COMMENT By Steve Ricketts, former chief rugby league writer, The Courier-Mail.
OLD SCHOOL DIGNITY
Trevor Gillmeister is a class act.
There were no histrionics from the former Queensland State of Origin skipper when he was dumped from the Maroons’ support staff for the 2019 series against New South Wales.
It was a tough call from Queensland coach, Kevin Walters, who also has parted ways with assistant coach, Josh Hannay and long serving trainer, Tony ‘Springer’ Spencer. Hannay played for the Maroons, and Spencer, a Broncos’ foundation staff member, is a former player with Wests in Brisbane.
Into the Maroons’ camp come recently retired Broncos/Maroons, Justin Hodges and Petero Civoniceva, as well as Melbourne trainer, Matt Barradeen.
I expect ‘Gilly’ to get the odd invite to attend Qld training, or to give the players a pep talk at an appropriate time. The ‘old school’ ways still work, when used wisely.
When ‘Gilly’ was told his Broncos’ contract would not be renewed at the end of the 1993 season, despite playing a big role in the club’s first premiership the previous year, several Broncos said they would not play that weekend, as a protest.
But ‘Gilly’ addressed his furious teammates, before a training run, telling them he wanted to win another premiership.
“I said, ‘listen boys. I want to win another grand final, irrespective of what’s gone on, and we’ll play together here,” he said. “We’re the ones playing and doing all the hard work, no-one else’.
“We went out and trained terribly. We didn’t look like a first grade team. (Coach) Wayne Bennett came around to my place later and we had a yarn about different things, not all of it amicable. I just said I wanted another grand final and I’d be playing so well, he wouldn’t be able to drop me.”
He got to the grand final, and won another premiership. As I say. Gillmeister is a class act.
The feel good story I am looking forward to in 2019 is Broncos’ Test forward, Matt Gillett’s successful comeback from neck surgery. Former Broncos’ skipper, Gorden Tallis was never the same after his neck injury, although he still played well.
If Test hooker, Damien Cook follows new Broncos’ coach, Anthony Siebold from South Sydney to Brisbane, the Queensland club will gain dash out of dummy half, but will have to rely on other forwards picking up the slack in defence, given current number 9, Andrew McCullough’s work rate.
Former Qld Origin hooker, Matt Ballin faces a busy year as coach of the under-20s at his former club, Manly, given he will commute between Brisbane and Sydney. His wife has a successful physiotherapy practice in Brisbane, and the three children go to school in Brisbane.
Former Wallaby, Tim Horan’s at it again, reminding us union is played in more countries than league and Aussie rules. He can’t get over the fact union is a distant fourth among the footy codes in the country of his birth and upbringing.
With Valentine Holmes off to the NFL, here is an excerpt from a match report on ‘The American All Stars’ match against a Sydney selection on their 1953 rugby league tour of Australia: ‘They were novices, but in terms of showmanship, spectacular passing and straight running – features of grid iron – the Americans thrilled the crowd (64,953)’. Sydney won 52-25, in a canter, but what a lost opportunity that was for our game. (One of the All Stars, Al E Kirkland, came back to Australia and played first grade for Parramatta).
When I saw young Wallaby, Jordan Petaia slaying the opposition in the National Rugby Competition, I thought he must have played league, and I was right. He played the 13 man code in Brisbane and to quote him “I used to watch a lot of leaguies – Billy Slater, a lot of those guys.” The sort of guys the Wallabies would kill for on the world stage.
Photo: Not all Maroons fans are happy about ‘Gilly’ going.