FLASHBACK JANUARY 1995
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND announced the signing of dual Welsh rugby international, Allan Bateman, adding even more strike power to an already impressive looking backline.
Cronulla boasted the likes of Andrew Ettingshausen, David Peachey, Mat Rogers, Paul Green, Richie Barnett, Adam Dykes and Mitch Healey in the backs, in a side coached by former Test hooker, John Lang.
Bateman, a winger or centre, said later the Cronulla backline was the best he had played in – in either rugby code – whether it be at club or representative level. High praise indeed. He made his first grade run-on debut against South Queensland Crushers, winning his spot at the expense of Murwillumbah product, Paul Donaghy, a nephew of former Australian centre, Ron Saddler.
When Bateman returned to rugby union, in 1997, he toured South Africa with the British Lions, alongside fellow Welshman, Scott Gibbs; Englishman, John Bentley and Scotsman, Allan Tait, who had all played rugby league.
“I’m sure the selectors realised it was going to be a hard nosed, professional tour, and they needed people in the squad who had experience of that sort of approach,” Gibbs wrote in his autobiography, ‘Getting Physical’.
In his league debut for St Helens, in 1994, Gibbs dropped the ball the first time it was passed to him. He put it down to nerves and a ‘basic’ piece of sledging from Widnes’ utility, Paul Hulme, who said: ‘You fucking Welsh bastard. Why don’t you fuck off home!’
“That was the first time I came across trash talking,” Gibbs wrote.
In other news from January 1995:
Gold Coast Seagulls’ coach, John Harvey spoke defiantly, in the face of news his club had been placed, by one bookmaker, at 660-1 to win the Australian Rugby League (ARL) premiership.
“I know what the critics are saying about us,” Harvey said. “Paul Vautin says we are certainties for the wooden spoon, and he is often wrong. We will have eight or nine players in reserve grade, more than capable of playing in the firsts. We will improve on last year, and in 1996 we will able to command a bit of respect. If dedication to training counts for anything, we will have a big year.
“Brett Gillard is one of our most experienced signings, and he says things are very professional here, compared with what he was used to at Penrith. He and other new signings, such as Steve Deacon and Colin Ward, are happy as pigs in mud about the way things are run here.”
Harvey was expecting big things from Danny Peacock, Andrew Dunemann and Brian Quinton, the latter a NSW Country rep.
Don Furner, coach of the 1986 Kangaroos in Britain and France, was chief executive of Gold Coast. Furner kept his role as Australian chairman of selectors, despite his full-time Seagulls’ gig. Furner; former Test winger, Eddie Lumsden and ‘Immortal’, Johnny Raper were NSW and Australian selectors.
Meanwhile, Broncos’ international winger, Wendell Sailor made it clear he was open to offers for the 1996 season.
Sailor’s manager, Barry Collins said it was unlikely the Broncos could match offers from other clubs.
“The Broncos have to stick to a budget, and when they signed Wendell on a three year deal, he was just a kid from Mackay,” Collins said. “He’s on peanuts really. But of course, he has offers for endorsements and modelling work, and Wendell and I are pleased with what is in the pipeline.”
Beenleigh, and a new club from the Gold Coast, the Cougars, had approached the Queensland Rugby League’s South East Division about entry into the 1996 Brisbane XXXX Cup competition. Division chairman, Kevin Brasch said the league was looking to expand its footprint.
1 Scott Gibbs scores a try for St Helens against Widnes.
2 John Harvey
3 Wendell Sailor (centre) with Kevin Walters (left) and Michael Hancock at Broncos’ training.