Heroes of Yesterday, Interview 13 - 29 May 2016 - Alan Fallah
Where did you grow up?
Chester Hill, went to school with Terry Lamb and played SG Ball with Canterbury. My family is Lebanese and they wanted us playing soccer. I changed to Rugby League for the under 11's
What was your childhood like ?
My family is Lebanese and I played backyard football with my brothers. All of my brothers are Canterbury supporters. We used to watch NSW v QLD matches religiously. I hated losing, even as a kid. I was the oldest of the brothers.
Did you collect footy cards as a kid ?
Yes, bubblegum cards, I used to swap them with other kids. I wanted to get the Canterbury ones at the start but ended up wanting them all. They were like gold, as I got older I still collect the cards. I don't know whatever happened to them. It was always my dream to get my own footy card, my thinking was if I was able to get my own footy card then I know I made it. In the early 1970s I used to collect Ross Warner, Ken Irvine, Graeme Langlands and Les Johns, I would stick them in a book. I remember smelling them, the bubblegum was a key feature of the cards in those days. The day you found one in a packet you hadn't seen before, it was magic. In those days the kids would flick the cards against the wall, I wouldn't risk it with mine, I wasn't a gambler.
What was your first football experience?
My Dad and Uncle used to take me to Canterbury matches at Belmore Oval. Also as brothers we used to play a lot of footy in the backyard. I joined Rugby League in the Under 11s, halfway through the year, Mum relented halfway through the year because I wasnt doing any sport, they had me at every position except for hooker. We used to watch it on tv, this made me want to play it, league was my favorite game all along. When I started playing at school things took off, I was a bit, bigger, faster and more skillful.
Who were your footballing heroes as a kid ?
I loved the blue and white hoops, striped jersey of the Canterbury side during the 1970's. I liked all of the Canterbury players, like Gary Dowling, Bernie Lowther and Ron Costello. As I got older I liked the hooker George Peponis, and I was graded at the same club as Peponis. He came up to me at training early on and said he was on the bench for 12 weeks before he got a run, so keep my chin up, he did a bit of scrummaging coaching with me.
George was a classic example of an Ethnic Guy who came good. His Greek mother used to come to training. He would explain things to his mother at training in Greek langauge.
Your first time in the top grade?
I played and Third and Reserve with Canterbury and played with Chris Anderson, the Mortimer and Hughes brothers. I was still at school and Tim Pickup called out my name, it was a big thrill, this great player knowing me by first name basis. Graeme Hughes used to ask me if I needed a lift to training. When I finished high school I went to University at Wollongong and I played in the local Illawarra compeition
My first teaching gig was at Oberon. I was the Captain coach out there and played for Western Division.
At the age of 25 years I was graded with Wests, by this stage I had already played for NSW Country and for Country in the AMCO Cup. In 1984 I as signed by Wests and played Reserve Grade and I injured my knee in just the second game. I made it back for the last 7-8 games of the season. My First Grade debut was against Illawarra at Wollongong. I played all the rest of the games in first grade, but broke my arm at the last game. Three years I never missed a game.
I nearly played for Illawarra in 1982, Michael Bolt wanted both of us to play for the Steelers that season. Barry Jensen was the other hooked. I played with Bolt at Illawarra (Wollongong)
What was the culture like at the magpies?
We lost a few players at Wests, the club were fighting with the corporate (NSWRL). I played at Lidcombe, think moving to Campbelltown saved them. I had offers to go to other clubs however I found it hard to leave the club once you start there, I really enjoyed the footy at Wests.
Greatest memories of playing rugby league?
Early on I played against Great Britain for Illawarra. I nearly missed the game, I made a few runs, we went down narrowly, they had some tough forwards.
Playing for NSW Country and 1980 Country Seconds, there were some big names in the city side, I came up against Ken Stewart and in the second half John Lang. Frank Hyde gave me a few wraps which was a thrill. Country firsts at Newcastle, the Sydney side was virtually the Australian team with Craig Young as captain. We had a guy sent off in the first 10 minutes, he was a nutter, John Gosher, hit someone with a high shot. It was good playing for Country.
The dream was playing first grade, playing my debut in First Grade game was the biggest thrill, and a couple of times I captained the team. Ian Schubert drove a liquor truck, he was terrible with the referees. He used to argue with them all the time, I was a bit more diplomatic. I was only captain half a dozen times. I made it to 100 First Grade games for a Foundation Club with was a big thrill, considering I started so late.
Who was your most respected rival?
Early on Mario Fenech, Ben Elias and Royce Simmons. The Walters brother came through later on. My last season I played against Brisbane, winning 3 or 4 against the feed, tied heads against the current Australia hooker.
Who was the best team you played against?
Manly were a strong side. The biggest hiding came against Canterbury, it was a TV game at the SCG, it was embarrassing.
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
The 1990 season I played a Reserve Grade games, I didn't get along with John Bailey, the coach, he didnt like my age, didnt matter what i did he wasn't going to pick me. I went over and played a season in England, which was a great experience.
What followed after football?
I focused on teaching, and refereed for 4-5 years. I gave it away when my kids were growing up.
What was it like having a career during football and ?
It's very important, rl you think it can last forever, but it only lasts a few. The biggest contract i was getting was the same as teaching. Even if I was playing now I would be doing some sort of training. We trained 4-5 times a week when I played. Some clubs encourage I enjoy it, the whole culture, I even taught in england, enjoyed the teaching experience. Some kids different ....positive see ex students start own families, business etc.
How has the game changed since your playing days?
It is a different game altogether, it is less skilful, more athletic. The game has sped up a lot, I would be suited to todays game as a dummy half. The scrummaging rules changed during my days which hurt me, I was quite as a good scrummaging hooker. More endurance when I played, now its power.
Did you keep a scrap book?
Had one for awhile, for my kids to see it. Would have liked to be more vigilant with it.
All Asian, Creek food, seasfood, thai chinese, vietnamese, my mums the best cook ever. My wife and I go out a lot