Yes, Virginia, there is meaning in rugby league


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to deliver the George Lovejoy Memorial Lecture.

There is, in any memorial lecture, a sense of loss. There is also a sense of yearning; a yearning for the character in whose honour the lecture is being given, and of their time. Times past. Glorious times past. Times which mean a lot to us. Times that matter.

Some argue that this is mere nostalgia, based on the idea that the imagined past is better than the muck we wallow around in now.

Nostalgia, in this limited sense, is nothing more than a mind-altering drug.

But this is very unfair to one of my favorite words: nostalgia. In Australia the word is often used poorly, in an unsophisticated way.

But consider for a moment how it is used in the Latin languages. In French and Spanish, nostalgie has greater depth, as does the Portuguese saudade. These words capture a different essence: the sense of returning to that which has formed you; of returning home.

That sense of home, for many people here tonight (who on first glance seem to be a little older), will have been formed in the time of the great rugby league broadcaster, George Lovejoy. It was a different Brisbane, a different Queensland, then.

I can mention a few things that I reckon will make you smile. Trams. Custard apple farms at Sunnybank. Getting the cuts at Villanova. Big-tummied blokes in shorts and long socks climbing the stairs to the Don Tallon Bar at the Gabba – blokes who have “drunk their arses off”. XXXX before other beers were allowed north of the Tweed. Lang Park. These things are something, and they mean something.

I am slightly younger than the George Lovejoy generation. But there are plenty of things that make me smile. Rugby league is one of them.

Recently I spoke at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival with actor and writer William McInnes. If you have a Queensland sensibility you will relate to much in his wonderful memoir A Man’s Got to Have a Hobby.

William is a terrific bloke: a graduate of Humpybong Primary School, and a mad Dolphins fan. The night before our writers’ festival session we had a session of our own, remembering the players of the rich Brisbane Rugby League in the 1970s. I’d mention Hughie O’Doherty and he’d tell a yarn. He’d mention Bevan Bleakley and we were away. Nev Hornery. Ian Dauth got us out of our chairs: two grown men in an Adelaide pub completing the Dauth knee-raise.

The next day, rather bleary of eye, in front of an Adelaide crowd of almost 1000, nothing having been planned despite many hours together the night before, we opened with the Brothers club song.

It’s the team in the blue and the white it’s the Brothers

The team that’s superior to all the others

When the games are all played and the season’s no more

It’s Brothers the premiers topping the score.

And followed it up with the Wynnum Manly club song, before concluding that there are not enough excuses in the world to sing Men of Harlech.

If not quite totally perplexed, the crowd was certainly engaged. They could see these songs meant something to us, and they had the equivalent club songs in their 140 year-old Adelaide footy competition. And, indeed, their experience, the decline of their local competition in the face of the rise of the national competition, was similar.

William and I send emails to each other. He finds Youtube clips of rugby league from the 1970s and forwards them to me, signing his note Peter Leis or Tony Obst, Wayne Lindenberg or Peter McWhirter. And it’s brilliant when he pulls out a name you haven’t thought of for years; footballers who you saw on The Big League every weekend.

Around the time George Lovejoy was nearing the end of his remarkable broadcasting career, a political essay was published in Australia: “Yes, Virginia, there is a working class”. I read it in a political reader, one of those heavy tomes useful for killing cockroaches, pressing daisies, and keeping the door open.

Well, I’m directing my thoughts at Virginia again, “Yes, Virginia, there is meaning in rugby league.”

I want to say a few words about the origins of that meaning: about friends and families and communities involved in the game; about the game and the sense of community surrounding your suburb, your town, your state; about the sense of ritual which is a home and away season; about Indigenous footballers; and about the essence of the game.

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I have lived a double life. I was born in Chinchilla. My father is a Geelong-mad southerner; my mother is from the Lockyer Valley. Her father Grandpa Logan was a spud and water melon farmer from Tent Hill. He was 5 foot 2, but he could run like the wind.

I remember Grandpa sitting in his woollen undershirt in the winter sunshine cutting spuds to plant, the sort of woollen undershirt he wore underneath his rugby league jumper around the time of the Depression.

He didn’t talk much about rugby league – more about bowls and rain, and how he could never win a raffle. My Nan hated raffles; she was of German Lutheran stock.

When I was very young we moved from Chinchilla to Victoria, but then after a few years we moved back to Oakey on the Darling Downs. And so we did what most Oakey boys did: we played rugby league. Sadly, we only won one match in four seasons; that was against Allora-Clifton, in Under 13s, in the middle of a July cloudburst. Our jumpers were always huge on us, because we were small. So when it came to weight footy, at school level, we didn’t get beaten.

Rugby league was an important part of the life of the town of Oakey. During the years when the Oakey Bears, under Peter Connell, were strong, the cars would be crammed in around the ground and the little grandstand would be chock-a-block on Sunday afternoons. Great players like Dicky Rose, Bruce Millett, Terry Arnold, Nev Tate, Willie Weatherall, Cec Docherty and Mal Muirhead. What a backline!

I went to all the home games to have a pie with mushy peas, and to hear the blokes in the pig pen yell, “Put ‘em on-side” as the beer spilled every which way with the gesticulation.

When I got towards the end of my high school years I used to make burgers at the Cecil Café in Oakey especially on Friday and Sunday nights – the rugby league crowd would always gather at the Western Line for a hundred beers after work on Friday and after the game on Sunday. They’d usually kick on until they realized they were late for tea. After (early) closing they’d wander over for a hamburger with the lot. While they were waiting they’d keep looking at the Kabana in the display fridge – until they could resist no more, “You better cut me off a bit of that Kabana as well.”

Then when Oakey played away I hoped they would be on the local radio station. Because they were one of the top teams, they often were.

I’ll never forget Pat O’Shea’s exciting calls. (Pat is still going: he calls the Toowoomba races these days). I loved the way his voice would lift as Dicky Rose made a break and I’d stop doing my Maths homework to imagine the swarming defence and the looming support:

“Rose. Rose is through. He looks outside, steps off is right, and finds Muirhead. What a great ball Dicky Rose, and Mal Muirhead goes in under the posts. Oakey 14 All Whites 5 with the kick to come.”

This was played out across the provincial cities and towns of Queensland.

Of course, we also followed the Brisbane and Sydney competitions.

But Brisbane was a long way away in those days – and they had sophisticates like Don Seccombe and Gary Ord who read the News.

So, for those of us in the bush, George Lovejoy was an exotic Brisbane caller.

Such regionalism has been a key part of the significance of rugby league – playing for the town and the region. – Toowoomba, Ipswich, Wide Bay, the Foley Shield of North Queensland. To make the Queensland country side was an achievement, and was a way of thrusting your name before the state (and maybe national) selectors.

Some players tried their luck in the big-time competition of Brisbane.

We watched The Big League with Arthur Denovan, and heard calls on ABC regional radio with Peter Meares (from memory) and Cyril Connell. Cyril knew Queensland, when it was still a small place.

Rugby league provided a shared experience; a feeling that was galvanized by the arrival of State Of Origin football.

I remember those early Origin matches in the days of the old Lang Park. On winter’s evenings when, across the top of the southern terrace, the silhouetted figures of the drinkers in front of the golden, western sky, reminded you of a World War I photograph; the flash-flash-flash-unflash of the XXXX factory.

These have become festival days in Queensland; days when we find our inner pineapple. I remember some of the classic ads:

Fish are jumpin’ waves are pumpin’

Steak is sizzlin’ this is livin’

An ocean as blue as the sky up above us

We love it up here.

We don’t just like it – we love it:

The people, the places,

The mates, the faces,

The XXXX mate,

We love it up here.

State of Origin symbolized the shared experience of being a Queenslander.

I saw all of the matches at Lang Park in the first five years, like the 1981 fixture when we were 15-0 down, and won 17-15. The characters who played in them became household names Wally, Mal, and Geno –  they were (are still) known by one name, like Brazilian soccer players, only in a Queensland way. Many moments were etched in to the public memory.

Rugby league has also proved to be very meaningful for the Indigenous community.

Some of the first Aboriginal people I met were through sport and especially rugby league: Dicky Rose, Willie Weatherall and especially the late Cec Docherty (with whom I played golf occasionally at the Royal and Ancient Oakey Golf Club).

I have been able to spend a lot of time with Steve Renouf, working together with him on his biography. This included considerable research in to his family history, and took me to Murgon and Cherbourg which was formerly Barambah. I learnt of characters like the late Frankie ‘Bigshot’ Fisher, the wonderful player of the 1930s (Cathy Freeman is his grand-daughter) and the significance of rugby league to Aboriginal people at that time.

I also learnt of what rugby league means to Aboriginal people now. There are so many talented Indigenous footballers playing at the top level, and throughout the suburban and country leagues. Last January when I caught up with Steve he told me that he thought the All Stars game on the Gold Coast would be very popular among Aboriginal people. “They’ll come from everywhere,” he told me. And they did.

I look at Steve Renouf’sown  love of the game, and the meaning he derived from it. He learnt to love victory, and the collective thrill of premierships. But he also derived deep satisfaction from his ability to express himself physically through the game.

There is meaning in the aesthetic of rugby league, the beauty of Steve Renouf slicing through, the aesthetic of the Parramatta backline of the early 1980s, the aesthetic of the current Queensland team.

You look at Steve now and you see his desire to have his own sons, and other boys, enjoy the game as much as he did.

The meaning we find in rugby league may have key cornerstones, but there are also changing meanings. Commercialisation and commodification have altered rugby league at the top level, and altered the meaning for some of the key figures in it. What happens to the game when the money men get a hold of it?

So we have commercially powerful clubs, who enjoy on-field success. They appeal to mass audiences and take advantage of the celebrity culture we now endure.

But we also have clubs like Goodna in local and junior rugby league. Goodna has a beautiful ground among the jacarandas down by the Brisbane River. There is meaning in the common purpose of putting teams on the ground; in playing rugby league; in striving for victories and premierships. There is meaning in the ritual of meeting together for home matches, standing on the veranda of what they call Bay 13, and cheering the boys on. There is meaning in the contest.

The Greeks called the contest  the agon. It is a two-part test: he test of self, and the test against the opponent, all completed in the context of genuine physical danger. Rugby league is about skill, but that skill must be demonstrated under the constant threat of physical danger.

It links the game to human history, to human conflict, to human competition, to any endeavour where fear and courage sit side be side.

In my book Loose Men Everywhere I went looking for the meaning in football. I got to the age of 35 and I realised I still had a child-like excitement about footy.(I now have it at 48) I reckon we tire of things which lack meaning. They become tedious. By a certain logic I was able to argue that football must have meaning. Because I’m not tired of it!

For those of us who know and love the game, who have grown up with it, so many of our memories are bound up in football; our mythology of hope is expressed in football; our need to shake our fists at the gods is bound up in football. For some of us football provides a sense of who we are and where we come from.

Yes, Virginia, there is meaning in rugby league.

 

Read more great articles at www.footyalmanac.com.au

Check out The Rugby League Almanac 2012

Email John Harms  j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf’s Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV’s Offsiders.

He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au

He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids – Theo10, Anna8, Evie6.

He might not be the worst putter in the world but he’s in the worst three.

His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. John, sadly you neglected to mention Ian “Bunny” Pearce in your discussion of great Redcliffe players of the 70s. I was a Western Suburbs boy, but secretly followed Easts so was heartened by the Wayne Lindenberg call. Des and Rod Morris, John Lang, Jeff Fyfe (kicker of the 72 GF winning drop goal against Valleys) et al have a place in my heart. Very proud to have two of my cousins play for the Tigers in more recent years.

  2. Adam Muyt says:

    Yes, John, you’ve hit the spot.

    As Frank Hyde – the Sydney equivalent of George? – would say, “It’s high enough, it’s long enough – it’s right between the posts!”

    Moving from Melbourne to Canberra in the mid-2000’s rekindled my passion for the sport I grew up with, rugby league. Several trips up to Sydney to watch games, culminating in being at the Olympic Stadium with my sister watching Manly’s demolition of the Cheaters in the ’08 grand final. Being surrounded by my sis and several thousand other delirious Manly supporters took me all the way back to my seventies growing up on the northern beaches, surrounded by maroon and white. Nostalgia – it’s a beautiful thing.

  3. The Cleaner says:

    Marvellous piece, John.

    The demise of the champion Fortitude Valley FC, the Diehards (to see their emblem check out a Champion Ruby tobacco pack)at the hands of the NSW Rugby League and their Qld acolytes the Brisbane Broncos #*&!!! and Jo Bjelke-Petersen drove me to a brave new world, the Territory, and its religion Australian Football and the Mighty Geelong Cats. My only regrets the fading memories of Mick Retchless, Norm Pope, Marty Scanlan, Ross Threlfo and the Wayne Bennett of his generation Premiership Coach Henry Holloway.

    “Resting in the Club House after we’ve won the game
    Another famous victory added to our fame

    And while we quietly? celebrate
    Our victories great
    We played it straight

    The Champion Valley Diehards
    The boys in royal blue .”
    (To the tune of Lilli Marlene)

  4. Adam Muyt says:

    Must admit to some befuddlement whenever I hear Waltzing Matilda being sung, particularly after a few drinks. I blame it on learning the words to the Manly version before I learnt the ridgy-didge ones.

    Manly Warringah, Manly Warringah
    We’ll all be waltzing beside you this year
    And our voice will be heard
    From Brookvale to the Cricket Ground
    We’ll all be marching beside you this year

  5. Peter Schumacher says:

    Love the Manly club song, never “heard” it before. Better than “Freo Heave ho”

    In reference to the State of Origin games, these are the epitome of sports I reckon, even more so when the Maroons get up. Wish that Aussie Rules would bring them back.

  6. Dave Goodwin says:

    John’s wonderful piece on Queensland rugby league has sent my memory banks racing. As an old Kingaroy/Biloela/Dalby boy I can’t resist weighing in.

    My schoolboy rugby league team was Wests – the Panthers from Purtell Park in the red and black horizontal stripes. Premiers in 1975 and 1976 and I think ten premierships up to ’76. They took over from Norths as the best team, before the Easts/Valleys era and prior to Souths, Redcliffe and Wynnum cutting in as the dominant sides. I supported them because they were top dogs when I was 11 and 12, my dad was from the western suburbs of Brisbane and, from memory, because Richie Twist, who was a good player for them and a school teacher got transferred to the town where I lived – that cemented it. Wests went into decline post Broncos and dropped out of the QRL for a time to re-energise, but are back.

    My real number one team though was the Kingaroy Red Ants – in the St George colours – where my uncles Wayne and Grant Barkle were star players. They were both Wide Bay rep side regulars and I think got picked for Queensland Country. No matter where we lived in Queensland we could pick up the radio 4SB signal and listen to broadcasts of their games. Grant was a hyperactive hooker, Wayne a flashy ballplaying second rower who modelled his style on Artie Beetson and was also a goalkicker. They dished it out and they copped it too and it was enthralling listening to the antics and misadventures of these ‘lations on the wireless. Wayne and Grant were as much my boyhood heroes as Dennis Lillee, Malcolm Francke, Ken Rosewall and – later – Thommo and Leigh Matthews.

    The Red Ants played in the famous South Burnett league against arch rivals Murgon, Wondai, Nanango in the butcher’s stripes, Blackbutt (who featured young forester Bunny Pearce, up til he was about 25 – can you imagine the thrill of watching him play country football? Yet Kingaroy used to beat Blackbutt). Plus Cherbourg. Kilkiven-Goomeri were in there for a time, too.

    In 1981 my good mate from high school in Dalby Neil Wharton – a halfback who captained Queensland schoolboys, then went to play under Wayne Bennett at Souths (alongside Peter Jackson and Mal Meninga, whose memorable 21st I stumbled upon at Souths Leagues Club) and later coached Redcliffe to premierships – started sharing a house with Bryan Neibling who was from Murgon. When Neibling found out I was kin with Wayne ‘Sparkle’ Barkle, he turned menacing. That was pretty frightening. Wharton’s playing career by the way came unstuck through being lightweight and susceptible to injury, particularly a horrendous incident at the hands of Tony Obst who was prone to lining up promising ballplayers. The 1970s rugby league lifestyle based on steak, eggs and beer caught up with Uncle Wayne, a Kingaroy peanut farmer, who died of a massive heart attack in 1985 before he was 40. I still miss him.

    That brings me to Cherbourg. That is a mystical name to me. Their football team played the most eccentric and spectacular football I’ve ever seen, though not necessarily the winningest. In the backs it seemed like watching seven Ellas or Krakouers together, swarming and flickpassing with innate brotherly understanding. They were as different to behold as that first ever Japanese rugby union team in a world cup, compensating for lack of physical size with originality and team ethic. Cherbourg’s forwards were undersized but hard and reckless to a man.

    The immediate forebears of the supporters of the white sides in the South Burnett league in those days would have been involved in displacing local aboriginals from their land just 70 years or so earlier. In his 1991 Ph.D thesis on the Barambah aboriginal settlement Thom Blake discusses Cherbourg sport as the Aboriginal way of resisting white values and domination, as a means of asserting their ‘otherness’. He says they didn’t play for personal glory or individual attainment but as a legitimate means of demonstrating superiority over the whitefella. And it was awesome to behold.

    Here are the words of the Cherbourg football song, which says it all:

    Keep the ball in motion, like a rolling ocean,
    Cherbourg plays the game,
    Keep the forwards moving, and the wingers dashing
    We just play the same.
    If the game is dirty, and the crowd is ‘shirty’
    We just play the same,
    Keep the ball in motion, like a rolling ocean,
    Cherbourg plays the game.

    To attend a Cherbourg game was to see shirty crowd scenes that a white boy of seven or eight is generally not exposed to. I used to watch play from my grandparents’ car, and they would insist we kept the doors locked. The effects of alcohol were on too-frequent display, with crowd fights, often involving female supporters, complementing the on-field mayhem. More than once in the late 60s we drove past fatal car accident scenes on the way home from the footy (I think Jimmy Maher, with his Mundubbera background, referenced this phenomenon when, tanked after Queensland’s first Sheffield Shield victory, he made a famously outrageous statement on live television). Life on the edge witnessed through child’s eyes. (I was reminded of this sensation yesterday when escorting my 8 year old nephew home from the Cats-Hawks AFL game. We happened on a fistfight at a train station. He was more fascinated than fearful.)

    So Cherbourg to me growing up was some kind of Soweto, a no-go zone riddled with taboos but where you just knew extraordinary things happened. There was something special in the water in that Barambah Creek.

    My grandfather Jimmy was one of a family of boxers. His brother Herb Barkle was just about Australia’s best bantamweight in the 1930s. Another brother Bobby, tragically suffocated after being sucked into a peanut silo in about 1970, was manager of the Australian boxing team at the 1962 Empire Games in Perth. There, he handled three Cherbourg boys who rank among the greats of Aussie amateur boxing: Adrian Blair, Jeff Dynevor and Eddie Barney. There was also at that time the Cherbourg welterweight Jimmy Edwards junior who won two national amateur championships and the Queensland pro welterweight title. What an achievement to produce this kind of excellence from a small community!

    Cherbourg was the home of Eddie Gilbert, who I grew up regarding as a legendary figure and one of the greatest ever Queenslanders. He had bowled Bradman for a duck, Bradman had doffed his cap to him and was said to have been scared of him. He was thought to be ‘fastest ever’ pre Thommo and a real gentleman to boot. And he was from ‘out our way’, which drew a respect that crossed racial lines. In the Bradman duck game in 1931 (Qld v NSW) Stan McCabe played one of his greatest ever innings (229 not out) but Gilbert finished with 4 for 74 off 21 overs. Eddie also got 5 for 65 off 19 overs and 2 for 26 against a West Indies side featuring Learie Constantine.

    But back to Rugby League and the reference to Cathy Freeman’s grandpa Frankie ‘Big Shot’ Fisher. I own a copy of a fabulous book by Colin Tatz (1989, Uni of NSW Press) called Obstacle Race, which is the enclopedia of the achievements of Australian Aborigines in Sport. He discusses accounts of Frank’s brilliance as a five-eighth and says after he played for Wide Bay against Britain in 1936 the English captain Risman praised Fisher as the best player he’d encountered in Australia – Frank was invited to play for a side in England. But the administrators of the Cherbourg settlement denied him the opportunity as ‘one star from Barambah was enough’ (Eddie Gilbert).

    Finally, let’s not forget Frank Fisher’s great teammate Jack O’Chin, after whom the Cherbourg footy oval is named. He was mixed race, son of a Chinese businessman. How about this account of his play, from an author (Whitton) Colin Tatz references: “He had a technique for fielding a high punt in the face of thundering forwards, that was a marvel of skill and confidence. He reached up for the ball with one hand, the palm turned away from him, and let the ball settle there. There was always a moment when he and the ball seemed motionless, as the forwards rushed on. Then he would turn the wrist inwards, let the ball spiral down his arm, feint one way and step languidly the other.”

    I sometimes think about this when watching Buddy Franklin play.

    PS In 2008 Bunny Pearce, Jack O’Chin, Frank Fisher and Bryan Neibling were all named in the South Burnett Team of the Century, alongside the odd Test player like Dave Brown, but due to an anti-Kingaroy bias Uncle Wayne – the great ‘Sparkle’ Barkle – missed out.

  7. david butler says:

    Adam, when I was a kid the Manly Warringah song was “Manly Warringah, Fulton’s a stinker,Branighan’s a poser and Eadie’s a twit”. Bring back memories ?

    Do any of you Queensland Rugby League fans remember a mate of mine Troy Pickwick who played first grade Rugby League in Brisbane in the late 80’s early 90’s? He played five-eighth and then was signed by the Sydney Roosters when Fatty Vautin was there, breaking his leg badly at Easts and giving the game away after that. His brother was Glenn Pickwick, a Sydney jockey apprenticed to Neville Begg in the 80’s. Does anyone know where Troy is, he was working for the AFP down here in Canberra but I have lost track of him ?

  8. Adam Muyt says:

    Fulton, Branighan and Eadie…ah, the sevties, when Manly were the best team going around…
    Bozo and Ian Martin took us CBC Manly U9’s for training one arvo. Didn’t help: we lost the grand final 9-5 to those Harbord monsters.

  9. david butler says:

    What about the old Toohey’s ad. “Here we go again, Manly and Parra..Parra’s going well but the gap starts to narra “. Gee we were cultured in Sydney !

    Not only were you good in the 70’s but you were the tv match every week. But that is not surprising with Ken Arthurson running the league and Rex Mossop calling the games. By the way did a Manly player ever cop a suspension in the 70’s ? I do remember Les Boyd getting a suspension for elbowing Daryl Brohman but he wasn’t playing for Manly at the time it was Origin and probably Barry Gomersall was the referee.

  10. Adam Muyt says:

    Geez, youse Parra fans hold a grudge! If you’re going to relive the horro of the Parra seventies, I suggest you count to seven (tackles) before you blow a gasket.

  11. I think I have mentioned this great XXXX jingle from the past which I think it is more inclusive than Tooheys.

    Whether you’re on the Cricket Ground
    Lang Park or the bush
    You still gotta run
    You still gotta tackle
    And the scrums have go the same push
    Unhhh!

  12. johnharms says:

    …playin’ rugby league football,
    the greaaateeesssst game of aaaaalll.

    was the coda of that little ditty Gus

  13. Ian Syson says:

    Ah Rugby League! Gus, now there’s a game with “real tackles”!

    Loved your post #6 Dave. I never went to many RL games outside Brisbane but whenever I did they were ‘interesting’. Collinsville v Bowen in 1983 or so — some insane scoreline like 60-40 with the Bowen copper also playing 5/8 and getting utterly abused by everyone until with a fair but of sustained courage he turned the game into a contest. Showed how cruel and fair crowds can be sometimes within moments.

    Went to a Foley shield final to see Mt Isa get up. The Fijian player, Noah Savuro did a spectacular flying dive to place the the ball over the line (the 25 yard line that is). The crowd cracked up.

    1971 (I think) South Sydney went to Mount Isa in the pre-season. Hammering us until the heat kicked in and we nearly caught them. Can’t remember who played for Souths but there would have been some top players.

  14. david butler says:

    Re # 10. You are bringing back memories of Greg “Hollywood” Hartley Adam. Found out later that he was a Canterbury supporter and I think he may have worked for the club at some stage. I feared for his life at one stage as I think that he lived in the Parramatta area at Greystanes. I remember seeing Mick Stone on the platform at Sydenham one day copping a barrage from commuters.

    Do you remember the woman who ran on to the SCG to give Hartley a mouthful ?

    Ian, #13, 1971 was the last time Souths won the premiership. By the way I still play Masters (over 35) soccer and I have seen two horrendously broken legs in the last two years both from high impact tackles.

  15. Ian Syson says:

    David, It must have been 1972 then. The game was played in 100 degrees farenheit and the Souths players were visibly affected by the end.

    I’ve seen a few bad breaks watching VPL over the past few years. My brother broke one of his best mate’s legs playing soccer in Mount Isa. It was a fair tackle and it didn’t affect their friendship.

    Knackers will be aware that Ron Barassi badly hurt his leg playing soccer in a challenge match in 1964. http://footyalmanac.com.au/?p=3395 He later confessed that this was the injury that eventually made him give footy away. Surprisingly there’s no mention of it in his biography. When I was researching the piece Barassi refused to talk to me about it preferring to bump me on to Bluey Adams (who by the way was a decent bloke who learnt a respect for soccer via his participation in the challenge game).

  16. Adam Muyt says:

    So there it finally is – the reason why Souths has had a bare premiership cupboard for the last 40 years is all due to visiting Mount Isa on a hot day. All so simple. Thanks Ian!

  17. chris baker says:

    john i was one of those kids in the under 13’s the floggings were worth it.When it came to sundays we would watch the likes of cec,willie, etc beat the senior teams and the bragging rights were welcome. always remember the town covered with black and white streamers and flags on grand final day. Great memories

  18. u for got alan hornery him and neville was the hard man be hind there teams

  19. Tony Roberts says:

    Adam
    As you well know, I could be accused of throwing stones from a glass house here, but when you take off your white Lions’ fan hat, the alternative Manly hat that you slip on is the blackest of the black.

    Now, what was that 2012 PF score…40-12 to the ‘Cheaters’? At least the Biters hung tough in the GF (though it must be said that they constituted a rare case where bark and bite were equally appalling).

  20. Terence Harrison says:

    Hi Adam,
    Just googled you. I am going to be living and working in Canberra from beginning of January. . Be good to meet up. Email me.
    Terry

  21. Gary Reen says:

    Great article John…takes me right back. Can I offer respectfully that I don’t think Pat O’Shea called Rugby League until much later. The callers in the TRL from my memory in the early 70’s were Ian Knight and Abby Weimers…

  22. Thanks Gary. The dangers of working from memory! Did 4GR and 4WK call footy? I remember Ian KNight and his sports store – and also I reckon he was the skipper of Brothers-Diggers when I was playing reserve grade for Wests.

  23. Wayne Vohland says:

    Hey John, hope your well. Just stumbled across this article. What a great read and input from readers. Great memories of growing up and the influences of rugby league on us all. Love it!

  24. G’day Wayne. Thanks for the kind words. I wish I could say I made you the great centre you were. Would love to make email contact. I’m at j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au

  25. mark campbell says:

    john it was ian knight not pat oshea that call the footy in toowoomba with des mcgoven plus remember knight and connell sports store

  26. I’m certain Pat called football too. I spoke to him about it a few months before his sad death. (He died shortly after surgery when he was 64)

    I do remember Ian Knight as well. I reckon he played reserve grade cricket for Brothers Diggers (?) when I was playing at Wests.

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