PATRICK FRANCIS ‘Pat’ LEANE (11 Jan 1930 – 12 Oct 2018)
Pat was born in North Melbourne and began sports early in life and was a very good all rounder at school (De La Salle, Malvern) in football cricket and athletics.
As a teenager he was playing football at centre half forward for Oakleigh in the VFA in 1947, 1948 and 1949. After qualifying as a PE teacher he moved to Ballarat for his first teaching job and also played for Golden Point in the Ballarat League. This brought him to the attention of the North Melbourne Football club where they would give him a start. However Pat gave up football to do the sport he really loved which was athletics.
As a member of the Oakleigh Athletic Club Pat quickly established himself as a talented and formidable athlete. In 1947 Pat won the Victorian U/19 long jump with 6.51m and was 2nd in the high jump.
The following year Pat finished 4th in the Victorian Open championships high jump with 1.78m. From then on Pat competed in every Victorian championship until 1961 except for 1956. Being an outstanding all round athlete Pat competed in many events in inter-club as well as state championships.
Pat won the Victorian decathlon title 5 times (1951, 52, 54, 59, 60) and was 2nd in 1950. He also won the high jump in 1952 and long jump in 1951. In that period he also gained minor places in high jump, long jump, shot put, discus and javelin on 10 occasions.
Unfortunately for Pat national championships were few and far between. During this period Pat was married to Irene and began raising a family as well as establishing himself as a teacher. Costs and time were a major factor.
His first nationals were in Hobart 1951 where he finished 5th in the high jump with 1.80m. He was unplaced in the long jump and javelin. There was no decathlon at the national championships until 1960. For some unknown reason it had been discontinued after 1927.
Pat was entered in the 1952 nationals in Brisbane but did not compete. However he high jumped 1.96m in March and won the state decathlon with 6,598 pts which earned him selection for the Olympics in Helsinki. His results in Helsinki were hampered by an ankle injury sustained a month earlier. He qualified for the final of the high jump with 1.86m but could only manage 1.80m in the final to finish =24th. He didn’t qualify for the final of the long jump with 6.40m and was forced to pull out of the decathlon after 2 events as his injured ankle swelled up.
There was also no decathlon at the Commonwealth Games in those days. The event was introduced at the 1966 Kingston Games. Pat never had an opportunity to do a Commonwealth decathlon.
For the 1956 Melbourne Olympics there were no trials for the decathlon. The selectors still chose 3 athletes who they believed were the best all rounders in Australia based on what they did in individual events during the domestic season and state decathlons. The 3 performed quite well at the Games with Pat finishing 9th with 6,427 pts, John Cann (NSW) was 10th with 6,278 pts and Ian Bruce (SA) was 11th with 6,025 pts. These scores were on the old scoring tables.
The 1957 nationals were held in Melbourne and by this stage Pat had improved remarkably in the javelin finally getting over the 60 metres mark in 1956 with 63.90m. In 1957 he finished 2nd in the nationals with 58.43m.
The 1960 nationals and Olympic trials were in Perth on the Leederville oval and Pat easily won the decathlon with 6,531 pts beating South Australian national javelin champion Nick Birks. Ten days later Pat won the Victorian title with a big pb of 6,752 pts. However much to everyone’s surprise Pat was not selected for the Rome Olympics. His score was a national record. It was also a state residential record until 1972 when 1972 Olympian Bruce Field broke it.
Pat continued competing in 1961 but then retired from competition until he re-emerged in the late 1970’s to join his sons Pat junior and Brendan in the state decathlon championships.
Both Pat junior and Brendan were developing into good decathletes and Pat senior joined them in the 1978 championships. However he lasted only 2 events. He returned in 1979 and this time finished 15th with 4,985 pts. Pat junior finished 3rd with 6,271 pts whilst Brendan finished 2nd in the junior decathlon but took the title as the winner Michael Mol was from Tasmania. In 1980 at 50 years of age Pat finished 21st with a score of 5,014 pts a World Masters record.
Pat finished his teaching career in the mid 1960’s and then turned to dairy farming which he did until 70 years of age. Pat not only had sons Pat junior and Brendan but also daughters Margaret and Marie.
Pat was a great inspiration to many athletes as he was always willing to help an athlete. From a personal point of view I remember I had just turned 19 and was competing at a twilight meet at the Oakleigh Football Ground in 1961. I had forgotten my jump spikes and was struggling with the high jump take off when Pat came over and loaned me his spikes, enabling me to finish 3rd in that comp. He also valiantly tried to help me many years later in decathlons to no avail as I flew underneath the bar in the pole vault whilst he tried hard not to laugh.
Pat was a good singer and piano player and regularly played golf with his sons, although Pat junior was better. Terminal illness finally ended the career of a great athlete and man.
Pat’s pbs were – 100m – 11.0, high Jump – 1.96m, pole vault – 3.66m, long jump – 7.19m (7.38m wa) shot put – 13.30m, discus – 44.58m, javelin – 63.90m, decathlon – 6,752 (6945 on current tables)
Athletics Australia Statistician
President ATFS (Association of Track and Field Statisticians)
Pat Leane junior
Athletics Australia Historical Results (Paul Jenes, Peter Hamilton,Fletcher McEwen,Bert Gardiner and Davd Tarbotton)
Official History 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games