Heroes of Yesterday, Interview 22 - 15 January 2017 - Mark Tookey
Where did you grow up?
Logan, Woodrick state school
What was your childhood like ?
Come from a low social economic family, my parents worked in a factory. My parents managed to get all of the kids through though. I was the oldest, we used to play touch footy down the street.
Did you collect footy cards as a kid ?
I Started collecting footy cards around 1994 and then I stopped around 2000. I didn't get in too many cards personally.
What was your first football experience?
I started playing footy when I was four years old and never stopped. I went one time with my Pop who was coaching the local Under Sevens side. In those days I was pretty much watching aeroplanes or chasing shadows. I was pretty good by the time I was seven, I was a big kid, strong for my age.
Who were your footballing heroes as a kid ?
Glenn Lazarus, Blocker, the Chief and Paul Sironen.
Getting to the Crushers?
I was playing for Logan Brothers Junior side when Brian Edwards recruited me for the Crushers. I still had to go through a QLD wide development and a number of other cuts to get through.
Your first time in the top grade?
My First Grade debut was actually on the same day as my Reserve Grade debut. Six or seven players were picked to play on the bench for First Grade and I had already played 30 minutes in Reserve Grade when Bob Lindner came up and said to me, you will be playing in First Grade, I nearly wet myself. The game was against Wests and we had a rare win. I got the ball from the kick off and I ran over the top of Steve Georgallis.
What was the culture like at the Crushers?
It was a really good breeding ground, I played in the under 21's Grand Final and we won, defeating Parramatta in the grand final. That was the last Under 21's Grand Final.
What made you move to Parramatta?
The Crushers folded, I was mates with Clinton Schifcofske and Troy Pezet who both went to Parramatta. Brian Smith was the coach and this was the kick start of my career. The players they had were very good with names like Jason Smith, Jarrod McCracken, Jim Dymock, Nathan Cayless, Nathan Hindmarsh and Mick Vella.
We came so close to making the Grand Final, we were knocked out in the Grand Final Qualifier in the famous Final against the Bulldogs when they came back to win the game.
Brian Smith was the best coach I ever had.
Move to Warriors?
I loved playing for the Warriors, was there for five years. I was lucky enough to play in the 2002 Grand Final. I used to take the first hit up from the kick off and the fans loved it, had sponsors and plenty of networking.
Move to the UK?
I played for the Castleford Tigers first and helped pull them out of relegation along with Steve Crough. They are fanatical over there, they are in your face. Then I moved to the London Broncos. London was a little bit different, they left you alone so you can just play your footy, it was refreshing.
Greatest memories of playing rugby league?
The 2002 Grand Final, we were beaten but it was one of the best moments of my career. We finished the season on top of the ladder. The Roosters were really good with Adrian Morley and Brad Fittler.
Who was your most respected rival?
Ruben Wiki was the hardest guy I played against, every time he touched the ball or tackled you, he was one tough player.
Who was the best team you played against?
The Bulldogs were always a tough battle for us with players like Darren Britt, Steve Reardon, Ward, Solomon and Haumono during the late 90's. Newcastle in the late 90's were also tough with Adam Muir.
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
I was playing in England and I was 29 years old, I was in pain around the abdomen and over weight, they got rid of me for Scott Hill. I was going to play for Redcliffe Dolphins in the QLD Cup, but my head wasn't there so I decided it was time to give it away.
What followed after football?
When I retired I caught up with Brian Edwards who was working for the Canberra Raiders and that lead to me working there as a Development Officer for six years, scouting in Logan, QLD. A couple of stand out players I helped recruit were Josh Papalii and Edrick Lee.
I have since left the Canberra Raiders in 2014 and started my own venture called Active Wealth Services, Superannuation and Insurance Specialists.
I was 118kg when playing in the NRL, I was one of the biggest players. When I retired I put on heaps of weight, in the first three years I put on ten kilos per year. I was getting pretty sick, was on my way to diabetes and a heart attack or a stroke and I already had a hernia, I knew I needed a life change. I got really crook one weekend and that was the kick in the arse I needed. They nicked the bowel and I dropped weight really fast.
When I was in England I began studying personal training. My life began to change for the better. I went in my first marathon two years ago, 11 of us completed it. I have a business called Big Tooks sports which involves Boot Camps, I take groups on marathons and I am looking to expand to include events such as bike rides and a marathon in Hawaii. It keeps me motivated, stay positive and motivate others.
We did a 190km marathon and raised $15,000 for a little girl who was dying from cancer, I met her just before she died and we paid for her funeral. Battle for Ebony was the cause and we had about 15 riders participate. We had a lot of rookies and we rode about 10-12 hours.
My daughter has cerebral palsy so this helps me to relate to others in similar situations.
How has the game changed since your playing days?
It has changed heaps, the cameras are doing my head in. It has become too sterile, you can't touch the head or fight anymore. The players are all so much more athletic now, pure athletes. Any player could play any position on the field now, it isn't like the old days with a big roly poly in the middle and the black flash on the wing.
Did you keep a scrap book?
Mum and Dad did keep one for me but there is a lot missing from moving around so much.
McDonalds before and these days coffee club.