Heroes of Yesterday, Interview 10 - 08 May 2016 - Geoff Bagnall
Where did you grow up?
Brisbane. I started playing football at the age of 15, made my first grade debut in 1983 for Norths in Brisbane and played with them until 1987.
What was your childhood like ?
I remember watching Wally Lewis first game in the top grade. Ross Strudwick was the half and Wally was playing lock. Everyone had heard on the grapevine how good this young kid was.
Did you collect footy cards as a kid ?
Ross Strudwick was my childhood hero and I used to wear his badge to school. Dont know where they are now.
What was your first football experience?
Aussie rules as a 7 year old. Dad didn't know the difference between the codes and signed my up with an AFL side. I remember saying to him, what are you doing dad they punch the ball, I want to go to the one where they throw the ball. The next week he took me to the right one. I used to watch the football on late night TV in the 70's.
Who were your footballing heroes as a kid ?
Ross Struckwick and Wally Lewis, he was up and coming - even though I played with Wally Lewis. Steve Mortimer, Tommy Raudonikis. I followed both Brisbane and Sydney league competitions when I was growing up.
Your first time in the top grade?
In the Brisbane competition I was 17 years old, Barry Muir said you are good enough so you are old enough. Henry Foster was the opposing half. All I can remember that night was it was a very tough game, they hit a lot harder in first grade and I woke up a lot sorer, the forwards were huge. I think we won that game.
I was the first halfback for the Giants. Bob McCarthy was coach and we played the Bulldogs in a night match. We got rolled but they didn't win by much. I couldn't believe I was playing against Steve Mortimer. In another match of the 1988 season against Parramatta I remember big Eric Grothe making a break and I thought to myself how am I going to tackle this bloke, but I got him, he was a legend.
Greatest memories of playing rugby league?
Winning a premiership at country level. My days in Wakefield Trinity after playing in the Winfield Cup.
First win for the Giants was against the Broncos. Alfie Langer was the Brisbane halfback, we played against each other in the Brisbane competition. Ron Gibbs flattened Lewis and Miles, which set the tone for the match. Billy Johnstone, Chris Close had blinders. We came to play, and shocked the Broncos, it was their first loss.
Who was your most respected rival?
Greg Alexander, speed and craftiness hardest player to mark. Gary Freeman liked to rough you up a bit. Alfie and Ricky Stuart as well.
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
I was in the clear and a Front rower caught me in the local comp, Group 18 country, I knew then it was time to give it away.
What were your highlights of playing First Grade Rugby League?
1991 I played with Wally Lewis, he was a childhood hero. Wally had already played his best football but it was still great to play alongside him. His presence made us feel confident, you did what Wally told you to do. Paul shaw signed that year, shared the half back position.
Any memorable moments whilst playing for the Giants?
Ronnie Gibbs was funny to play with, he was a very passionate player, he would psyche himself up before a game along with the whole team. He was a clean freak and one day I forgot my towel , after a shower I grabbed his towel and threw it on the ground, he went off. He was going to get me, I took off . He threw the towel at a fluorescent light which smashed over the General Managers head. I was a bit worried about turning up for the next training session, but he had cooled down by then, thankfully
What followed after football?
I taught at school all through my football career, so naturally continued teaching. I have been a school teacher for 30 years, this year actually will be 30 years.
I am still mates with a few of the Gold Coast boys. I catch up with Chris Close. Robert Simpkins (Truck) he helps me with pluming.
How was it having a career during football years?
All footballers should be looking to the future, use the time on their hands to develop themselves for post football days. I loved my era when you had to work.
How has the game changed since your playing days?
The game is much quicker now, play the ball is quicker and it is all about getting momentum. The old days had more craftiness compared to today . There is some unbelievable skill in todays compeition, the likes of Benji Marshall and Shaun Johnson. I Like watching the young blokes with skill coming through such as Ben Barba.
Did you keep a scrap book?
Kids put together a scrap book and I still have it today.
What was the difference between Australi and and English football?
I played for Wakefield Trinity between 1991 and 1994. There was less emphasis on attack over there. The people were marvelous, made me feel welcome.
What is your favourite restraunt
Local Thai at Palm Beach