - the ones who knew Rob Hancock personally. Whenever I ask these people what kind of man Rob was, their stories all converge. The theme is always about Rob’s huge generosity of spirit.

The phys-ed teacher who grew up in East Vic Park, studied at UWA before teaching at Tuart Hill High School and the Newton Moore School in Bunbury, was a pied piper who gathered all kinds of people into the frisbee universe. The Hancock’s house on Whittlesford street was a drop-in centre for any of the young frisbee travellers coming up from the country. Rob and his panel van would range far and wide across this state nearly four times bigger than Texas, spreading the love of flying discs and hammering his passengers with E.L.O. on the way.

Some have heard the origin story before but plenty of newcomers haven’t. Lance Stracke, on a self-imposed missionary year, came to Perth in 1978 with an 8mm film of the 1977 World Frisbee Championships held at the Rose Bowl in California. A young student by the name of Kim Holmes spied a poster advertising a screening of this film outside a lecture hall. Intrigued, he went along and was captivated by the spectacle and potential of this new sport. He joined Lance and a few other keen people from St Thomas Moore college for regular Saturday morning play that involved the whole range of events like throw-run-catch, maximum time aloft, distance and freestyle. That dozen or so people were the little thing from which the big things grew. When Lance departed Perth on his bicycle, he left Kim in charge of the small group of enthusiasts that were to become the WA Frisbee Club and the forerunner to WAFDA.

Kim started running in-service courses in flying disc sports for phys-ed teachers. One of these teachers to come along was Rod Hancock, who brought his younger brother Rob, who was still a student at the time. Rob got more involved with the club as it became affiliated with the Australian Flying Disc Association. He was the WA Frisbee Disc Association president from 1980 to ’82 and the executive director of AFDA from 1983 to 1984.

 Iconic picture of Rob that's been used as many Rob Hancock Memorial Logo's

In his time as a teacher at Tuart Hill high school, Rob’s infectious enthusiasm passed on to a few of his students which are familiar names in the frisbee world to this day.

“Rob was the kind of guy who, if you expressed an interest in playing, would then come around to your house in his panel van to pick you up and take you to Yokine Reserve on a Sunday morning to play disc golf followed by MTA/TRC/Distance and maybe ultimate if we had enough people. A lot of my school mates got involved in the sport, James Bellesini, Stephen Manning and their younger brothers Carl and Wayne so we would all be in the back of the van most Sunday mornings.” Mick Canci.

Mick was also a part of the fabled long-distance country trips that Rob organised in those early years.

“Rob organised for us to run a coaching clinic in Southern Cross, where his brother was school principal. Andrew Morris and Rob drove what seemed like about a dozen of us from Perth to Southern Cross where we ran a number of clinics with the local school children. I’m sure there were about 8 people in the back of Rob’s van not counting the discs, marker cones and metal golf poles in there as well.”

I was lucky enough to meet Rob a couple of times and speak with him on the phone from Katanning as a fifteen-year-old. My strongest memory of him was how enthusiastic and curious he was about people. He’d say your name like it was a big secret the both of you shared. More than 40 years later I can see he had the gift that all great leaders have of making everyone who crosses their path feel special.

In 1984 Rob chalked up the WA Freestyle and Disc Golf Championships as well as overall State Champion. He was Australian distance record holder in 1982, TRC record holder in 1984 and DDC Champion 1984. Rob also represented Australia at the World Championships in the U.S.A. in 1983 & and 84.

Then, suddenly in 1984, it was all over. At dinner in Northbridge one night Rob got up to go to the men’s and never came back. He was found with a traumatic head injury, was in a coma in hospital for a while but never came home. To this day nobody really knows what happened. Somehow, he passed out and hit his head. We never got to fully see the leader that he might have become.

*Paul Noesen, 2023 Rob Hancock Memorial Champion

Very early on its existence the Perth Disc Golf club dedicated its masters tournament to the memory of Rob and this year is the 16 th running. As the Rob Hancock Memorial comes around each year it’s hard not to think about what he would have made of it all. By all accounts Rob was a competitive beast who held the principles of fair competition and dignified conduct very dear. He wasn’t the kind of bloke to take a backward step on matters of principle and it’s fitting that the most esteemed award in Australian Flying Disc Sports is named after him.

Corey Bandy was one of the Perth Disc Golf Club members to reach out to the Hancock family in 2008 to make the link that’s been preserved to this day. Every year when we play the Rob Hancock memorial, we carry the torch that Rob passed. In honouring his memory we keep alive the spirit that keeps that flame burning.

by Kingsley Flett