Throughout the hundred years of Rugby League in Australia there have been many controversies. Most involving drugs, rape, money, sex, deceit, theft, false medical conditions, sauce, the list goes on.
But one incident tops all of these. One incident involving adultery, attempted murder, depression, attempted suicide, divorce, the end of a sportsman’s career and a forbidden love. An incident that would have the script writers of ‘Days Of Our Lives’ salivating.
Bobby Lulham was born in Newcastle in 1926 and started playing Rugby League as soon as he could. He moved to Sydney to play for Balmain in 1947. Lulham was an outstanding winger for Balmain immediately. In his debut season he became the season’s top tryscorer with 28 tries, which is a Balmain club record for most tries in a season, still to this day.
In his debut year he was selected for New South Wales in all 4 games, as well as playing for Balmain in their 13-7 Grand Final win over Canterbury. A year later he made his debut for Australia in the third test against Great Britain. He scored a try on debut, however Australia lost 23-9. He played two more tests against France on the 1948-49 Kangaroo tour.
Everything pointed towards Lulham becoming a superstar in the mould of Blinkhorn, Horder and Wearing.
Until the 1953 season.
1953 started well for Lulham, he was in good form and Balmain were performing reasonably well. On July 18, Balmain lost to Canterbury 14-7, and it was noticed that Lulham’s performance was well below his usually consistent high standard. He told the Balmain officials that he just had an off day, which they accepted and nothing more was said of the matter.
Once Lulham got home, he called his doctor to come to his house and try and figure out what was wrong with him. His doctor came to the conclusion Lulham had a stomach ulcer.
This is where the story gets interesting.
Two days after the loss to Canterbury, and with Lulham bedridden, the NSWRL doctor received an anonymous phone call from a woman, who claimed her husband had put poison in Lulham’s beer before the game against Canterbury. The doctor immediately notified the police. Lulham was consequently relocated to hospital as his condition continued to deteriorate.
The police knew immediately that Lulham had been the victim of thallium poisoning when they noticed that his hair was falling out. It was revealed that Lulham had consumed over half of the lethal dosage amount of Thallium, commonly found in rat poison.
Once this information was revealed, the public and media went into a frenzy. Claims were aplenty, many believing Lulham had tried to poison himself.
Two weeks after the discovery, Lulham’s mother-in-law Veronica Monty, was charged with attempted murder. It was heard in court that she had sat down with Lulham and made them both a warm drink. She wanted to talk with him about their relationship.
In 1951, Veronica had seperated from her husband and had nowhere to live, so Bobby and his wife Judith, agreed to let her stay with them.
Over time, Bobby and Veronica developed an intimate relationship. Eventually the guilt Veronica was feeling about deceiving her daughter had got her very depressed and she felt she had to do something before she ruined her daughter’s marriage.
When she decided to talk to Bobby, she intended to tell him that she couldn’t live with the guilt anymore. She had decided she would put rat poison into her drink and kill herself.
Unfortunately, the drinks became mixed up and Bobby consumed the poisoned beverage.
Once Lulham had recovered almost a month later, he gave evidence in court admitting he had been involved in an intimate relationship with his mother-in-law.
Things didn’t improve from there. The illness had rendered Lulham too weak to play first grade anymore and he was forced to retire. Veronica Monty, after being arrested, had taken thallium and was immediately admitted to hospital. Once cured, Veronica’s husband filed for divorce. Shortly after, Bobby’s wife Judith also filed for divorce.
Lulham passed away in 1980.
Not from thallium though.
…and these are the days of our lives.
Bobby Lulham career statistics
Balmain (1947-53) Played 85, 85 Tries, 85 Goals, 345 Points
New South Wales (1947-49) Pl 9, 8T, 24 Pts
Australia – Tests (1948-49) Pl 3, 1T, 3 Pts
Australia – Tour Matches (1948-49) Pl 15, 11T, 33 Pts
TOTAL (1947-53) Pl 112, 105 Tries, 45 Goals, 405 Pts