Heroes of Yesterday, Interview 21 - 02 January 2016 - Geoff Foster
Where did you grow up?
What was your childhood like ?
We were poor, I rode a push bike everywhere, we were lucky to have a pair of thongs the bindies didn't go through. The walk to school 5 km each way. I was playing older kids in football because of my weight.
Did you collect footy cards as a kid ?
I did, I remember collecting Gasnier and Langlands cards as a teenager in the early 1960's
What was your first football experience?
I was playing in the local junior school side against kids three years older than me. When I was 10 years old I was playing for North Griffith and we only had 9 players in our team and we got a flogging each week. In the Under 18s playing for Griffith we won the competition after being in last spot. We were equal Fifth and won every game from there to win the comp. I got the Player of the Grand Final after scoring three tries and kicking one goal, the normal goal kicker gave me the kick. 40 years on he still says he shouldn't have given me that kick, I outscored him on the day with 11 points and he got 10, he is still filthy with me.
Who were your footballing heroes as a kid ?
Probably the local blokes and tough old blokes such as Fred Griffith, Bobby Lanigan and Ron Paton, there wasn't a lot of TV in those days.
Getting to Sydney?
I missed the first year of the Under 18's competition due to a broken arm. The following year I played in the Group 20 Competition known for the Riverina Waratahs, in the Grand Final I scored a couple of tries and we won the competition. The year after that I played First Grade for Riverina and the put me in the centres.
That year I played for Country Seconds while I was still 18 and later I played for Country Firsts against Queensland, we beat them by 19 points to 18. Our side had Teddy Goodwin and Warren Ryan.
In 1970 I trialled for Manly and was offered a contract and played against Wests, it was a night game at Brookvale Oval. I had a year to think about it in 1971 playing for Riverina before going back to Sydney. We were undefeated that season.
In 1972 I went to Canterbury and I was offered a contract worth $3,500 per year for three years. I was sharing a flat with Chris Anderson. During the trials I twisted my ankle quite badly and didn't report it, Canterbury in the end didn't want me because they thought I couldn't play.
In 1973 I had a crack in the forwards and I signed a five year contract with Wests and they advanced me $1,500 for a deposit on a house.
Your first time in the top grade?
It was a trial for Canterbury and I was playing in the centres and I came up against Ray Branighan and Bob Fulton.
A bit later that year I was offered a five year deal with the Magpies.
What was the culture like at the magpies?
Put it this way, we were bloody great mates. very tight group of players and we went everywhere together. We went on trips here and there whether it was skiing or going to the bush.
We made the Preliminary Finals in 1974 with a bunch of kids and from there on we made the Semi Finals every year I was there.
Some of my close mates were Pat Hundy, John Purcell, Trevor Reardon, Sheep Shit, and Dallas. We used to drink at the Wentworth Hotel, Homebush, Dallas was a thirsty man.
Greatest memories of playing rugby league?
The AMCO Cup win against Easts was special. Easts had a great side with three Team of the Century players, Bob Fulton, Arthur Beetson and Ron Coote, we beat them by 6 points to 5. I watched this game with some kids the other day and the couldn't believe how hard we hit and how hard we pushed in scrums.
Who was your most respected rival?
Artie Beetson, he went out there to nullify certain opposition players, it was good just to have him on the field. Ron Coote, he was a great runner. These two guys are great blokes as well, true gentlemen.
Who was the best team you played against?
The Roosters, with players like Keith Harris, Cross, Schubert, Brass, Junee, Stumpy Stevens they were a good football team
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
I was disheartened when a bloke can decide a game with a whistle. You got the same money in the bush as in Sydney.
What followed after football?
I was in the coppers still, police youth club. I built a sports centre in Griffith and ran that for six years. We had netball courts, indoor cricket, gym and squash courts.
What was it like having a career during football?
The coppers looked after you if you got hurt, they would give you sick leave. You could be sick for 6 months and still be ok. I did play a few games against other police stations and those games were tough, they used to say you can't run without a head.
How has the game changed since your playing days?
In the old days you would see some wonderful passing, there was natural skill and the football was ad-lib. Now the game is very structured, the players now are fitter and fine tuned. I don't think it is tougher now, and I don't think you need more than two players in a tackle. These days third and fourth men in are to get their line set. Wrestling and players grabbing and holding the players up for a third man in is not good.
Did you keep a scrap book?
I do, it is in the garage. I was rated a 10/10 by Rugby League Week in a game against St George in 1978. This was before I broke my leg in 1978. I think there were only three 10/10 awarded by RLW during that year. RLW would have someone at each ground to judge.
I can't afford to eat out, I have had my boys on my own for 13 years, carting them around the country isn't cheap. I am bus driver and that doesn't leave much left. Crabs and mud crabs are my favourite food, my mate has a prawn trawler, so we are covered.