Former Great Britain rugby league halfback, Tommy Bishop vowed to make Australia his home, after signing as captain-coach of Norths Devils for the 1974 Bisbane premiership season.
Tommy; his wife, Betty and their three boys, Gary, Neil and Paul, were all born at St Helens in Merseyside, England, and moved to Sydney in 1969 when Tommy was signed by Cronulla-Sutherland.
With Bishop as captain-coach, Cronulla made the 1973 grand final, in only their seventh season in the top division. Manly won the decider, against a gutsy Sharks, but Bishop’s contract was not renewed, so he moved north.
“There is no way any of us (the family) would go back to England,” Bishop told ‘The Courier-Mail’s Jack Reardon. “We are all sold on Australia, and when my football career is finished, I want to settle here in Brisbane.”
Bishop had a carpet cleaning business in Cronulla, where his three lads learned to swim, and grew to love the surf.
Australian fans first saw Bishop’s skilful play in 1966, when he toured with Great Britain, and developed a running duel with the Australian forwards, in particular, Noel Kelly. Bishop’s battle with Aussie forwards carried on the following year, when the Kangaroos toured England.
Reardon, who covered the tour, hitched a ride with the Kangaroos to the Station Road stadium at Swinton, for the third and deciding Test.
“Kelly said; ‘If we are leading by more than five points with five minutes to go, I am going to let that little …., Bishop have the best stiff arm he has ever had.”
With six minutes to go, Australia led 11-3. Kelly duly let one go, missing Bishop by a few centimetres. Kelly was sent off by English referee, Fred Lindop.
To this day, there is no love lost between Bishop and Kelly.
And Tommy still lives in Australia – at Redcliffe. I saw him on February 28 at the Brisbane (Stafford) funeral of John Payne, the former Australian forward.
Photo: Tommy Bishop and his three sons (from left), Gary, 13, Neil, 11, and Paul 6, in Brisbane in 1974.