Favorite Moments - 026 -050 Your fun memories from EOTB

fm29 - A great day for North Sydney Bears Rugby League - they beat Manly.

Posted by... quigs eraofthebiff - on ... Monday, May 14, 2012

John Low
Blue Mountains, NSW
North Sydney Bears .. is the club I follow


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My favorite Moment is For a North Sydney fan the likelihood is that one’s favourite (and indeed one’s worst) memories are probably linked to games against Manly-Warringah. It certainly is for me.

Sometimes, when the need takes me, I get my scrapbook down and flip the pages and the calendar back to a match between Norths and Manly that took place at North Sydney Oval on 13th June 1982, a sunny Sunday afternoon that still resonates vividly in my memory.

The Bears got the measure of their old enemy that afternoon and the game, one of the best I’ve seen North Sydney play, provided one of those moments a home crowd long for, the local hero engaging and vanquishing the enemy’s ‘hard man’.

In coach Ron Willey’s ‘computer room’ England’s hooker John Gray was flanked by two of the biggest (and more handsome) front-row forwards in rugby league. Don McKinnon and Steve Mayoh, both over six-feet and weighing around seventeen stone, mauled the Manly-Warringah pack all that June afternoon.

A local policeman whose father had also played for the Bears, Don McKinnon was a much loved icon at North Sydney during the 1980s, though not above censure from the judges on the Hill (it was not unknown for him to drop the ball at crucial moments!). On this day, though, he could do no wrong. At one point, with a broad smile on his face, he stood over Les Boyd and took on the Manly ‘enforcer’ in a brief bout of fisticuffs. In the ‘hard man’ stakes Leslie Boyd was not often made to look second rate. That day, however, he was and the home crowd loved it! In the press the following week ‘Big Don’ was dubbed the “Terror Bear”.

But this game was not just about tough physical contact. There were also moments of almost light-hearted magic, as when second-rower Peter Cross spirited the ball from the hands of Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin and sprinted 40 metres for a try under the posts. Or when John Gray, emerging from the ruck, orchestrated the play with the finesse of a classical conductor! His ability to inject into the action, at precise moments, the pace and mobility of the tall Kiwi second-rower Mark Graham was a joy to watch.

It was a remarkable game. Norths led 13-4 at half-time and, when Manly scored two tries early in the second half, it seemed likely that the stereotypical North Sydney collapse was imminent. Instead, the safe hands of centre John Adam intercepted a pass thrown by the Manly fullback, Graham Eadie, and raced away for a try that stiffened the Bears’ resolve. They showed their claws and growled and it was Manly that lost its nerve.

When it was all over, with the score at 31-12, the North Sydney fans were reluctant to leave the ground. There was a palpable sense of shared elation. We just stood and applauded, as if an encore was expected. It came, I guess, with the Bears making the finals for the first time since 1965. But, with John Gray injured, they just couldn’t recapture the form of that June afternoon.


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