It’s hard to decide what I found the more heart breaking? Ron Clarke’s failure to win an Olympic Gold Medal, or Australia’s abject failure on the 1969-70 cricket tour of South Africa?
It’s a toss-up really. I stayed awake all night, with the transistor to my ear, listening to Bill Lawry’s Australian team lose all four Tests against South Africa.
As for Clarke. Well, I just couldn’t believe that a bloke who owned 17 world records, could go missing at the Olympics.
Obviously he lacked the competitive aggressiveness needed in the important races. He could race the clock, but not his fellow humans.
A whole chapter was devoted to aggressiveness in ‘The Game’ magazine, which my parents subscribed to, on my behalf, back in the late 1960s, early 1970s.
‘The Game’ was an A to Z of sport, and I haven’t seen anything to rival it in quality.
The chapter on aggression said, that in both rugby codes, there was the opportunity for uninhibited aggression
“The New Zealand All Blacks are renowned for their aggressive forward play, a quality epitomized by Colin Meads,” said the mag. “And in rugby league, there are chances galore for matching weight and speed against the other man’s resistance. There is no more fearsome sight in sport, than the mud spattered second rower ploughing through the opposing team, dragging two or three defenders with him, in his determination to make ground with the ball.
“But what of other sports, where there is no bodily contact? Here, aggressiveness comes to the surface in a competitor’s attitude to the task in hand, rather than to the other competitors.
“Where aggression shows up in the worst light, however, is in the sports that are on the borderline between bodily contact and the absence of it – sports such as soccer, hockey and basketball. In such sports there is plenty of scope for the aggressive drive. But it must be carefully controlled, because there is also plenty of scope for overstepping the mark.”
In soccer, ‘The Game’ used the example of Leeds United’s Scottish international, Billy Bremner, who, the magazine said, was renowned for sheer guts, as much as actual violence. There is a statue of Bremner outside Leeds’ United’s ground, Elland Road.
If I followed a soccer team, (and I don’t. It’s not compulsory, by the way) it would be Leeds United, because I remember watching ‘Match of the Day’, and being impressed by Bremner, who I thought would make a good rugby league halfback, like Tommy Bishop.
The first really aggressive rugby league player I recall, from my playing days, was my Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Gary ‘Mouse’ Dowling, who ran with a high knee action and never took a backward step.
He was very nervous before games, but would do anything to win, once on the field. His younger brother, John, went on to play State of Origin for Queensland, but I thought ‘Mouse’ was a more skilful footballer.
Gary played first grade for Easts in Brisbane, and represented Riverina from the Gundagai club, where he played with another Murwillumbah boy, Kel Sherry.
Ron Clarke could have learned a lot from both of them.
As far as unbridled aggression is concerned. Well, it is hard to beat the 1966 Second Test between Australia and Great Britain at Lang Park in Brisbane, when British forward, Bill Ramsay was sent off for kicking Australian rival, Mick Veivers in the head. The game was a donnybrook from start to finish. It was more thuggery than aggression.
Photo: Rugby league aggression.