Sport’s Black Eye

In 1969 before an under-18 knock-out semi-final at Knox Park in Murwillumbah one of my pillsBrothers teammates handed out these white tablets in the dressing rooms.

“Get these into you,” he said.

No-one asked any questions. Afterall we were dumb 16, 17 and 18-year-old footballers and the bloke with the ‘tablets’ was world wise as far as we were concerned.

We went out and played like the proverbial busted arses and got thrashed by eventual premiers, Souths.

The magic pills turned out to be nothing more than glucose tablets, but I think a few of us believed they would transform us into supermen.

Fast forward three years and our Brothers captain-coach, Jack Nardi was handing around a port bottle before kick-off, and that did as much good as the glucose tablets as we failed to make the finals.

Jack, a fine player who represented NSW North Coast when that really meant something, didn’t claim the port had the power to boost performance. He just believed it relaxed the nerves, and besides, it went down well.

The Tweed All Blacks, who made the preliminary final the following year, made no effort to disguise their love of a swig of port, with the bottle handed down the line as the players prepared to take the field.

I don’t recall any match fixing, although I’m told it happened.

But I do recall certain players being given the chance to kick for goal in front of the posts if someone in the team, or close to it, stood to benefit from winnning ‘the double’, from tickets sold before the game.

It was all pretty innocent back then and I’d like to think that most footballers today play for the right reasons, despite the money involved.

I certainly don’t believe there is systematic rorting in our game, but I would not be surprised if it was found the odd player had conspired with others – outside the game – to deceive in a major way.

In the days before drug testing I’m certain there were some footballers who took dubious steps to get up to speed with their rivals.

And so called ‘social drugs’ have been part of the scene since the early 1970s.

As for glucose tablets? Well, I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.

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