Pilecki remembered as a rugby great

The Queensland and Australian rugby community is in mourning after the death of one of the game's biggest characters, former Wallabies prop Stan Pilecki.

Pilecki, the first player to reach 100 games for Queensland, died at home with his two daughters by his side on Wednesday after a brief period of ill health.

Pilecki was remembered as one of rugby's big personalities - an old-school prop known as "the Pole" after being born in Germany in 1947 to Polish parents.

His achievements on the field matched his legendary reputation off it, and the Reds' player of the year award is named in his honour.

"Today Australian Rugby lost one of its great characters in Stan Pilecki," former teammate Simon Poidevin said.

"Stan was one of the most authentic rugby players the world has seen, universally loved by all those who had the privilege to play alongside him and feared by those who opposed him.

"In the heat of battle, it was always reassuring to know that Stan had your back.

"Importantly Stan lived life to its fullest and I will never forget his surging run at age 37 to set up Steve Williams for a try against the Barbarians in the last game of the Wallabies' 1984 grand slam tour at Cardiff Arms Park."

Pilecki made his Queensland debut in 1970 and finished his career in 1984 with 122 matches for his state and 18 Tests for the Wallabies.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Stan's family at this difficult time and the whole Queensland rugby community is coming to terms with this loss," Queensland chief executive Richard Barker said. "Stan leaves a great void in our game and he has made a huge contribution to the development and success of rugby, not just in Queensland, but across Australia and beyond.

"Stan epitomised everything that is great about our game and the passion of rugby people."

Pilecki retired in 1988 when he was 41 and news of his death rocked the Queensland rugby community, where he was idolised for his tough-as-nails game.

He worked on oil rigs when he left school and launched his rugby career at Wests, playing 221 first-grade games.

Wallabies and Queensland great Tim Horan said every aspiring Reds player looked up to Pilecki.

"At the Reds we were always trying to get to 100 caps and looking up to him," Horan said. "When he came to training to talk to us ... he'd say something brief to a younger or older player to instil that pride in the Reds jersey.

"The one story I remember being told is that when Bob Templeton was coach, Stan was told to warm-up. He stood up, didn't do any stretches and put his cigarette on the ground.

"But he couldn't figure out why he couldn't put it out while he was wearing boots. They were saying Bob was getting frustrated and telling him to hurry up."

This story Pilecki remembered as a rugby great first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.