BORN IN 1910 IN VIENNA, he was an engineer who developed a fanatical interest in sport, beginning with soccer at 14 for the Vienna Association Football Club, the most successful and famous Jewish multi-sports club in Europe, where he was a famous outside right. Later, after four years with the highly-ranked Fair Unitas Academic Club, he was elected by 500 clubs to represent them on the Austrian Football Association. He also played table tennis, but as second fiddle to his wife, Steffie, who at one time was ranked third in the world of women players!
For 2 years he managed the Austrian national amateur soccer and table tennis teams on their tours of France, Czechoslovakia and Hungary and was nearing the top of the tree as a sports administrator in his homeland when Vienna fell under Nazi control. He escaped to China by devious means where he organised a special Jewish athletic competition involving 60 football teams and more than 200 table tennis teams in Shanghai, with sections for boxing and swimming. The influential positions he held with the virile sporting communities of Shanghai's wartime population drew the attention of the Japanese Occupational Force who stripped him of all appointments.
In September 1946, he made his way to Hong Kong with his wife and boarded the ship Yochow to Melbourne, where his parents and sister had earlier emigrated. He formed a club there in memory of Shanghai and won many Victorian table tennis premierships. Credited with reinventing the Hakoah Soccer Club, he was appointed to the Victorian Soccer Council in 1953 and became a State Selector, a member of the League Management Committee, the Disciplinary Committee and Acting Treasurer of the Council. In 1955, he was the first ‘New Australian’ to manage the Victorian Soccer and Australian Soccer (Socceroos) test teams.
His association with ice hockey also began that year as manager of the newly formed Arkana IHC based at Melbourne Glaciarium and vice-president of the Victorian Ice Hockey Association (VIHA), later succeeding Bud McEachern as president for an all-time record 17 years. His club merged with the powerful Raiders and was renamed Hakoah by 1957, later beccoming Melbourne Jets. Hakoah went on to win state championships in 1963, '64, '71, '74, '80 and national championships in 1963 and '74. At the same time he ran the Melbourne Hakoah Table Tennis Club and became vice-president of the Victorian Table Tennis Association. He held senior positions in the Victorian Soccer Federation, became an official for the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956, and helped organize the nation's first Olympic football (soccer) competition.
He was awarded Life Membership with Football Federation of Victoria, Table Tennis Centre of Victoria and Ice Hockey Victoria who bestowed on him Honourary Life Presidency after retirement. He was a long-serving member of the Victorian Amateur Soccer Football Association and its successor, the Victorian Soccer Federation; foundation president of Maccabi Basketball Victoria in 1951; holder of senior positions in the Victorian Soccer Federation; and vice-president of the Victorian Table Tennis Association. He was inducted to the Maccabi Victoria Hall of Fame in 2000, and made a Legend in 2011.
He hated to sit in judgement and so, of all his duties, he only disliked serving on disciplinary committees. He liked everybody and was enormously popular. His memory is perpetuated with an annual trophy awarded in his name by the national ice hockey association. Awarded the Order of Australia in 1976 for services to sport, his contribution as a builder and administrator of Victorian ice hockey from 1955 continued for almost three decades up until his death in March 1983 at Balaclava in Melbourne. These were the years Victorian ice hockey paid back its Olympic debts and consolidated its participation in international championships.
Ross Carpenter, 'Defris, Kurt (1910 - 1983)', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia, http://icelegendsaustralia.com/legends-2/bio-defris.html, accessed online .
Shanghai Ghetto: Kurt Defris AM, 2015, Ross Carpenter, Legends of Australian Ice, online