For many years I contributed to, or edited, rugby league programs in Brisbane.
So, it always gives me a thrill to look back through old programs, ones that I call ‘old’ anyway.
My involvement with programs took in the period 1976 to 2012, so, for me, ‘old’ is the period before that.
Just recently I looked through ‘The Rugby League News’ from the weekend March 30-31, 1968.
It featured a host of interesting articles, not least a reprint of the farewell column of retiring ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ sports writer, Tom Goodman, who revealed that dashing winger, Harold Horder was his boyhood hero.
In another item from Sydney, Eric ‘Bosun’ Cox, the secretary of the New South Wales Rugby League Referees’ Association, said an element of violence was creeping into the game, with some players going in ‘boots and all’.
“I have known the Jekyll and Hyde types,” he said. “Off the field they can be gentleman, but put a pair of footy boots on them, and they show their split personality. The game has to be cleaned up. Rugby league is a contact sport. An impetuous punch can be overlooked, but deliberate rough stuff is another thing.
“Strangely enough, the player with a tough reputation is not hard to control. It’s the sneaky one who does his dirty work when the referee’s back is turned, who gives the game a bad name.”
Cox, a former naval officer, said he believed violence came into the game with the introduction – from England – of the stiff arm tackle.
“This tackle is not only vicious, but it could kill,” he wrote.
I met Eric, or ‘Bosun’ as he was known, many times during my league writing career, because he was a ground manager for ‘The League’. His playing career included a stint at Lismore, the northern New South Wales city where I was born.
From England, there was a report about a rising star, Mal Reilly, 18 from the Castleford club.
He was a ‘standby forward’ for a Test against France at Bradford, and was considered an outside chance of being included in Britain’s squad for the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia later that year. He missed out, and made his Test debut on the Brits’ successful 1970 tour of Australia and New Zealand, stamping himself as one of the finest forwards of all time.
Britain beat France 19-8 in the Bradford Test, after having beaten France 22-13 in Paris three weeks earlier. A big talking point among English critics was the fact the French had beaten the Kangaroos in the 1967-68 Test series, winning two matches and drawing the other.
The inference was that France wasn’t that good, so the Aussies must have been off their game. France went on to beat Britain in the World Cup in 1968, effectively ending their chances of making the final.
There was a report about the Queenslanders playing in Sydney, and they included Elton Rasmussen, John Wittenberg, Max Riipinen, Morrie Pinfold, Ray Brosnan and Geoff Bacon, all at the St George club.
Advertisements in the program included ones for ‘Jack Reardon Footballs’; Les Johns Rugby Boots and the Ken Thornett Steeden Football. There also was an ad for the Bill Maher Trio, playing at Souths Leagues, Davies Park.
In Brisbane it was the final round of the Woolies pre-season, with matches to be called by Radio 4BK, with Kev Kelly and Jim Sweeney the commentators.
In 1968 I turned 16 and, living in the Tweed Valley in northern New South Wales, read only the Sydney newspapers, so I knew little of Brisbane football.
Looking at this program now, the names that stand out for me are: Jim Murphy (Souths); Barry Muir, Paul ‘Porky’ Morgan, Richie Twist, John McDonald (Wests); Peter Leis, Bevan Bleakley (Redcliffe); Claude McDermott, Morrie Morgan, Bill Knobel (Wynnum-Manly); Henry Hegarty, Ian Massie, Barry McTaggart (Norths); Peter Lobegeiger, Des Morris, Les Geeves, Peter Connell (Easts); Barry Kenning, Barry Dowling, Eric Gelling, Wayne Abdy, Reg Cannon, Dennis Manteit, John Lohman, Johnny Gleeson (Brothers); Errol Stock, Norm Clarke, Mick Retchless, Marty Scanlan, Ross Threlfo, John Payne, Ron Gurnett (Valleys).
NOTE: The John McDonald at Wests was a front rower, and should not be confused with the Test centre from Toowoomba, John ‘Cracker’ McDonald.
Photo: Peter Lobegeiger (Norths).