In 1992 ‘the Sunday-Mail’ gave me the task of reviewing a book called ‘Something More than Victory’, by Adrian Zupp.
The book was effectively a diary of the 1991 New South Wales Rugby League season, when former Wallaby rugby union coach, Alan Jones tried his hand at the league game, as the man in charge at Balmain Tigers.
The Tigers had not won a premiership since 1969, when Leo Nosworthy was coach, and they upset hot favorites, Souths in the grand final.
Balmain’s 1969 squad included the likes of future Immortal, Arthur Beetson; David Bolton (one of the finest players to represent Great Britain); South African goal kicking ace, Len Killeen as well as George Ruebner, who had represented New South Wales in soccer, rugby union and league.
Compared with the array of internationals at South Sydney, the Balmain line-up was quite modest.
In 1991 Jones had, at his disposal, the likes of internationals, Ben Elias, Paul Sironen, Garry Jack, Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach and NSW rep, David Brooks, who was club captain. Former club captain, Wayne Pearce had retired, while fellow Test forward, Bruce McGuire had been lost to Canterbury-Bankstown.
Jones’ assistant coach was Ken Shine, who had come from a successful stint with Parramatta’s under-21s, while Arthur Beetson helped out with the forwards, every now and then.
The book title, ‘Something More than Victory’, was appropriate, given Balmain failed to make the finals under Jones’ coaching.
Jones’ appointment was controversial, to say the least, and the knives were out after the Tigers failed to win a match in the first eight rounds (there was a 12-12 draw with Newcastle, away, in round 3).
When Balmain finally broke through for a win, they did it in style, beating Brisbane Broncos 14-4 at Leichhardt Oval.
In the week leading up to the match, Jones entreated his players to stop spilling lava and explode all over these people.
Roach and Elias were more to the point.
“I’ll tell you what’s beautiful about this,’ said Roach. “If we beat these bastards this week, they’re stuffed.”
“Very stuffed” added Elias. “All we’ve got to do from now until Sunday is think about these pricks. Think about how much pleasure it would give us.”
The Broncos missed the finals.
Balmain won seven out of their next 13 games and unearthed promising young talent in rookie of the year, Will Robinson and centre, Jacin Sinclair. Olympic 400m runner, Darren Clark made his league debut for Balmain, but couldn’t make first grade, so he went back to athletics.
Photo 1: Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach.
Photo 2: Balmain centre, Hal Browne attacks against Souths in 1969.