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Interviews Rugby League

int15 - Interview with JIM CODY, an old Western Suburbs Hardman, 60s and 70's by Tony Lewis

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Monday, October 28, 2013


From Tony Lewis off
Kelly's Kids
a tribute site to the Mighty Maggies during Noel Kellys years




NSW Australia

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Interview with JIM CODY ,
an old Western Suburbs Hardman player from the late 70's

Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies. Click image above



"A True Wests Legend - Thanks to Tony Lewis for another great interview.

Interview with Jim Cody.

A True Wests Legend


I think this photo says it all about Jim Cody the West’s player. Jim always played to win no matter which grade or team he was playing for.
Jim Cody was and is one of the greatest Rugby League players to wear the famous Black and White jumper of WSDRLFC.


Thats Jim far right standing 1967.

Jim was kind enough to let me interview him at his home. We talked about days gone by and the great players Jim played with and against over his 17 years of top grade Rugby League.

I hope you enjoy Jims story as much as I enjoyed my time talking to my boyhood hero.


Me as a boy. (its my Jim Cody look.)

Lets start at the beginning Jim was born in 1943 and played Rugby League from an early age for the South Strathfield club.
Their home ground was Henley Park Enfield.
The year was 1957.
Jim played centre or five eight in those days before moving to the forwards so as to see more action.
During this time Jim won many comps as a junior.
It was about this time that the Enfield Feds were restarted.
A lot of Souths Strathfield players like Denis Pittard,
John Armstong and Nev Hornery to name a few went with Alex Smith. Alex took the boys to Feds and were a very successful junior side.
Alex Smith is the father of Rod and Wayne Smith.

Jim showed great ability as a young rugby league player and was asked to play President Cup for West’s at the tender age of 15. Jim not wanting to upset his coach at South Strathfield declined the offer.

Jim was graded in 1961 and played his first 3rd grade game on April 15 at Henson Park


Jims jumper number 38


Jims first game at the SCG 1961.


The main game played on that day April 29 1961.


Jim on his way to the 1961 Grand Final.
Note: Doug Walkaden playing front row for Manly.


The SCG from the air in 1961.



The winning Wests team in 1961.
Wests beat Souths 12 points to 7.


The winning team at the Pratten Park Reunion 2011 ... 50 years later.
L to R Carl Ross, George Downie, Ray Bernasconi,Norm Dhu, John Rochester, Jim Cody, Ian Russell and Barry Ferney

In 1961 Jim played 18 Third Grade games as well as 3 Reserve Grade games.


Jim made his First Grade debut in 1962.


Jims first First Grade game. ...Jim was only 18.


Jim bottom left. Pick the odd man out in this team photo.


West v Parramatta at the SCG.



This story taken from the Rugby League News.

Jim played 11 Reserve Grade games and 12 games in First Grade including the 1962 Grand Final.


Wests lost 9-6.
This was the game where the Famous Cody, Provan, Wilson, Cody incident happened. Billy Wilson was sent off after punching Jim.

Many years later Billy Wilson owned the Sands Hotel in Nambucca Heads and it turned out that Jims wifes second cousin is married to "Bluey" Wilsons son.


Wests 1962 Grand Final Team.


St George great Eddie Lumsden, Fred Nordon, Jim Cody and Kevin Smyth.

Jim was now 20 years old and looking forward to a big year at Wests.



Wests were very hard team to beat in 1963.


1963 was the year that Jim played in the Sydney II team.
A very good Sydney II team.


Wests beat St George 10-8 to go straight to the Grand Final.
Jim played what he thought was a good enough game to make the Grand Final.
Unfortunately Jim was not chosen for the Grand Final and was very upset to have been left out of this famous game. Jim was told by both selectors that they had picked him to play.
To quote Jim “ that kind of ripped my heart out….”
BUT ....Jim played 2 weeks later in the Ampol Cup winning team.


West 17 beat Parramatta 11


Jim played 16 First Grade games and 4 Reserve Grade games in 1963.

Not a very good year for Wests.
Jack Gibson played 5 games, Arthur Summons 3 games, Don Parish 1, Bill Carson 1 and Kevin Smyth 5.
Wests also did not play one game at the SCG in 1964.
Jim Cody played 17 games in First Grade and 1 in Reserve Grade.
A busy year for some.


Jim and Souths Mick Falla meet.



Jim Cody bottom left sitting. ( I think Ned took this photo )

A new coach at Wests, Ken "Killer" Kearney.
Wests made the Final of the pre season but yes beaten
by St George again.
Saints 15 - Wests 7

West's State Cup Squad 1965. Jim is 3rd from the left standing between Roy Ferguson and Ron Costello.
The highlight of the season was winning the State Cup beating Parramatta 16-14. Jim scored a try in this match.


Jim had a big year playing in 27 First Grade games.

1966 to 1969

The Noel Kelly Era.

The 1966 team photo.


This is the history making game where St George were beaten at Kogarah Jubilee Oval for the first time in 10 years.
( If anyone has a copy of this game please contact me)

Wests 12 St George 9 was the final score.


Glen played one season 1966 with Wests.

(If anyone can help me get in touch with Glen Brown that would be great.)

Back to Jim Cody.


Jim scores another 3 pointer.


Noel with black head band.

One of Jims good mates from his days at Wests, Noel "Sailor" Thornton. Jim would always room with Sailor when Wests went on trips away.

Jim played 16 First grade games in 1966.

1967 team photo.

Back Row John Elford, Don Parish, Noel Kelly, John Armstrong, Noel Thornton, Tony Ford, Jim Cody
Centre row (l to r):John Hayes, Dennis Pittard,John Mowbray,Dave Barsley,Bob McGuinness
Front row (l to r):Noel Dalton, Ken Stonestreet, Doug Walkaden, Pat Thomas, Roy Ferguson

This was the last offical game played at Pratten Park. Before the full time move to Lidcombe Oval. Jim Cody was there.

Jim played 22 First Grade games in 1967.

1968 team photo
K.Stonestreet,Doug Walkerden,John Armstrong,Tony Packham, J.Elford,B.Bryant
Dick Picket,B.Glasgow,R.Fergson,Rod Smith,John Maxwell,
Jack Walsh,B.Beer Jazza,Bob McGuniess,Ned, Dave Barsley,Chow Hayes
( where's Jim)
I found him!
Start of a new season for Wests.
Jim Cody starts season 8.

A funny sight Jim Cody holding back Nev Hornery.
Jim played 6 First grade games and 9 Reserve grade games in 1968.

1969 Team photo.

Neds last year at Wests.

A very good win.
Jim is second from left next to Peter Flanders 1969

Jim plays his 100th First grade at the SCG.
Jim played 17 First Grade games in 1969.
Jim runs past John O'Neill @ the SSG.

The 1970 season.

Wests have a new coach and Jims playing front row.
Jim played 12 First grade games, 1 Reserve grade and 2 third grade.

The 1971 Season.
Jim played 8 First grade games and 7 Reserve grade games.
John Baker and Barry Bryant doing it tough.

The 1972 Season.
During preseason training being held at Carss Park. Jim called it "a horror course"
Jim asked Bill Beaver where his new contract was... Bill kept saying he had left it at home. After much talk Bill told Jim that a deal had been done with Nambucca Heads Roosters and that was that.
Jim to his credit took Nambucca to a premership win in 1972.
Nambucca also won the pre season comp the Caltex Cup.
The Caltex Cup was open to all teams between Newcastle and Tweed Heads.

The 1973 season.
Jim had come back to Sydney for work and was talking to old teammate Dave Barsley.Dave said that Jim would get a start no trouble at Ryde Eastwood
Ryde Eastwood were playing in the Sydney Second Division comp at the time.
A week later at the pre season game at Lidcombe Oval. John Elford had broken his arm and Alan Clarkson the journo asked Jim who he was playing with Jim told him the Ryde Eastwood story Clarkson said that South’s were looking for a front rower and he was the man for the job.

Just then Don Parish the new West coach was walking past heard the conversation and said “Jim you are not going anywhere you will play for West’s”

Don Parish and Jim Cody at the 2011 Pratten Park Reunion.

Jim told Don what happen in 1972 and Don told Jim that he would talk with the board and two days later Jim had signed a new contract…one training run later and Jim Cody was back in First Grade. West’s needed some backbone and they got it.

Jims last game in First grade playing in the front row.
There are only 4 players left from the Kelly Days still playing. Tony Ford, Tommy Raudonikis, John Baker and Barry Bryant.


Barry Bryant with John O'Bryan.


Jim Codys last game in the famous black and white jumper.
The end of a great career with Wests.
Jim played 14 games in 1973.
6 in First grade and 8 in Reserve grade.

In total Jim Cody played 159 First grade games.

Jim played a total of 223 grade games for Wests over 12 seasons.


If you thought that was the end of the Jim Cody story you are very wrong.

Jim is now 30 years of age and has been offered a job as Capt/Coach at Griffith playing his great love Rugby League.

It was a very long year for Jim a lot of promises were made but most were broken.

One player of note playing for Griffiths was a very young Ray Brown. Ray was playing for the eighteens.

Ray between Noel Kelly and Arthur Summons.

Some more bad news for Jim was that Country football legend Len Bertoldo had left the club to play up in Mareeba.

In August of 2013 Len Bertoldo passed away. A towering figure in Group 20 rugby league, Mr Bertoldo’s career everest came in 1975, when he represented NSW alongside such legends as Bob Fulton, Arthur Beetson and Ron Coote.

“He will be a great loss to Griffith and a great loss to rugby league,” Mr Coote, a former Australian captain, said. “Len was from the old school. He ran the ball up hard and said what he meant.” Mr Bertoldo won an equal record-breaking seven Group 20 titles – six of them with his beloved Griffith Waratahs – and played in 10 grand finals.

He represented Riverina from 1975 to 1979, also representing Country in its famous 1975 victory over a star-studded City side.

His humble nature and love of Griffith saw him reject contracts from a host of Australian Rugby League (ARL) clubs, including Souths, Manly and Wests.
This story is taken from the The Area News newspaper.

After a long season at Griffith Jim played the next 2 years 1975 and 76 at Goulburn United as Capt/ Coach.
During these two years Jim was playing lock.

In 1975 Jim team made the Grand Final and in 1976 the Final.

In 1977 at the age of 34 Jim moves from Goulburn up to Coffs Habour to play for the newly formed Coffs Habour Jetty team as Capt / Coach.

The gun side during this time was Sawtell Panthers who had Les and Noel Cleal in their side.

Noel Cleal.

Jims Coffs Habour Jetty side missed out on a spot in the semis by a bad decision made by the referee.

Jim and Refs??
The Coffs Harbour Jetty club only lasted one year. Jim was offered the Capt/ Coach job with Coffs Harbour in 1978.

Unfortunately for Jim he was badly hurt at the first training run of the season. His spine was separated from his tailbone…very nasty.
Due to the serious nature of the injury Jim only played one game that year. Mainly because of this injury Jim retired from playing.
Jim was 35 years of age.

Thats 21 years of playing Rugby League.
After 1978 Jim coached Woolgoola Reserve grade in 1979 and 1980.

In 1982 Jim coach Sawtell Panthers Reserve grade side to a Premiership.
In total Jim was directly involved with Rugby league for 25 years.

We talked some more about Rugby League in general and Jim told me his favorite Sydney ground was Pratten Park mainly because Wests only played there on Saturdays which gave him all of Sunday to recover before going to work on Monday.
Entrance to Pratten Park and the famous Red phone box. 1960's
The Wests dressing room Pratten Park.
Taken in 2008 could of been taken in 1928!!

Speaking of Sydney grounds Jim remembers North Sydney Oval as having the hardest surface especially in the middle which was a cricket pitch in summer.

I had to ask Jim whom he would name as the best player he played with or against and quick as a flash he said Kel O’Shea. Jim said “ One of the greats…..
Big Kel O'Shea on the run at the SSG about 1962.
What about the Hard men Jim?
Kevin Ryan, Bluey Wilson and Brian Hambly to name a few.

Two of the extra special players that Jim spoke of and played against.

Jim still loves the game but shakes his head about the number of refs that can’t or won’t make a decision.
Jim finds that players are far to friendly with the players from the other team during and after the match.
Jim remembers old Roy Lister saying after a losing game in the Wests dressing shed “ leave Cody alone just leave him alone…. and the fact that after a defeat you had to go to work on Monday and face the public and work mates.
Now the players live in a cocoon .
Jim and Bill Keato 2012 @ SCG Reunion.

Jim talking to Rick Wayde at the Pratten Park Magpies reunion Aug 2013.

Jim today lives near Coffs Habour on the north coast of NSW with his wife Terry and life is good.

Jim Cody August 2013. A very young and fit looking 70 year old.
Jim has a dickie knee which is the only major problem from his playing days.

Jim, thanks for your time I had a great morning and thanks to your lovely wife Terry for the beautiful morning tea.

Note: If anyone has photos of Jim during his Country Rugby League days please get in contact with me and I will add them to this story. Thanks in advance. tonyandlee@aunix.com.au
Jim on the run at the SCG 1969.

Thanks again to the wonderful and helpful Wests people at the Wests Archives.

Jims story would only be half told without your help.


Ben and his dedicated team of reseachers will only be to glad to talk with you on (02)97971933 about all things Wests.


THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW TONY......... "Quigs @ Era of the Biff"
Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies.
Click on image to visit


int14 - Interview with MICK ALCHIN, an old Western Suburbs, Easts player from the late 70's by Tony Lewis

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012


From Tony Lewis off
Kelly's Kids
a tribute site to the Mighty Maggies during Noel Kellys years




NSW Australia

Club followed

Western Suburbs Magpies.

Email(not compulsory)


Your URL


Interview with MICK ALCHIN,
an old Western Suburbs, Easts player from the late 70's

Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies. Click image above



"Mad" A Passionate Player - Thanks to Tony Lewis for another great interview.

Its hard to believe that it is almost 40 years since Mick Alchin came down from West's Newcastle to play for Western Suburbs Sydney. Before Mick came over to the Magpies he had a couple of trial games with Balmain that year (1968). He played in the famous preseason game at Brookvale where Laurie Bruyeres sent off 7 players. And guess what? Mick was not one of the 7.

Just for the record, the players sent off were Tony Antunac, Manly. Big Tony played with Mick at West’s in 1970 and 1971. Artie Beetson was next. Gary Leo and Bill Hamilton followed. Manly fullback Bob Batty kept the numbers rising. Frank Stanton the halfback for Manly also went for an early and crowded shower.

The last player to exit stage left was Manly captain Bobby Fulton.

I have spoken to Laurie Bruyeres the referee about that night at Brookvale Oval and he told me that Bob asked him why he had sent Frank Stanton off and Laurie said "Go and ask him, your off too….

Before I get ahead of myself lets go back to the beginning of Micks story. Born in Cootamundra in 1943 Mick played schoolboy football for De La Salla Brothers Cootamundra. He loved playing for his school and played in the centres or on the wing. Mick remembers the large schoolboy tournaments that were held at Junee each year. He also at this time represented his school in running but due to a bad accident whilst one of the Brothers was teaching him to run the hurdles Mick never quite ran to his full natural speed.

Moving to the Newcastle area Mick played for his new school Marist Brothers Hamilton but because of a difference of option with the Sports master Mick relocated to Cooks High School were Mick also played rep football. He then played A grade with Cardiff in the Newcastle Compertion at the ripe old age of 16. Mick went from A grade football to play for West's Newcastle. In today's football speak Cardiff was a feeder club for West's Newcastle.

Newcastle football in those days was very tough and to quote Mick " It's where I learnt to duck……"

During his time playing in the Newcastle competion over 30 players came to Sydney. Here are only a few. John Sattler, Les Johns, Big Bill Hamilton, Bob Moses, Jim Morgan.

The reason Mick came down to Sydney was because an ex Sydney player Bobby Hensby (Balmain 1960-1962 and East's 1965-1966) came to play at West's Newcastle in 1967. Bobby's dad was an official with the Tigers so Mick went down and played 2 trial games but the Balmain deal did not suit Mick so he went back to West's Newcastle.

A few weeks later Billy Beaver rang and offered Mick a contract to play with West's. Mick agreed and on Sunday April 21st at Lidcombe Oval at the age of 24 he played his first game for West's. Although Mick was to play Reserve Grade on this day Dick Pickett withdrew because of injury and the speedy winger from Newcastle stole the show.

The following Wednesday against St George Mick showed his class and scored 2 tries. To me this was the night that Mick Alchin became my favourite winger.

1968 was also the year that West’s played France at Lidcombe.

Mick belted the French winger and was asked to leave the field this is one more reason Mick Alchin became my favourite winger.

During his days at West's Mick worked for the Public Works as a carpenter. He was asked to play in the Business House comp (which was played at the Domain in Sydney during lunch time on a work day) but to quote Mick " I said no because I was a little to competitive…."

The years rolled by and Noel Kelly left at the end of 1969 a year that Mick believes if Ned had been able to play more often they would of made the semis. Ron Watson replaced Ned as coach of West's for the next 2 seasons.

Coach Ron Watson & Roy “Ringo” Ferguson

During a trial game in 1970 against Wentworthville Mick scored a length of the field try under the posts but unfortunately he was kneed behind the right knee and never played again that year.

Mick left West's at the end of the 1971 season to play at East's. Many players left West's during this time. Some old, some young…. Roy Ferguson (Saints) Jim Cody (Nambucca Heads) John Maxwell (Penrith) Tim Murphy (Balmain) Don Rogers (Berries) Rod Smith, Steve Winter (North's) John Baker (Parra) Ken Stonestreet (Retired) Bill Hanson (Retired)….]

Micks last full game in 1970

An uncle of Micks was a cellarman at East’s Leagues Club who was mates with Ron Jones the CEO of then one of the riches clubs in Australia.. The money was very, good. Hows this for 1972 when a average wage was about $4,000 Mick received $800 bucks a win plus a sign on fee. Mick said he made $10,500 that year. Plenty of players came to East’s that year including some old Magpies John Armstrong and Peter Flanders.

Just have a look at the players in the East's line up.

East's made the grand final in 1972 but were beaten by Manly 19-14. Mick missed the match due to a injured back.

Micks 1973 season was one to forget. Many injuries so at the end of 1973 Mick heads to greener pastures.

For the next 3 years 1974,1975 and 1976 Mick is captain coach of another Magpie team Wentworthville. By this time the second division had gone so Wenty plays in the Illawarra competition. The Illawarra comp of the 1970's was as hard as the Newcastle comp of the 1960's. Dapto had Steve Morris and Alan Fitzgibbon's, Corrimal had Craig Young. Cliff Watson was playing hard for Wollongong South.

To help Mick out at Wenty Barry Bryant and then Tony Ford joined the Magpies after long and loyal service with West's.

Barry played 132 first grade games and Fred played 104 first grade games and 667 points.

Well-done boys.

At the end of the 1976 season Mick aged 33 hangs up his boots.

You would think Mick would give footy away…No way

1977 Coaches East's Presidents Cup team unlucky to lose in final.

1978 Coaches Wentys A grade. Undefeated Premiers.

1979 Coaches Parramatta's Reserve Grade to G'Final win.
Beat Canterbury 22-2

1980 Coaches Parramatta's Reserve Grade to G'Final loss
Lose to Canterbury 16-18
At the age of 35 this game was Artie Beetsons last game.

Some of the players that played for Parramatta Reserve Grade during those 2 years are the who's who of that era. Here are a few players that Mick coached…. Mark Leavy, Garry Dowling, Eric Grothe, Steve Ella, Peter Sterling, Peter Wynn, Neville Glover, Glen West, Lew Platz, and Graham Olling etc.

Mick helped out at East's for a few more years but finished with football in 1986.

The interview was almost over so it was time to ask the usual questions.

Best winger you played against "Johnny King, like hitting a door, very underrated, very tough". John played for St George between 1960-1971. 195 first grade games and 143 tries.

How about best West's player from Kelly's Kids era, very hard to pick but "Doug Walkaden, tough player, sleeves rolled up, no short cuts, always looking to offload … special mentions to Bruce Beer and Dave Barsley.

Mick's views on today's football are that there is no player endurance needed with the game. A dislike of gang tackling " Someone will get hurt badly soon.." "The contest factor of Rugby League has gone, no contest at the play the ball, no contest at the scrum.."

Best player today? Johnathan Thurston

Now days Mick lives up Gosford way and competes in Australian Stock Horse Mares competition. Mick rides these horses at country shows and was on his way to the Royal Easter Show when I called in to do this interview. Mick's main injuries after playing football for all those years are very sore back and legs but to keep fit at the age of 64 Mick loves riding his horses.

As I drove home my thoughts went back 40 years….to a night at Lidcombe Oval with my mate Greg by my side, we were cheering for West's and Mick (you see Mick was Greg's favourite winger to). West's beat St George that night and Greg and I were two happy lads as we walked back to Lidcombe railway station and the long train trip home.

Thanks Mick for your time and for helping me remember that night at Lidcombe.


Mick today


THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW TONY......... "Quigs @ Era of the Biff"
Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies.
Click on image to visit


int13 - Interview with the man himself Noel KELLY, The Magpies Legend. by Tony Lewis of www.noelkellyskids.info

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012


From Tony Lewis off
Kelly's Kids
a tribute site to the Mighty Maggies during Noel Kellys years




NSW Australia

Club followed

Western Suburbs Magpies.

Email(not compulsory)


Your URL


Interview with the man himself Noel KELLY, The Magpies Legend

Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies. Click image above




It was my great honour to interview Noel Kelly at his home at Collaroy with my mate and fellow West's supporter Steve Lothian.

Steve came with me to video the interview.

To be truthful we were both a little nervous to be meeting Noel Kelly, our boyhood football hero.

Steve and I agree that Noel Kelly was the greatest player ever to wear the famous black and white football jumper.

Noel met us at the front door and showed us through to the back patio where we carried out the interview. Noel made us feel very welcome and our nerves soon disappeared.

Over the years that Kelly's Kids web site has been running, I have received many emails asking me questions about Noel and his time at West's so I asked him some of these questions to "break the ice" at the interview.

One such game was from "Magpie Mal." It concerned the game West's v Newtown in 1966 at the old Sydney Sports Ground.

Even as a kid, Mal has always wanted to know why West's played so well and won that game even though two of their players had been sent off. "Funny thing," said Noel "One of the players sent off was me and the other Alan Allison."

Noel remembered saying to Big Dennis Meaney as Noel trudged towards the dressing room " Get stuck into them and we can still win this…."

The final score was West's 16 Newtown 15.

Noel believes this was the game when Big Denis Meaney came of age as a player.

(left) Big Dennis Meaney with Ned

I asked Noel which was his favourite ground??

"Easy." said Noel. "The Sydney Cricket Ground followed by Pratten Park."

Noel was not a supporter of the move by West's from Pratten Park to Lidcombe Oval in 1967. "

Pratten was a real Home ground all the people from Ashfield would come along and support their team, West's".

Noel loved the way the crowds were so close at Pratten Park he said "a ground with a hill all round."

It was during this time that every dog or cat in Ashfield was names after Noel or Peter Dimond.

Speaking of Pratten Park (left: old Pratten Park Stand and Dressing Sheds) and Lidcombe Oval if you have a favourite ground between these two please email me ( link at bottom of page) and tell me which one and why. Maybe you have some old photos of these grounds please let me know.

I then asked Noel "Which West's player from the Kelly's Kids era was the best?"

Without thinking he said "John Elford".

Noel then told us about a game at the old Belmore Oval when "Snoozer" Elford scored a try against Canterbury -Bankstown.

Noel said Snoozer beat the whole Canterbury team using his famous running fend.

Snoozer of course was a huge tackler.
(see pic left)

Noel also had big wraps on Tony Ford and Mick Alchin.

Tony Ford (above) Mick Alchin (right)

I asked Noel about the referees of that time compared to now

"Before my move to West's in 1961 my old Brothers coach Dan Dempsey said that there were 2 referees in Sydney to watch out for one was a cheat the other never smiled."

"Col Pearce was the one who never smiled and I will let you work out the other one".

"Col Pearce was a wonderful referee and a wonderful man but he never smiled."

Noel thought that today's refs are coaching the players calling them by their first names telling the players when the ball is out of the scrum etc.

Noel you were sent off 11 times during your 9 seasons with West's. Did the Sydney refs have it in for you?

"Yes and no," Noel Replied" " Four send offs were for scrum breaches and 1 was for swearing at a touch judge.

I played the game hard, and I played for keeps".

" Retaliate first. That's what I told my young Magpies".

"This is a question from the past, Noel. Can you tell me what happened to Glen Brown?" "He was a very good second rower from Queensland. I think he joined the army"

Just for the record Glen played 3 first grade games in 1966 plus he played in a Combined Services match with Barry Bryant in 1966.

If anyone has any news on Glen please email me and I will be happy to add the info to this story.

"Noel did you have much to do with Jack Gibson?" Noels reply. "Well Jack played 2 years with West's 1963 and 1964. We were in the front row together for many games and we became good mates both on and off the field. He nickname for me was "Snoz" . Jack would always have a BBQ at his place or at Gunnamatta Park at Cronulla for all of the West's boys. To me Jack is a great bloke" Noel told Steve and I some funny stories about himself and Jack. Due to the fact that Ned and Gibbo are still with us they will remain in the Cone Of Silence. All I will say is "Jack did Ned ever pay for that boat??"

At the end of his Sydney career and at the age of 34, Noel told us he made the biggest mistake of his football career he signed to play captain-coach for Wollongong for the 1970 season. Noel told us of the first training session. " All the players turned up for the first nights training session and I asked the committee men for the training balls. They had none. The only ball they had was a cheap plastic one that could be bought from Coles. I should of quite then and there."

Just for the record Noel played 115 First Grade games for West's (1961-1969) and scored 6 tries. He played 6 games for Queensland (1959 - 1960) scoring 1 try. 5 games for New South Wales (1963-64 and 1966-1967) scoring 1 try.

25 Tests (1959-60, 1963-64 and 1966-1968) scoring 2 tries. Noel was the first hooker/prop forward to make three Kangaroo tours (1959,1963 and 1967)

In the last few years Noel has become a committee man of a charity call Men Of League. This charity has been set up to help old Rugby League players who need a helping hand. Noel gives of his time, as do many other Rugby League greats helping to raise money for old footballers who are not travelling so well. Men of League has a website and if you would like to become a supporter of the Men of League for $10 just click onto this website link to join. www.menofleague.com

For your one off payment of $10 you get personal ID keyring, bi monthly magazine (for old frontrowers this means one every 2 months) and a good feeling of helping an old footballer that once you cheered for.

Ned and Tony

Unfortunately it was time to go. The two hours had gone very quickly.

For Steve and I the interview is a memory that will live with as forever.

We had only scratched the surface of Noels life in those two hours.

For more detailed information about his life I can recommend a great book called "HARDMAN A Life in Football".

This book tells the full story warts and all from 1936 until 1996.

You can find it in most second-hand bookshops.

Buy it, read it, then you will know the real Noel "Ned" Kelly……a Hardman.

Steve and Ned

Thanks to Noels wife Chris for the coffee and biscuits and Ned thanks for giving us so much of your time but most of all thanks so much for the years you played for West's.

Steve and Ned


Click on image to return to homepage


To email Tony,click on the link

THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW TONY......... "Quigs @ Era of the Biff"
Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies.
Click on image to visit


int12 - Interview with Noel Thorton, an old Western Suburbs, Cronulla Sutherland player from the late 60's

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012


From Tony Lewis off
Kelly's Kids
a tribute site to the Mighty Maggies during Noel Kellys years




NSW Australia

Club followed

Western Suburbs Magpies.

Email(not compulsory)


Your URL


Interview with Noel Thorton,
an old Western Suburbs, Cronulla Sutherland player from the late 60's

Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies. Click image above



I spoke by phone to Noel Thornton at his home in Tweed Heads about his days at Wests, it was good to talk with one of my Wests hero's. Noel 'Sailor' Thornton was a true clubman who played 100 % week in week out for Wests. He played 35 first grade games between 1965 and 1967. Remember for two of those three years there were only 10 teams in the comp.

Wests paid the Brisbane team Brothers an 800 pound transfer fee for Noel, quite a tidy sum in those days. Noel had played Aussie Rules as a kid before playing Rugby League for Warwick as a teenager. Noel in his prime would play union on Saturday and league on Sunday. Those were the days Noel… During his playing days with Brothers he played for Brisbane against the French touring team of 1964. Newspaper reports of the day said Thornton dominated scrums to give Brisbane a monopoly of possession. Brisbane beat France 23-17.

NOEL top left with headband next to Tony Ford.

Luckily for Wests Noel was spotted by an ex Wests player Pat Leal. Pat played on the wing for Wests 1946-1953. As an aside….( I was told that Pat kept a comb in his football socks when he played and would comb his hair after ever tackle he was involved in.) Noel decided to give Wests a go so as a fresh faced 25 year old Noel moved to Sydney. Wests that year made the Final of the preseason Cup, which at that time was called the Craven Filter Series. Once again we were beaten by St George. The score Saints 15 Magpies 7. Noels first game in the Sydney big time was at the home of Rugby League the S.C.G. on April 3 1965. Noels two props that day were Denis Meaney and fellow Queenslander Brian Kowald the score Saints 13 Wests 9…Later that year Noel would know victory in the State Cup, Wests beat Parramatta 16 to 14.

In 1966 Wests new coach Noel 'Ned' Kelly was in the front row with Sailor and Alan Allison who was having his first year at Wests had also come down from Brothers. Ned Kelly had taken over the coaching from Ken 'Killer' Kearney. Many youngsters came into grade in 1966 including Dennis Pittard who Noel has chosen as one of the best players from his years at Wests. Noel also spoke of Roy Ferguson and Noel Kelly as being outstanding players and teammates. And as far as the opposition goes North Sydney hooker Ross Warner was more than a handful.

Unfortunately for Noel the 1967 season started off with him having a serious knee injury in a pre season game and a major knee operation was required. He played only a handful of games that year for Wests. Noel was living at Cronulla along with two other ex Wests players Jack Gibson (1963-64) and Monty Porter (1955) so when Cronulla made him an offer to play for them in 1968 he once again teamed up with coach Ken Kearney.

..... Shark Days
Noel Thorton slipping into the dummy half position as Sharks Graham Wilson is being tackled by two Penrith defenders. John Monie is behind Noel, to right "unknown", possibly Rod Urqhardt, and possibly Ray Corcoran

Noel was captain for Cronulla for the 2 seasons he played with them 1968 and 1969. Due to a job offer at the Kurnell oil refinery Noel quit football for the time being.

Noel was appointed coach of Cronulla in 1974 following the departure of Tommy Bishop to Brisbane North's. Noel was chosen over Norm Proven for the job. After an unhappy year at Endeavour Field Noel was asked by Master coach Jack Gibson to coach East's reserve grade. That year of course East's 38 beat St George 0 in the famous 1975 Grand Final.

For the next few years Noel coached in the Illawarra district. During this time he coached Wollongong to win the country championship.

Two of the raw young players that Noel helped along the way were Craig Young and Steve Morris.

THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW TONY......... "Quigs @ Era of the Biff"
Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies.
Click on image to visit


int11 - Interview with Roger Millward - re 1980 Challenge cup, victory and playing with a broken jaw

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012

Interview with Roger Millward

Cup heroes: Roger Millward

For more read Memorable Match No27 CLICK HERE

"It was every schoolboy's dream to play at Wembley in a Cup final and I thought my chance had gone" Roger Millward

To Roger Millward, the phrase "no pain, no gain" has special meaning.

The 1980 Challenge Cup final was just 15 minutes old when he broke his jaw.

Lesser men would have sought the safety of the changing room, but not Millward.

The Hull KR legend cleared his head and threw himself into the tackle just as enthusiastically as he always had.

His bravery brought its rewards: victory over city rivals Hull and a much-cherished winners' medal.

"As soon as I was tackled I knew the jaw was broken," he tells BBC Sport.

"The bone was out of place and I could feel it wasn't right. "Fortunately, a few seconds later, I went in to tackle Hull's Steve Norton and my jaw caught his knee.

"The impact caused my jaw to click back in place and I was able to carry on playing.

"My half-back partner, Allan Agar, did a great job for the next 20 minutes while I was recovering."

For Robins fans, victory over Hull in the 1980 final was especially sweet.

But for Millward, it was just a relief to be playing at Wembley.

"It was every schoolboy's dream to play at Wembley in a Cup final and I thought my chance had gone," he says.

"To play against Hull was even more special and quite a unique event.

"It provided for a terrific atmosphere during the week leading up to the match.

"I think I enjoyed the build-up as much as the game itself, but the atmosphere at Wembley was unbelievable, especially before kick-off.

"I went out for a walk on my own on the pitch about 90 minutes before the game was due to begin.

"Even though there were only about 30,000 spectators in the stadium, the hairs on the back of my head were standing up, such was the intensity of the atmosphere.

"As captain, I was the one who had to go back to the dressing room and steady the rest of the team.

"I was the one who had to keep calm and appear in total control, but I was so nervous I could hardly speak myself."

"I had the jaw wired up and intended to carry on, but I broke it again in an A-team match" Roger Millward

Millward's words of wisdom obviously had the desired effect.

Hull KR won the match 10-5 in front of a crowd of 95,000.

"We had a tremendous pack, with some very experienced forwards in Phil Lowe, Brian Lockwood and Len Casey," recalls Millward. "They set up the platform for our win."

The Challenge Cup final proved to be Millward's last.

"I had the jaw wired up and intended to carry on, but I broke it again in an A-team match," he recalls.

"That was the end but at least I got a winners' medal."

For more read Memorable Match No27 CLICK HERE

int10 - Interview with Alex Murphy - re Challenge cup games inc 1966 win over Leeds

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012

Interview with Alex Murphy

Cup heroes: Alex Murphy

"People said that I feigned injury and that I winked when I was on the stretcher" Alex Murphy on his 1971 clash with Syd Hynes

Alex Murphy insists Leigh's shock win over Leeds in 1971 is the sweetest of his Challenge Cup final successes.

The irrepressible Murphy is the only player to captain three different sides to victory in the competition.

Murphy holds the Challenge Cup trophy aloft in 1974

He led St Helens to success in 1966; followed that up with a win over Leeds as both player-coach of Leigh five years later; then lifted the trophy as Warrington's player-boss in 1974.

But it was Leigh's victory that gave him the most pleasure.

"A lot of people underestimated that Leigh side but we had some outstanding players in David Eckersley, Kevin Ashcroft and David Chisnall," Murphy told BBC Sport.

"Leeds were 5/1 on to win the Cup. They also had a side loaded with internationals.

"But the way we approached the final was tremendous and we won the match well.

"That win probably gave me the greatest pleasure of any win at Wembley."

Murphy wasn't on the pitch when the final hooter went.

He had been stretchered off after being headbutted by Leeds captain Syd Hynes on 65 minutes, by which time Leigh were already well on the way to victory.

"Syd told me on the morning of the game that he and his team were on £5,000 a man to win the Challenge Cup," Murphy recalled.

"So I think he got a little frustrated when he could see that it was not going to happen.

"People said that I feigned injury and that I winked when I was on the stretcher.

"Well, I can honestly say that I might have blinked but I didn't wink! I really did take a knock and woke up in the dressing room being attended to by the Wembley doctor."

Murphy also delights in St Helens' defeat of Wigan in 1966, which gave him the first of his Challenge Cup successes.

"When I captained Saints to victory over Wigan, we had a team of stars who could score from anywhere on the pitch," he told BBC Sport.

"No-one expected him even to attempt a kick at goal, never mind grab two points" , Murphy on Len Killeen's monster kick in the 1966 final

"It turned out to be a comfortable victory, but the most pleasing aspect for me that day was to see our South African winger, Len Killeen, kick a penalty goal from 65 yards out.

"No-one expected him even to attempt a kick at goal, never mind grab two points.

"But in training during the week, I had seen him kick a similar goal and he told me to give him a chance if ever Saints were awarded a penalty in a similar position at Wembley.

"We got such a chance, I told him to try for a goal, and he kicked it. It was a great thrill."

int09 - Terry Randall Interview - Manly Warringah Hardman by Matt Starkey - League Unlimited. .

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012

Interview with Terry Randall
Written by: Matt Starkey
, League Unlimited (view click Link)
Thanks for allowing team Era to run the interview

Starkers: Please tell us how you got the nickname “Igor”?

Igor: Yeah, ‘73 Kangaroo Tour, I was out with Tim Pickup one night and he said “You go on like an Igor”. It was some sort of big monster cartoon bloke at the time and it just stuck.

Starkers: You were a North Curl Curl junior, starting out in rugby league as a centre. Tell us about those early days in your junior club?

Igor: I was living at Brookvale and my next door neighbours were running the Surf Club, which used to run the League. They asked my parents, who were reluctant at first, if I could trial against St Joseph’s College. I didn’t really follow rugby league at that stage, I was only a kid, but from that day on I played.

Starkers: In 1970 you debuted for Manly-Warringah in the centres, before switching to the forwards in 1972. It was then that you took part in Manly’s maiden Premiership, defeating Easts 19-14. How did it feel?

Igor: Pretty good. At that stage of my career I was only young and I’m not one to really carry on about stats or things like that. It was just one of those things because I was new to the team. But for guys like Alan Thompson and Billy Hamilton it would have been a real buzz for them to win a competition late in their career.

Starkers: It was a golden era for Manly, who were Minor Premiers from 1971-73, and you went back-to-back in 1973 (defeating Cronulla 10-7) in what has been described as the toughest and most spiteful Grand Finals ever. What are your memories of that one?

Igor: Once again it was only a year later and I was only 21 or 22 and I just took it in my stride, but it was a bit more exciting than the previous year I’d say.

Starkers: You went on the 1973 Kangaroo Tour as a young forward with a couple of premiership’s under your belt. That tour included the likes of Langlands, Raudonikis, Hamilton, Beetson, O'Neill, O'Reilly, McCarthy, Fulton, Cronin and Eadie. You didn’t actually play a Test, but took part in 5 Tour matches. What was it like being among the best players in the world at that time?

Igor: That was a buzz, spending all that time in England even though I didn’t play too many games because of injury. I looked like playing the second Test before breaking my thumb. Playing with all those experienced and high profile men was terrific. Injury plagued me on that tour though.

Starkers: Can you tell us a bit about the opposition over in the U.K.?

Igor: In those days the old elbow and knee was used a fair bit over there. I saw John O’Neill get cleaned up over there by a guy who played for Blackwood. But the English certainly didn’t tickle, you had to watch it all the time over there.

Starkers: What were the conditions like?

Igor: The surfaces over there were fantastic. They were soft and lush and it was amazing how they kept the grounds in such good conditions considering the amount of rain they got.

Starkers: Did you make any mates with the Poms?

Igor: Not so much, more so with the Pommies that played for Manly. It was a love-hate thing, well more of a hate thing with them really. It was more or less “Hate the Poms” because you were playing against another country. I ended up pretty good mates with Mal Reilly and I’m glad I played with him and not against.

Starkers: In 1975, you were involved in the World Series matches, taking the title of World Champions. You must have a few fond memories of that.

Igor: That was a good tour because it was only six weeks away from home. Whereas the first one in ‘73 I was only married for a month and I was away for 3 months. It was a good way to test your marriage anyhow…

Starkers: Moving on to 1976, Manly again asserted their dominance over the competition, taking the Minor Premiership and also defeating Parramatta in the Grand Final (Manly won 13-10). What can you recall from that day?

Igor: It was a stepping stone for me and I was becoming more dominant as I got older. I was becoming a more senior figure and experienced player in the team and people started to look up to me then and it made me feel important. It was right in the middle of my career when I became more dominant during the matches.

Starkers: In 1977 you took part in the successful World Cup campaign in Australia and New Zealand. It has been reported that you got a bit lucky in the Final, what were your thoughts on the Tour?

Igor: I can’t really remember too much about that one but I remember going to New Zealand and playing at Carlaw Park in some pretty torrid games. They were tough guys.

Starkers: In 1978 you were a non-playing reserve against New Zealand in a Test match. This could have been your only “official” Test. Are you a bit filthy about not getting a run?

Igor: At that stage I didn’t give it a thought because I was part of the touring party and it was just great to be there. As I finished my career I realised I hadn’t played a Test. They should have considered the ‘75 World Cup series Tests though. I know Bob Fulton was trying to have them reclassified.

Starkers: You recorded your 4th Grand final victory in 1978 (16-0) in a replay over Cronulla after drawing 11-all in the first hit-out. Could you please elaborate a little on the circumstances surrounding that Grand Final.

Igor: Yeah, a bit hectic - 5 games in the two weeks leading up. I still had some head problems and groin problems. Even though I was performing I needed 5 needles to take the field and keep me going.

Starkers: Exhausted after the 1978 G.F., you did not Tour with Kangaroos. Do you regret this now?

Igor: In early ‘78 I got knocked out in a trial match against Wyong and I was out cold for 20 minutes and woke up in hospital. I was having troubles all year with my noggin. That was probably one of the main reasons I pulled out of the ’78 Kangaroo tour. I looked like I was going to be a bit of a pedestrian and I used the excuse that I wanted to stay home with my family. In hindsight I probably regret it because I might have been able to get through, but then after having that break I had another 4 good seasons.

Starkers: You played 11 matches for NSW from 1973-78. Can you tell us about the interstate rivalry back then prior to State of Origin?

Igor: It probably isn’t highlighted like it is now through the media, but they were certainly as hard if not harder than Test matches. We used to go up there for a week and we’d get there on a Saturday night, play Wednesday, then have a lay-day on Thursday and go to Surfers and get on the turps at the Broad Beach Hotel. I don’t think they’d be allowed to do that these days. We used to run amok. Then we’d play the second game on the Saturday night. It was great playing with guys like Tommy, Dallas, Pickup, Reddy, Eadie. I could keep going on and most of them have become good friends as I’ve gone through life.

Starkers: Can you elaborate a little on the “Battle of Brookvale” that took place in the 1979 season v Western Suburbs?

Igor: That started off in the preseason when we played a game in Melbourne which turned into a complete fist-fight. It carried on into the regular season. That was when Roy Masters had Wests and he had the Fibros v Silvertails thing going.

I can still remember Hollywood, the referee, came into the dressing room and he’d just been into talk to Wests and told us “You’ve got 5 minutes to sort each other out then it’s down to playing football. After that it’s all off, otherwise you’re off.”

To us it was just “ding-ding” and we all got stuck in. The first scrum didn’t even pack, everyone was just running in and throwing punches. Wingers were running from the other side of the field and getting involved.

I can’t believe that though, imagine a referee saying that these days?

Starkers: The Manly club continued to be a force into the early 80’s. In the 1981 Major Semi Final against Newtown, you got sent off after the opening minute of the game saw an all-in brawl erupt. Newtown won 20-15 and progressed to the Grand Final, losing to Parramatta. Can you tell us a bit about that incident?

Igor: Yeah, that was sort of the end of my career. Well the beginning of the end anyway. I got suspended for six weeks into the next year and spent those on the sideline in ’82. I remember pretty vividly because they bought me back through reserve grade and I thought the club didn’t want me anymore, I was angry with them. I played a game against Cronulla and a young fella in the centres got the ball and I cleaned him up. I was very cranky. He needed 24 stitches and I approached the ref (McDonald) and said to him he couldn’t send me off because I’d only just come back. He disagreed and I was sent off and got another 10 weeks.

But funnily enough, after that they put me straight back into first grade leading into the 1982 Grand Final. I felt awful for the kid though, I wasn’t proud of it.

Starkers: You went on to make the 1982 Grand Final, losing to Parramatta 21-8. This was your last game of footy and I’m lead to believe that you needed several needles to take the field. What was going through your head after the game?

Igor: I probably did, but I can’t remember. I retired after that game and just hung up my boots up on the Cricket Ground clothes line and said “That’s it guys, I’ve had enough”.

Starkers: Can you tell us a bit about the first time you met Wally Lewis?

Igor: (Laughs) I think Wally’s probably joking, I can’t remember it. I was probably on the grog and tackled him or something. I think he’s exaggerating, but I might have done it when I was up there playing in the interstate matches.

Starkers: You pursued coaching and administration following your retirement, can you tell us a little about that?

Igor: I coached for two year under Graham Lowe but realised it wasn’t quite my forte. I was too tied up in my own business and to be a good coach I think you’ve got to be full time.

Starkers: Manly went on to win the Minor Premiership in 1983 but again lost to Parramatta in the Grand Final (18-6). Did you want to be out there that day?

Igor: In actual fact I was greasing a truck out the front of Brookvale Oval one day earlier in the season and Bob Fulton approached me and asked if I would like to make a comeback because he was short on forwards. After doing a session on the tackling bags I realised it wasn’t a good idea. I think sometimes players make comebacks after a really good career and it sort of stuffs things.

Starkers: When the question of who was the hardest man in the game, your name always pops up in discussion. For example, we interviewed Terry Lamb recently and he thought you were one of the toughest players he’d encountered. How did you perceive yourself on the field?

Igor: I suppose if I wasn’t one of the leaders in defence I wouldn’t be there. My ball skills were ok but not excellent and I was good at tackling. I enjoyed it and that’s what I did. I tried to put a bit of fear in the opposition.

Starkers: Who did you rate as your toughest opponent?

Igor: Billy Noonan and John MacDonald who both played for Canterbury. When you played against them you’d know you’d played that day.

Starkers: Who do you think was the most talented player of your era?

Igor: Wally Lewis. I’ve always rated him as one of my favourite players.

Starkers: Who do you think had the biggest influence on your career?

Igor: My wife and my mother. When I married Deb, she was in the cheer squad down at the club. We’ve been married for 32 years.

Starkers: What is your proudest achievement in the game?

Igor: Playing for your Australia and then playing in five grand finals and winning four. Playing in that many grand finals was a dream.

Starkers: What were the referee’s like back in the 70’s and 80’s.

Igor: Some of them you had to wonder about, and they’re pretty much the same now. They’re the same breed of people as parking cops.

Starkers: Manly have won 2 premierships since you retired – v Canberra in 1987 (18-8) and v St George in 1996 (20-8). Do you still get a kick out of watching them win?

Igor: Yeah I do.

Starkers: How do you go when they lose, particularly the heart-stopper in 1997 against Newcastle?

Igor: I feel for them. That game in particular was very disappointing.

Starkers: What were your thoughts on the ‘Northern Eagles’?

Igor: I was on the board there and it was torture. We’d have one meeting at North Sydney, the next one at Manly. It would go until midnight and it wouldn’t matter what we discussed, nothing was every resolved and the result was always 4-all. It was a complete and utter waste of time.

Starkers: Your son Chad was playing for Manly but has to play for London Harlequins in 2006. Are you disappointed that he couldn’t continue with Manly?

Igor: I’m very disappointed about that.

Starkers: What do you think is the best aspect of the game at the moment?

Igor: Probably the speed of the game. When you compare the old tapes to the new game it’s certainly faster. I don’t know if it’s better but it’s more professional and it’s probably good to get the elbows and knees out of the game. As a parent I wouldn’t want to see my son get hurt, yet I used to inflict a lot of pain on other people.

I also think the scrums were a bit of a farce. The way they used to do it gave the referee too much control and the way they are now it has taken a lot of pressure off them. Although they might as well just hand the ball over.


Terry Randall, playing career:


208 first grade games - Manly-Warringah 32 reserve grade games 4 third grade games 21 tries – 63 points

Played in 5 grand finals


v Eastern Suburbs 1972 (19-14)
v Cronulla 1973 (10-7)
v Parramatta 1976 (13-10)
v Cronulla 1978 (16-0, replay after 11-all draw)


v Parramatta 1982 (21-8)

NSW 1973-1978

11 games
no points

Australia 1973, 75, 77
Tour matches 1973, World series 1975, World cup 1977
11 matches in total, amazingly did not play in a Test Match.

int08 - DIDN’T YOU USED TO BE ......... RUGBY LEAGUE'S ELVIS PRESLEY? Frank Drake, the first full-back to score a try in Australia-Great Britain Test matches

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012

Article written by Glen Dwyer, Newtown Jets Director,
First published in 1999 in Loosehead Magazine and the Toowoomba Chronicle

Submitted 12/01/2006

Frank Drakes Test Try(links to www.centenaryofrugbyleague.com.au)


Anthony Mundine and Nathan Blacklock and their flamboyant backflips; "Changa" Langlands and the notorious white boots episode of 1975; Martin Offiah and his triumphalist posturing to the roaring crowd - they have all captured the Rugby League public's attention in different ways, but forty years ago a dashing young full-back named Frank Drake made an impact in top-level Rugby League circles like you wouldn't believe.

Drake's career achievements make interesting reading in the modern Rugby League context, with his career path following a very different direction to present-day players. Can you imagine for example South Sydney's Craig Wing moving from Sydney to a Queensland regional city to further his representative selection prospects - not likely! However, things were somewhat different in the late 1950's and sporting opportunities emerged in unlikely ways.

Frank Drake was a talented schoolboy and Balmain junior footballer. He attended the Rozelle Christian Brothers College, where one of his opponents in inter-school football was a young lock-forward from Newtown Christian Brothers named John William Raper. Drake captained the Balmain DRLFC President's Cup team in 1957, having won selection from his junior club Gladesville Sports. He moved into the grade ranks with the Balmain Tigers that same year, following the completion of that season's President's Cup fixtures.

Still only a teenager, Drake was back again with the Tigers in 1958, where he faced a major obstacle to securing the first grade full-back spot - the in-form Keith "Tinlegs" Barnes, who was to captain the Kangaroos touring party of 1959/60. However, his opportunity in first grade came when Barnes was injured, and Drake stayed in first grade on the wing after Barnes' return from the injured list.

It was a good year for the Tigers, who defeated the Newtown Bluebags in a thrilling play-off for fourth place. Drake distinguished himself with a "corner post to corner post" match-saving tackle on Johnny Raper just minutes from full-time. Balmain advanced as far as the Preliminary Final, bowing out to St. George who went on to beat Western Suburbs 20-9 in the Grand Final.

The Preliminary Final was to be the occasion of Drake's first significant run-in with League officialdom. As Tom Goodman wrote in the "Sun-Herald" of September 7, 1958: "Balmain left winger Frank Drake shocked old timers at the SCG yesterday, taking the field with white running shoes that had studs on them. He was officially reprimanded after the match by the NSW Rugby League secretary, Harold Matthews". Drake says he did not wear the boots as a direct challenge to the standards of the time, but because he genuinely found the improvised cut-downs far superior to the heavy-weight boots then in general use. The boots were actually athletics training shoes with football studs inserted, and they gave him a five yards' advantage in speed. Drake jokingly claims to have been "the father of the cut-down boot", and he wishes that Adidas and Nike had been around in those days with their big sponsorship dollars!

The 1958/59 off-season was a major cross-road in Drake's career. Ambitious and impatient for higher honours, and certain that full-back was his best position, Keith Barnes' continued presence at Leichhardt Oval meant Drake would have to look elsewhere to play in his favoured number one strip. Tiger Town officials were keen to retain his services - but as a winger. An approach came from an unlikely source - Drake had kept in touch with two former teachers from Rozelle Christian Brothers, Brothers Mullane and Noonan, who were now teaching at a school in that phenomenal hotbed of Rugby League, the Queensland regional city of Toowoomba. Being aware of Drake's dilemma, these men of the cloth contacted Freddy Gilbert, a 1933/34 Kangaroo and livewire official with the Toowoomba-based All Whites club. Gilbert wasted no time in making overtures to Drake, drawing to his attention that Toowoomba was the dominant power in Queensland Rugby League and offered genuine representative selection opportunities for youngsters with ability and ambition.

Contrary to widely held belief, it was Freddy Gilbert and not Duncan Thompson who was instrumental in persuading Drake to throw in his lot with "the University of Rugby League", as Toowoomba had come to be known under Thompson's highly successful coaching regime. Renowned as "The Downs Fox" because of his coaching wizardry, Thompson had attracted a host of young talent to the fabled Toowoomba Clydesdales' stronghold in the early 1950's - players like Ken McCaffery, Bobby Banks, Tommy Payne, Duncan Hall, Don Furner, Barry Muir and many others. The bracing, mist-shrouded mountain city seemed to also offer great opportunities for the twenty-year old Drake, who made the big move to Toowoomba in early 1959.

To say Drake's arrival in Toowoomba caused a sensation is somewhat of an understatement - he hit the place like a proverbial comet! Picture the scene - he arrived in the city aboard a high powered motor bike, sporting an Elvis Presley hairstyle, long side levers, leather jacket, tight jeans and high leather boots - all this in a regional city that was the definitive image of conservative, prosperous, hard working, Cold War era Australia. To quote the headline of the front page story of the Darling Downs Star of February 16, 1959: "Sydney's Rugby League Elvis Presley has arrived in Toowoomba", accompanied by a huge front-page photo of Drake lacing up his white boots prior to a staged training run.

The ironic aspect of the dramatic impact Drake made on wide-eyed Toowoomba teenagers, who were completely agog at his "Rebel Without A Cause" image, was that the private man had little resemblance to his flamboyant street persona. In reality he was a non-smoking, teetotal, practising Catholic who was also an all-round Mr. Nice Guy. During his time in Toowoomba, Drake must have made countless trips to school and junior coaching sessions, as well as many hospital visits to sick children. Far from being a "mug lair bodgey", he was more of an honourable Pied Piper! The entire population of the League-mad city soon came to this conclusion, particularly once he had unleashed his special talents in the sky blue colours of the Toowoomba Clydesdales. Admittedly, his penchant for wearing his cut-down boots taped or painted in the colours of the team he was playing for tended to infuriate a significant percentage of old-school male supporters!

Drake quickly made the fullback spot in the Toowoomba representative team his own, in a year that the Clydesdales regained the coveted Bulimba Cup. He displaced none other than Clive Churchill from the Queensland team. Churchill, then captain-coach of Brisbane Norths, became a great fan of Drake's, and took a special interest in his progress. Drake had a blinder in the Toowoomba - New Zealand tour match, scoring an absolute scorcher of a try, and was also a key figure in his All Whites club team taking out the Toowoomba premiership title of 1959.

What exactly were his attributes as a fullback? Pace was certainly his paramount asset - he was arguably one of the fastest men in Australia over thirty yards, noted for blinding speed when chiming into the backline. Superb handling skills and a pin-point kicking game were other features of his play, in an age when lengthy kicking duels between opposing fullbacks were still in vogue. Knockers claimed he could not and would not tackle, but he was no worse in this department than other slightly built footballers. This type of criticism was probably no more than the "cutting down the tall poppy" syndrome, an ongoing and unpleasant aspect of Australian life.

He was back in Toowoomba for a second season in 1960, and firmly established himself as the first choice Queensland fullback. It was to be an even higher benchmark year for him in terms of his Rugby League achievements. Toowoomba retained the Bulimba Cup, trouncing Brisbane and Ipswich in the process, and Drake had a standout game in the Clydesdales' gripping 21-all draw with the touring Frenchmen, played before a huge Athletic Oval crowd. In what some commentators claim to have been his greatest-ever performance, Drake was man of the match for the Maroons in the Wednesday afternoon interstate clash at the SCG. Queensland came from 12-0 down to win 17-12, prompting 4BH (Brisbane) commentator, George Lovejoy, to exclaim: "Let me say it loud for all of Sydney to hear - this man Frank Drake is the best player in the Rugby League world"! He was then named as a reserve for the Australian team for the Third Test against France, thereby joining the exalted ranks of Toowoomba-produced Rugby League internationals.

Injury in a Toowoomba club game cruelly robbed him of certain selection in the 1960 World Cup touring team to Britain. Meanwhile, All Whites won their second successive Toowoomba premiership with a team coached by 1956/57 Kangaroo "Ripper" Doyle, and bristling with international and state representatives such as Elton Rasmussen, Johnny Gleeson, Alan Gil, Bob Gehrke, Kevin Lohman and Kevin Boshammer. Clive Churchill was quoted in the Brisbane Courier-Mail as saying that All Whites were far superior to any of the Brisbane club sides in 1960, and that the Toowoomba premiers were without doubt the best club team in Australia outside of the Sydney premiership competition.

Drake transferred from Toowoomba to Southern Suburbs (Brisbane) for the 1961 season, a surprising move given that several Sydney clubs had been beating a path to his door. He represented Queensland again with distinction, and made the Australian team that toured New Zealand. Wests Donny Parish received the nod for the First Test against the Kiwis, but Drake made his own international debut in the second Test of that series at Carlaw Park, Auckland.

One of Drake's most vivid memories of the 1961 season was the bitterly contested Bulimba Cup decider between Toowoomba and Brisbane at the Athletic Oval. The match rivalled the infamous 1970 Rugby League World Cup final at Leeds for brutality, and Brisbane received more than their fair share of dubiously favourable refereeing decisions. Brisbane won back the Bulimba Cup for the first time in a decade with a controversial try on the full-time siren, and sections of the enraged Athletic Oval crowd set upon the Brisbane players as they left the field. Amid unprecedented scenes, several Brisbane players suffered extensive cuts and abrasions, including peppery halfback Barry Muir who was very much the principal target of the crowd's wrath. A small boy was seen to deal a wicked blow with a hard projectile to the back of the head of Brisbane's coloured Test winger Lionel Morgan. Drake in the meantime took no part in the rough and tumble - he was still out on the field signing autographs for his legions of fans!

The year 1962 brought about the most shining moment of his career. He was a reserve for the First and Second Tests against what is said to have been the best ever Great Britain team to tour here. Don Parish and Keith Barnes had been the fullbacks in the outclassed Australian teams in the first two Tests . Fifteen minutes into his Test match debut against Great Britain at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Drake flashed onto a centre-kick by Australian winger Eddie Lumsden and dived over to score just to the right of the goalposts at the Paddington end of the ground. After fifty-four years of Test match football, at last a full-back had scored a try - and it was by none other than the so-called Elvis Presley of Rugby League himself! Drake in fact nearly didn't make it onto the field, as he was badly affected by an attack of bronchial pneumonia in the week leading up to the match.

From 1963 on, his playing career was dogged by injury. Drake represented Queensland for the fifth successive year, but fullbacks of the calibre of Graeme Langlands, Ken Thornett and Les Johns had emerged on the Sydney scene. Up against such quality opposition and playing with injury for much of that season, Drake was shut out of consideration for the home series against Mel Cooke's Kiwis and the ill-fated South Africans, as well as the supremely talented Ashes-winning Kangaroo touring party of 1963/64.

Having signed with Eastern Suburbs (Sydney) in the off-season, Drake returned to his home city of Sydney in 1964. He had two solid seasons with the Roosters, captaining the side in 1965. Late in his second season with Easts he suffered a shocking hip injury against Wests at Pratten Park, and was laid up in traction for more than two months. Drake missed the entire 1966 season while recovering and his playing career looked to be over.

Drake and his young family returned to Brisbane in 1967, where he was enticed out of retirement to play with the Brothers club. He could still "do the business" on the field, even though he played occasionally in other positions than fullback. Sadly, he tore his hamstring in the Preliminary Final of that year, forcing him to miss the Grand Final which Brothers went on to win.

Thus ended an extremely interesting and eventful Rugby League journey. In retrospect, Drake wonders whether he "pushed the envelope too much from the inside". Was his flamboyant style and unorthodoxy all too much for "stick in the mud", blinkered officials and a vengeful media out to cut down the perceived tallest poppy of them all? Did he unintentionally set himself up to be knocked down, to the ultimate detriment of his Rugby League career? The man's private life reveals his essential decency - a hardworking, highly-skilled electrical tradesman, a devoted husband and father of five daughters and an all-round solid citizen, hardly the track record of an irresponsible, tearaway bodgey as he had been labelled in his earlier years.

To quote from the Toowoomba All Whites club's splendid Golden Jubilee book of 1992: "Frank Drake was an ornament to the game, a wonderfully gifted player who always gave of his best. While always the complete gentleman, he rather sneakily married the publican's daughter from the National Hotel (Toowoomba) where we had found him board for four quid a week - a clear case of insider trading at its worst"!

For those who were privileged to see his exquisitely-timed dashes into the backline, the supremely confident returning of the ball, his twinkle-toes running style and the radar-like kicking game, his skills were a revelation and inspiration. Above all, he has that unassailable record of being the first fullback to score a try in Australia-Great Britain Test matches to hold onto as the most glittering prize of all.

Glen "Bumper" Dwyer is a Director with the Newtown Jets RLFC in the NSWRL Premier League competition, and is a great admirer of all of the people who work so hard for the cause of Rugby League throughout the country areas of N.S.W. and Queensland.

int07 - Vince Karalius reflects on how he got his hardman reputation

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012

Interview courtesy of Harry Edgar.
The Great Rugby League Publication
Rugby League Journal
Year of Story -
Submitted 01/10/2005

How Vince became the "wild bull"

In the latest issue of "Rugby League Journal" the one and only Vince Karalius reflects on how he got his hardman reputation that led to the "Wild Bull of the Pampas" nickname. This is what Vince had to say:

"PEOPLE have asked me when did I start putting myself about on the field, but I think it all came down to the fact that I have never liked being second best at any time in my life. When I'd signed for St.Helens and started playing professional football my first game was against Warrington. They had a good pack of forwards, including Harry Bath, and Gerry Helme at scrum-half.

Pictured - Vinty, with his kamakazi style of head on defense - tackling Cracknell

The night before I made my debut we were all sitting round the table at home talking. My father, who was delighted at me getting into the first team, was telling me what to do about Gerry Helme … if I could catch him.

"Whatever you do," he said, "if Gerry is going blind, make sure you give him Goodo." At that particular time my mother (by the way she never watched a game and knew nothing about it) came walking past and said: "If I find that lad is going blind and you have touched him there will be big trouble in this house."

To put it in plain words, I got a good pasting in that match and the Warrington pack knocked hell out of me. I came off the field and thought: 'it's like war, so if it's going to be like this I'd better get myself 110 per cent fit.' There was a sudden realisation that if I wanted to get my own back on the fellows who had given me good pasting, then I needed to be bigger and stronger the next time we met.

From then on I nursed a grudge. I had to equal matters with the blokes who had given me eighty minutes of sheer murder in my first match. It played on my mind so much that it became an obsession. 'There's always a next time,' I kept telling myself. 'And next time, some of you Warrington forwards are going to meet a different Karalius.'

I live practically like a hermit. I did nothing each night I came home from work but train, train, train. I did body-building and weight-lifting exercises. Gradually I was putting on those extra pounds and hardening my muscles. I looked after myself and I had that dedication to try and be the best. I wasn't going to let anybody trample on me.

Every time I played against Harry Bath after that I used to give him a bit more stick, and in his last game at St.Helens I gave him a real hammering. I think I knocked him out a couple of times. It settled the old scores, so I didn't mind.

But it was always about man to man confrontation, and I would never condone cheap shots or thuggery - it was man to man. The game was all about bodily contact and a thump and things like that were always part and parcel of the business. When you think back to olden times, you had the gladiators and the old Romans, the public always liked to see that body contact, they don't want to see tick and pass. I always enjoyed it more if there was a body or two lying about, it made the job a bit more interesting."

You can read much more from Vince Karalius in the latest issue of "Rugby league Journal."


int06 - Interview with Mr Western Suburbs Keith Yappy Holman from the official website of the Western Suburbs Magpies

Posted by quigs eraofthebiff - Saturday, June 02, 2012

Interview supplied by Andrew Waite of The Official Western Surburbs website
Dont forget to visit the site and find out all about the Mighty Maggies.


February 18, 2000 - Keith Holman Interview

There are few players that can compare to the great Keith Holman. One of the finest halfbacks ever to play the game, and a true Magpie legend, "Yappy" gave this exclusive interview to the Western Suburbs Magpies Supporters Club.

Keith, how did you get the nickname "Yappy"?

Well you won't believe it, I was captain of Western Suburbs and naturally being the captain, when a decision was made by the referee I'd say "excuse me sir, what was that for?, excuse me sir, what was that for?". The bloke that gave me the nickname "Yappy" happened to be Darcy Lawler. I don't think I can say what he told me, he said "for Christ's sake Yappy shut your #%$*&@ mouth" and that's how it stuck.

My nickname before that when I came to Wests was "mouse". I was a little fella, and I'd get in and out like a little mouse, and that's how my nickname came. But Darcy Lawler, God rest his soul, he was the one that gave me the name "Yappy". I don't mind it being "Yappy" because there's worse bloody names than "Yappy".

You were orphaned as a child and had an unsettled childhood until you were fostered by Ruby and Horace Schofield. How did you come to live with them, and how much of your later success do you think is due to them?

Well it goes back a fair way. Mr and Mrs Schofield lived at Yarra Bay and I lived down there in a tin shed during the depression. I had this chap looking after me, I think his name was Holman. It was just one of those things, that my name wasn't Holman. When I found out what it was, it was something else, and I had it done by deed poll. I changed it to Holman. I don't even remember my mother or father, I'm not too sure if he was or wasn't.

But Mr and Mrs Schofield, once they took me I never looked back. She sent me to De La Salle Brothers school in Surry Hills. That's where I met Bernie Purcell. I never looked back from that day. They gave me a home, they looked after me, and that was it.

He was a Goulburn to Sydney bike rider, not many people realise that, he won that many years ago, just prior to the war I think it was.

You served in the Air Force during the war.

I was lucky. I was in Ipswitch in Queensland. I was only ground crew, you'll never believe what I was, I was a chef with 82 Wing. I went into town one day and I said to the CO, Group Captain Douglas I think his name was, I said "excuse me sir, I'd like to be able to play football sir on a Saturday with CYM in Ipswitch First Grade". He said "I'll tell you what I'll do son. You can play on the Saturday, but you've got to double-up again on the Sunday and play for RAAF against the Army and Navy". You beaut! I thought. I had every weekend off.

You did have a close shave in Borneo didn't you?

Yeah, I was in Morakai and Balikpapan. We went over there with our heavy bombers, 82 Wing, Liberators. 23 Squadron was our unit. And unfortunately I got blown up.

My arms were burnt, my chest, everything. It was in the kitchen. We used to have petrol drums, with a pipe going in to the kitchen to what they used to call a "choofer". You'd put a match in and it'd go "woof" and it would cook the meals. But unbeknowns to me, I'd cleaned the kitchen up, and I was walking out and there was a leak. One of the natives had his hand on the pipe whilst they were fixing it and the petrol was leaking out of his hands and on to the floor. Of course when they lit it I was in the middle of the whole damn thing.

The first word I learnt in Indonesian was "chitti barguse". That means "no bloody good", I can tell you I went out of there like a rocket. Anyhow I was burnt, on my hands, luckily my face didn't get any, but my stomach, and my legs.

I had a good CO, Wing Commander Dunn, Archie Dunn, he lives at Cronulla, he's a lovely bloke. A little short-arse, sorry, a little short bloke. I often see him when we march on ANZAC Day. My life seemed to change when I played for Wests in 48.

How did you end up at Wests?

In 1946 I tried out for Souths, they told me to come back as a Ball Boy they thought I was that small. Cecil Blinkhorn sent me to Manly in 47 and they graded me in Reserves for Thirds then I got posted to Dubbo. Now I class Dubbo as home, because I've got such fond memories. The bloke that bought me back to Sydney was Eric Bennett, he played 5/8 and centre for Western Suburbs. He said "what about coming to Sydney and playing for Wests, I'll look after you". Beauty! it'll do me.

You stayed a Magpie for the next 14 seasons.
Were you ever tempted to leave?

Well I was offered something, but I wouldn't leave the Maggies, no chance in the wide world would I ever leave the Maggies.

What was it that made you stay?

Oh loyalty I suppose. You had all of your mates.

In 54-55 I took up as Captain-Coach. I got all the fellas together and I sat em on the seat and I said "right-o fellas, this is it. I'm Captain-Coach, I'm on such and such a figure. I'm getting my payment, I know what I'm getting. But we've got to win matches for you to get your winning bonus". I said "I'll promise you one thing. I'll bust my guts for you, but I'm going to have my good days and my bad days. If I have one of my bad days you've got to accept that, but I'll bust everything for you", which I did, and they backed me. That's why we, the boys that played with me, all those blokes it really turned out real good.

During your time as a player you had a reputation as one of the hardest trainers in the game. Why did you train so hard?

I always believed you had to train hard. Being small you had to. I was pretty lucky. I used to get in the ring with Georgie Barnes the boxer, and I'd go down to train with him in the boxing gym, and I trained just about five nights a week I think.

To me you've got to be physically fit to be mentally fit and if you're mentally fit you're alert. That's the secret of why I kept it going.

So you think it gave you an edge as a player?

See the thing was with me, if I got a setback, I'd try twice as hard. The trouble today, I think a lot of blokes get a setback and they get the sulks and they go and get in the corner and they don't do a damn thing about it. To me, the only way you're going to overcome an obstacle is to challenge it, to have a go at it, and that's what I did.

Do you think being so fit was a major factor in you being able to keep playing for 14 years?

I think that was the secret of it. I played hard and I trained hard. At Western Suburbs they used to come and get me off the ground at the end of the training session, I was still going. I always believed that if something was worth doing you gotta do it properly. There is no good in half doing it. I trained in the gym with Georgie Barnes, and I used to do skipping and unarmed combat, I'd do anything. Of course I learned that in the Air Force, unarmed combat, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Apart from the boxing, you also used to do sprint training with the likes of Olympic sprinters Marlene Mathews and Gloria Cooke. How did that come about?

That was funny. I was with Marlene last week. We were made life members of the Sydney Football Stadium. I'm a life member of the Cricket Ground, they also made me a life member of the Stadium along with Marlene Matthews, and Alan Davidson. I'll never forget those two because we used to train down at Pratten Park. Davo came down, and I said "I'll train you", and he said "right-o". I used to say to him "come on you big bludger" I used to call him all the bloody names, and say "you're bludging". Marlene Matthews, she was running like a rocket, I couldn't catch her.

You wouldn't believe it, at this function last Friday Alan Davidson said "you little bludger, you got stuck into me didn't you?", and I said "yes, you were bloody well bludging!".

You were pretty lucky during your career with 5/8s. You had Australian Rep's Frank Stanmore, Darcy Henry, and Arthur Summons playing alongside you at Wests. How do you think playing with those players helped your game?

Well Frankie Stanmore was the one that we had a good combination. Frank and I, if he looked sideways, I knew there was a move on. We didn't have to talk, we just had certain signals. Frank and I we were the best of mates. Even in England we played all the tests together. I played with Darcy Henry. He was a little bit different to Frankie. He wasn't as robust as Frankie, but he was a good little 5/8. And of course Arthur Summons, I played 5/8 to him. He played 5/8 to me one year then I went to 5/8 in 61 and he took over from me as the halfback.

What was the best thing about each of those players?

Well Darcy Henry was very fast, very nippy, but you had to look after him. He was a bloke, how'll I say it, he wasn't robust. He wasn't a bloke like Frankie that would get up and knock you head over turkey, or Arthur Summons was another one, something similar. But Frankie, we were a terrific combination, great mates, we still are even to this day.

Arthur joined Wests from Rugby Union. How much did you help him make the transition to league?

I don't know if I helped him or not, I'll be quite honest about it. But I did used to say things to him and talk to him, and explain things to him, and we had a pretty good combination.

Talking about great 5/8s, you had Vic Hey as a coach with Australia in 1950 and then at Wests in 58-59. What was he like?

He was great. He was a good footballer. He was down to earth. He helped Frankie and I. We won the ashes with him, he was a terrific bloke, lovely bloke. I had a lot of time for him. Frank and I, both of us had a lot of time for him. And then when he coached Wests that was even better. I knew what he wanted, he didn't have to tell me what to do, all he had to do was concentrate on his forwards.

Vic Hey to me was a great influence, but the greatest influence on me was Eric Bennett. He was the one that really got into me. When we'd come off after a game, he'd sit down and say you did such and such. The one thing I never did was make excuses. If I made a blue, if he said something to me, I'd say "I made a bloody blue". I'd say it straight out, I wouldn't argue, I wouldn't um and ah, because I think once you do that you lose the friendship of your mates, and you lose the confidence of the bloke you've got as a coach. But I never had much trouble with coaches, I was pretty lucky.

You missed the 1952 Grand Final because the Kangaroo tourists left mid season. Do you have any regrets about missing out on playing in a winning Grand Final?

Yes, I probably would, the only thing I ever did is play in a losing one. In my last year in 1961 against St George and 58. I would have loved to have played in a winning Grand Final but it's the only thing I haven't achieved. We left for England half way through the season. In those days you had to go by boat. Six weeks on the boat and six weeks back.

As I said to Gasnier, I said the last time I played in 61, we were playing and he threw a coathanger at me that missed and after the game I said "I wish to Christ you'd have hit me". He said "why?", I said "I'd rather get carried off than walk off, we got beaten 21 to nil". You've got to have a funny side I suppose.

In 1953 Wests went from Premiers to wooden spooners in one season. What happened?

Well I think everybody left us, we never had the same side. We had to build up again, we had to get juniors and teach them.

After a playing career with so many highlights do you have one special memory?

Oh God yes, playing for Australia and winning the Ashes in 1950 alongside me little scooter mate of mine Frankie Stanmore, and Arthur Collison was there. Bernie Purcell was there too, I went to school with Bernie. 1950 was the year Frankie and I got together and we killed England.

Why did you decide to take up refereeing?

Well I think life's a challenge. Once I walked up to Col Pierce. I said to Col "if we've got you next week I'm not playing". He said "what do ya mean?" I said "well I just can't figure you out". He said "Yappy, you can give it, but you can't take it". I said "Mr Pierce, if I open my mouth to a referee or a touch judge from this day on, and you hear of it, I'll retire on the spot, but I'm captain of the side, I am entitled to ask a question". He said "fair enough". So when 61 came and I was giving it away Col Pierce come up to me and said "so, are you going to be a referee?" I said "yeah". He said "right, I'll coach you", and he coached me. I give him full credit for everything that I achieved.

What was the highlight of your referreeing career?

Oh referreeing the Grand Final. Souths and St George. What year was that, 1971?

What was harder, playing against the poms or refereeing?

Oh playing against the poms was terrific. Refereeing was hard because you're on your own. You've got no one to turn to.

Strange as it may seem, I don't know what religion you are and I don't give a stuff, I'm a tyke and proud of it, but there used to be Masons and the Catholics in those days. I remember one day I was refereeing Easts and Souths and Samuelson was on the appointment board. Anyhow, I thought the game was alright. Piggins did something, and I cautioned him for it. I didn't think it was worth sending him off for it, but I did call him in and gave him the benefit of the doubt, gave a penalty and that was it. When I came off Les Samuelson he came to me and said "I'm giving you a bad report". I said "Les, that's what you're here for. I'm not going to argue with you." You argued with the appointments board and they'd think you were a smartarse, and you're down to reserves. I said "that's you perogative, but I thought I had a reasonably good game, I thought it went well". Lucky for me, Joe Macauley, Vic Brown, and Les Williams, all on the appointment board were at the Sports Ground when this happened. I got the 'Match of the Day' the next week. So politics used to play a little bit with it. Not with me, but it used to play a little bit with the football and that.

Do you think more ex-players should take up refereeing?

Well, I think they should but they don't get the encouragement.

You coached Wests in 54-55 and then in 1977 you took up the reigns again and coached Wests to their last First Grade title in the 1977 Amco Cup. Did you enjoy coaching?

Yeah, I enjoyed it. I had a good little team with Tommy Raudonikis and everything, but I just felt when I was out there coaching I didn't know what I wanted to damn well do. It was taking up a lot of time and I didn't want to make the wife wait all the time so I finished up being a selector. So I took up being a selector the next year, a city versus country selector.

Even today after 50 years you continue to give your time and efforts for the club. What is it about the Magpies that inspired a lifetime of loyalty?

Well I'm a funny bloke, I was an orphan and people gave me a chance, and I want to give the kids a chance. I think that's the beautiful part of it. Mr and Mrs Schofield gave me a home, I've got a wonderful family, I've got two daughters and a son, I've got seven grandchildren and everything I do I want them to be proud of me. Over the last couple of months all the fame and the Stadium and what's been on just recently, I wake myself up I nearly start crying.

I'm a sentimental old bugger I suppose. When they turned around and presented me with my badge just recently at the Cricket Ground last Friday, I got up there, and Hazel said "don't you cry". I said "no I'm right". Then they read out something about me and I turned to thank everybody and it just came, then I started crying. Because I feel that to achieve these things, for people to think that well of you, to give you those rewards, I couldn't believe it. I had the arse out of my pants as a kid, now I've got a lovely home and a lovely wife. I couldn't wish for anything more.

I'm patron of the supporters club, I'm life patron of the junior league, and I'll do anything for them. They know that. They've only got to ask me and I'll do it. I'd never leave Wests. No chance in the wide world would I ever leave Wests.

Keith Holman played 203 first grade games for Western Suburbs between 1948 and 1961. He also played 35 tests for Australia, coached the Magpies and refereed a First Grade Grand Final. He continues to offer his services to Wests and the game of Rugby League.

(thanks Andrew for a great interview - Quigs)


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