It’s not often you get to tell a young man he has just been selected for Australia.
But I had that honor in 1983 when second rower, Wally Fullerton Smith was a late inclusion in the Australian rugby league side to play New Zealand at Auckland’s Carlaw Park.
One of the national selectors had leaked the story to me, after being unable to contact Fullerton Smith, following the scratching of the likes of Wayne Pearce, Les Boyd and Ray Price for various reasons.
On a hunch, I telephoned the Moreton Bay Hotel at Redcliffe, where Australian coach, Arthur Beetson was licensee.
The phone rang in the public bar, and the barmaid told me ‘Gator’ (Fullerton Smith) was there. He came to the phone, I gave him the news, he gave me some quotes and I ran an exclusive in the last edition of the Telegraph newspaper.
These days, ‘Gator’ would have received a text from the ARL.
The Australians beat the Kiwis 16-4 at Carlaw Park, and Fullerton Smith went on to play seven more Tests for his country, his last against a Rest of the World selection in 1988.
In 1983 Fullerton Smith also toured England with the Arthur Beetson coached Queensland side.
“It was a great experience,” Fullerton Smith recalled recently. “We played Leeds in our final game and I ended up going back to Headingley for a season.”
Arthur Beetson was one of Fullerton Smith’s league heroes as a lad, along with Terry Randall and Bob Fulton.
Photo: Wally Fullerton Smith and Dr Peter Friis at a Queensland State of Origin medical.