Mark Loane: “I’m very very surprised… and honoured”

David Tuckwell 17 March 2017

A portrait of rugby hero and surgeon Dr Mark Loane will be added to the National Portrait Gallery this week. The portrait comes as the final installment in a three-part series on Australian rugby legends.

“I was very, very surprised at the announcement,” Dr Loane said. “And also very honoured.”

Dr Loane is the nearest thing to a modern day polymath. Joining the Wallabies at 18 as their youngest ever forward, Loane became the captain in 1979 and led his team to the first Bledisloe Cup victory in Australia in 45 years.

But he didn’t stop there.

For most great sportsmen, sport is life. After leaving the field, they retire fat and happy to lucrative post-careers in commentary, coaching or advisory. Shane Warne joined Channel 9, Nathan Buckley started coaching the team he once captained, Adam Goodes joined David Jones as a celebrity ambassador.

Bur for Dr Loane, the end of his rugby career in 1982 marked only the end of the beginning.

At 30-years-old, he sat the eye surgeons’ exam and smashed it, coming top of his class, marking the start of his second and equally laurel-studded career as an eye surgeon.

Ascending the ranks of Queensland ophthalmology, Dr Loane started his own clinic. From there, he poured time and money into opening eye health centres in remote aboriginal areas like Cape York. He was honoured for his charity work with the Order of Australia in 2011.

Looking back, Dr Loane says the charity work was the more important part of his life, after family. “It’s about trying to give something back to your country and people. It’s a lot of fun playing rugby but the charity work was more significant.”

The portrait, taken by the Canadian-born photographer Joachim Froese, tries to unite the two aspects of Dr Loane’s life through a unifying theme: change rooms.

“I spent years of my life, from the time I was 12, in change rooms, where you turn up to something dressed in some kind of suit and then you run on to the field and you become something different on the field.

“I didn’t realise until my photographer pointed it out but that’s exactly what you do in surgery: you put on new clothes and become something different. [The photographer] did something that I wouldn’t have thought of: that I’ve been going into the change room almost daily and putting on new clothing and turning into something else.”

The portrait will be open to public viewing from Saturday.

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