Former Queensland Rugby League president Peter Betros with Warwick Rugby League Team of the Century lock Joe Baker at the presentation function in 2014.
Former Queensland Rugby League president Peter Betros with Warwick Rugby League Team of the Century lock Joe Baker at the presentation function in 2014. Gerard Walsh

Tributes to one of Warwick's greatest past students

AFTER a lifetime of achievement in science, sport and as a family man, Dr Joe Baker AO OBE has passed away at age 85.

He attended school at Warwick East State School and Warwick State High School.

After finishing his secondary education, he moved to Brisbane in 1950 to take up a cadetship at the CSIRO.

He studied in Brisbane and at one time had a job driving new cars from Brisbane to Warwick at the weekend, playing rugby league in Warwick and getting a ride back to Brisbane with a milk tanker driver. Dr Baker played A-grade rugby league for Easts in Brisbane.

His first professional appointment was as Lecturer in Chemistry at James Cook University in Townsville from 1961 to 1973.

Dr Baker was director of the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville for seven years and the first patron of the Australian Marine Sciences Association.

He had nine professional appointments in 50 years. He was chief scientist of the DPI in Queensland in 1999-2004 and chief scientific adviser for the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries in 2004-2011.

Such was his impact in the field of science, Dr Baker was named one of the first five Queensland Greats in 2001.

In Warwick, he was well known as a classy sportsman who was involved in swimming, rugby league, athletics, cricket, tennis and hockey at Warwick State High School.

Like his father Dick, he played rugby league for Queensland.

Dr Baker was named lock forward in the Warwick Rugby League Team of the Century which was named in 2014.

Team of the Century function organiser Glen Whitton, of the Warwick Cowboys, said he had been told about Dr Baker's great vision for the game.

"He was a copybook tackler. Joe flew from Canberra for the team of the century dinner and was in raptures about being back in town and catching up with old friends,” Mr Whitton said.

"Dr Joe gave a great speech on the night and was given a standing ovation.”

He was a founding board member of the Queensland Academy of Sport.

Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said Dr Baker was one of the nation's top scientists and a wise man.

"It was my pleasure to be in his company two or three times. I met him through the QAS,” Mr Bennett said.

"I know he had a great love for rugby league and the people of North Queensland spoke highly of his involvement in the sport up north.”

Former state rugby league player Greg Platz said Dr Baker was a lovely man who was a top footballer and well respected in his work.

Dr Baker may have spent a lifetime working in science but there was always time to be the family man.

Son Russell is the oldest of four children and said his father's dad died when he was relatively young and he always wanted to give his family more than he had as a young boy.

"While he had many commitments, Dad always had a tremendous amount of time for his family,” Russell said.

"He and Mum supported everything the children did.”

He and wife Val lived in Canberra in recent years. Dr Baker is survived by wife Val, children Russell, Tracey, Rohan and Sharyn and nine grand children.



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