Heroes of Yesterday, Interview 23 - 29 Jan 2017 - Bruce Longbottom
Where did you grow up?
What was your childhood like ?
Beautiful, surrounded by water, we played footy in the winter and surfed in the winter, running amuck. I have two younger brothers and a younger sister. I am 5 years older than the brother who is younger than me. I was a Souths Juniors A-grade player, and both of my brothers played for La Perouse. Two different sides. I played Moore Park and Ross Harrington was the captain, I went to school with him.
Did you collect footy cards as a kid ?
I wasn't into them very much, didn't have time, every lunchtime we were in the playground playing footy and in summer we played soccer, any excuse to run around. There would be 10-15 kids and we would get teams together and play footy and it was mostly indigenous kids. To be honest we were not worried about the colour of the people, just so long as you were a good bloke.
What was your first football experience?
Running around in the school yard and playing for La Perouse Under 5's when I was 3 years old. My grandfather put a football in my hands from the moment I could walk. I remember when I was young and playing for La Perouse I was building sand castles in backline whilst the game was going.
I was born, bred and raised in the South Sydney area, I used to sit in a tree at Redfern Oval to watch the games. My grandfather used to take me to the games. You could nearly go from tree to tree around the whole oval at Redfern, I am going back around 45 years ago. Redfern Oval was a really good place.
Who were your footballing heroes as a kid ?
I always played in the centres and when I started playing representative footy I managed to go to the 1978 Grand Final around the same time. I saw Steve Rogers playing live and idolized him. I ended up playing against him when I was playing for Easts in a Reserve Grade match. At the end of the game I asked him for his autograph, he smiled and said I just played against you, and then he just asked who do I make it out to? I was 17 years old at the time.
John Sattler, Mick Cronin are also classy men and terrific footballers and I always have a lot of time for Larry Corowa.
How was it playing for Eastern Suburbs Roosters in 1983?
I was playing in a coaching academy in 1981 and I came second out of the group.
I joined the Roosters because I had a mate going there. I played the whole season in Reserve Grade. I managed a stint in First Grade when Ron Gibbs broke his leg and I came on as a replacement. After that I played the rest of the season in Reserve or Third Grade.
The First Grade game was a real buzz, I was marking Michael O'Connor.
Playing in Reserve and Third Grade I still played against some very good footballers such as Bob O'Reilly.
I ended up playing for La Perouse until 1988.
In 1988 there was an open day and George Piggins was there, I asked him if I could trial for Souths, he said to me you don't need a trial, just rock up to First Grade training. I was playing a bit of Presidents Cup and SG Ball in the lead up to this.
Your first time in the top grade?
It was about Round 3 in 1988 and we played the Illawarra Steelers, it was my first run on game. I actually scored a try on debut. It was a surreal feeling running out onto the field because a year earlier I was playing park football. It was a Friday night televised match and the Steelers had Alan McIndoe and Rod Wishart on the wings and I was marking Greg Mackey.
The week before I was playing Reserve Grade against Easts and I came on as a replacement in First Grade. When you run on at the start you really notice how quick the game is, it took me by surprise.
In Reserve Grade you could get away with a lot more cheap shots compared to First Grade. The toughness and hardness was a lot different to what I had experienced previously.
I remember one game against Easts, I took the ball up from the kick off and I picked the smallest forward and I thought I would knock this bloke over. It was Trevor Gillmeister, he just smashed me. I was knocked out on the first tackle. Apparently kept asking the same questions until 3 am in the morning.
What was the culture like at the Souths between 1988 and 1991?
The 1988 to 1989 coach was George Piggins. He was pretty basic with coaching, common sense, he said football is a simple game, do the simple things right. Throw the ball wide, there were good forward packs in those days.
We had an awesome side with players like Mario Fenech, Mark Ellison, Dave Boyle, Ian Roberts, Craig Coleman, Phil Blake, Bronco Djura, Steve Mavin and Paul Roberts to name a few. I was good mates with Graham Lyons and Ross Harrington.
The final game of 1988 I received Man of the Match.
Greatest memories of playing rugby league?
The friends you make out of playing football. I tell my sons, the blokes I played against we used to belt and sledge each other and now we are mates. When I played I never shook hands before a match because I was thinking I am going to smash you. I would shake hands immediately after the match though.
Also the various representative sides I played with over the years.
Who was your most respected rival?
All of them. Mal Meninga scared me, he used to block out the sun when he ran. Eric Grothe scared me the most, see him standing at the other end of the field and I would think what have I done to deserve this?
Who was the best team you played against?
The Canberra Raiders with such an awesome backline, players like Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, Mal Meninga, Peter Jackson, John Ferguson, and the forwards were pretty handy too with Sam Backo, Brent Todd, Steve Walters, Bradley Clyde and Dean Lance.
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
Souths didn't offer me a contract in 1991, I was 30 years old and I felt quite happy to play for La Perouse. I played in an Aboriginal Knockout competition with those brothers.
I played against my middle brother, he captained a Jersey Flegg side, he was one of the best footballers I had seen, he popped out both shoulders during that game. The night before the game against my two brothers I said to my youngest brother Tony that I was going to run straight at him tomorrow, the middle brother David said to me to run at him, not the smallest one. I didn't want him to know that he hurt me in the tackle but he did.
What followed after football?
I moved up to Port Macquarie, we have been here since 1997. We moved for a better lifestyle for our kids. I was working for Linfox on the Central Coast. We had three kids under the age of 8. The kids have since moved on, two have moved to Sydney and one to QLD.
What was it like having a career during football and ?
I was driving a truck for the Department of Defence, Moore Park. I was driving a truck for 8 hours a day then I would go to training. Phil Blake was a professional footballer along with Mario Fenech and Tugger Coleman.
I remember one night I was driving home from training and I was stuffed. The lights went red and I kept going, the car coming through was an undercover cop. I told him I had been to work all day and just finished training and wanted to see my boy before he slept. He said what do you mean footy training, and I told him I am playing for Souths. He said how about tomorrow you bring in a poster signed by the players and I will let you off?
How has the game changed since your playing days?
Where do you start? Laying on the ground when you get tackled too hard, this never happend when I played. The interchange is a joke. All of the players are 110kg, they come on and off for 20 minutes at a time.
There is no skill in football anymore, the players are not allowed to chip and chase anymore. Jack Gibson would say you haven't got time for a committee meeting on the field. If you think it is on then try it. Don't come off at half time saying I should have done that. Have a go, don't die wondering.
In our day you lay down on the ground the guy in front of you calling you all the names under the sun, and the player behind saying the same. My kids won't watch football with me, I am very vocal and passionate.
We hated each other with a passion on the field. My youngest son plays rugby union, I love to watch my boys play the game.
Did you keep a scrap book?
I did and still have it. My mum put it together.
Maccas. Danny's at La Perous, Seafood.
Demitries 5 doors at Surry Hills. I won a voucher for $200, took my mum, grandma and my wife, we spent about $300