One of the saddest rugby league stories I have had to write concerned a car accident involving promising young footballer, Cameron Carr, the son of legendary Brisbane Wests’ lock, Norm Carr.
Cameron, 19 had been signed by the Sydney Roosters and was due to attend training under coach, Phil Gould. But on December 3, 1996, Cameron received severe spinal damage in a single vehicle road accident at Runcorn, on Brisbane’s southside. The injuries consigned him to life in a wheel chair, and today Cameron is best known as one of the stars of the Australian Wheel Chair Rugby side.
Who knows what he might have achieved, if he had remained able bodied.
He had played rugby league for 11 seasons, first with Souths Sunnybank where he was coached by his dad, and then with Logan City, where he made his first-grade debut, aged 17. In 1996 he played for Queensland Colts under the coaching of Bill Nosworthy, with the Roosters swooping to sign him on a lucrative two-year deal.
“Cameron stood to make more in two years than I made in 13 years in the game,” Norm told me at Cameron’s bedside in the Princess Alexandra Hospital spinal unit. Norm played 11 games for Queensland under the residential rules, and two State of Origin matches – in 1981 and ’82. He was on the bench for the inaugural match in 1980, but was not used by coach, John ‘Cracker’ McDonald. Norm won premierships with Wests in 1975 and ’76, and Souths in 1985.
Cameron should have been in Sydney the night he was injured, but the Roosters gave him permission to delay his trip, so he could attend a mate’s party. He was being driven home from the party by a friend, when the accident occurred.
It was at the height of the Super League war, but differences were set aside, as a fund raiser was organised, with identities from both sides of the divide vowing to attend, or donate items.
In other news of the time: New Zealand international, Dave Watson trained with South Queensland Crushers at suburban Grange in Brisbane, after splitting with Super League aligned club, Canterbury-Bankstown. Former Bronco, Steele Retchless also was confirmed as a Crushers’ signing.
Super League allocated former Crushers’ hooker, Wayne Collins to English club, Leeds, and released another hooker, Jamie Goddard on compassionate grounds, with Goddard joining Gold Coast Chargers in the ARL.
Former Wynnum-Manly and Canterbury forward, Brian Battese was recruited by Canterbury as their development officer for the North Coast of New South Wales. Battese came from Lismore, where his father ‘Nobby’, played for Souths, alongside my father, Jon.
Super League and the ARL signalled their intentions to set-up a club in Melbourne for the start of the 1998 season. Victorian Rugby League remained affiliated with the ARL.
Footnote: The next time I saw Cameron Carr after that hospital interview was 2014, when he was a guest at a sportsmen’s breakfast at Brothers’ Community Club, Grange, hosted by Mark Forbes. It was an opportunity for me to promote by book, ‘Bennett’s Broncos’. When interviewed by Forbes, I got quite emotional looking across the room at Cameron and recalling that day in 1996. But, of course, Cameron had got past feeling sorry for himself, and had gone to achieve so much in life.