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Paul Morris was graded with the Balmain Tigers in the tail end of the 1980 season before joing Newtown the following season.  Paul spent the majority of the season before skyrocketing into the 1981 Finals series and earning a position alongside Tommy Raudonikis in the Grand Final against Parramatta at a very young age.  Paul also played for the St George Dragons.  Paul is as great a footballer as he is a great bloke.

Heroes of Yesterday, Interview 28 - 02 May 2017 - Paul Morris

Where did you grow up?

Ermington

What was your first football experience?

At 14 years old learning how to tackle in the junior league for Ermington Rydlemere, just learning at training.  I wasn't tackling really good and I was black and blue because I was tackling around the knees and I learnt to tackle a bit higher around the thigh.  I was mainly a soccer player and then got into football.

As a child what was your most memorable experience of Rugby League ?

My Dad took me to Cumberland and it was Parramatta v Manly, and Manly in those days Manly couldn't play in the wet and Parramatta were not a good side and Parra beat them in the wet.  My Dad was a mad Parramatta fan and he was very happy.  Then he said to me after that why not have a go at football rather than soccer and I didn't hesitate. 

I was very close to my Dad and I was happy that when I played Rugby League and I was competitive he was proud of me.

Did you collect footy cards as a kid ?

I had a set of 1981 Newtown cards, I think they were the Ardmona ones.  I wasn't into it when I was a kid

Who were your footballing heroes as a kid ?

My Dad used to take me to Cumberland Oval.  Johnny Peard, the Bomber.  I also liked Bob Fulton, Steve Rogers, Ray Branighan.

Do you remember your first game in first grade, and what were the highlights and lowlights?

In 1980 I was promoted to First Grade and I played against Canterbury and Easts and they were the two sides that played in the Grand Final that year.  I played five eight and I came up against the Hughes brothers.  I remember feeling very nervous, the first game, they just pulled me up from Jersey Flegg with no warning.  It was a very big occasion as a 17 year old, I had been in four or five grand finals in lower grades. 

They wanted to see if I could handle first grade before offering a contract. 

What got you to Balmain?

I was playing for Balmain juniors, SG Ball.  I was captain of the Jersey Flegg side in 1980 and we were undefeated and I scored 97 points in 6 games.  I was the goal kicker.  Steve Massey was the half back and I was the five eight.  If I hadn't played with Tommy Raudonikis, Steve Massey would have been the best half back I ever played with. 

What was the culture like at Balmain ?

At school Johnny Davidson was playing on the wing for Balmain, and he was my mate.  There is always someone who can guide you through.  Just play into the game and not think too much is the advice he gave me.  After those two games I knew come 1981 I would be well off. 

1980 Selected to play for NSW against QLD in the Under 18s side, how was that experience?

It was very daunting going to Lang Park, I had never been there.  Andrew Farrar was in the centres, Steve Roach was a prop, Ben Elias was there, we had a good side.  QLD on that night they had a better side.  I was selected at 5/8.  I

What made you move to Newtown?

Tommy Raudonikis caught up with me and said mate we can do things with you here.  Warren Ryan offered me a contract and it was more than what Balmain offered me and why wouldn't you play next to an Australian player in Tommy Raudonikis. 

How was the culture at Newtown?

I went there in the new year of 1981.  The culture was relaxed, we went out at the start of the year at Richmond Grey hounds, they got us a bus up there.  Tommy Raudonikis got up on stage and said you are all punters here, I am telling you to get on Newtown to make the Grand Final this year. 

I was only young, so I was trying to get myself in order.  Tommy lived at Blacktown and they used to come past in the car to pick me up along with Ray Blacklock.  This made me feel secure and confident.  My father didn't have to drive me to training.  Tommy gave me a lot of time.  Tommy and I played Reserve Grade all year until about two weeks before the Semi Finals.  Tommy went to First Grade a week earlier than me and requested that I partner him in the halves.  We played against Cronulla at Henson Park for my first game for Newtown in First Grade and we beat them 15 to nil.  I scored two two tries and kicked two goals.  Our combination was pretty good and Ken Wilson ended up on the bench. 

Warren Ryan was a very tactical coach, he said you play 80% in the opponents half you win the game, and I was the tactical line kicker. 

What happened in that big brawl in 1981 against Manly?

I was 18, I stood at the back and watched it.  I nearly won Man of the Match in that one.  Everyone was in it except for me.  I wasn't going through punches at 18 years old.  We heard 15 minutes before the game that Mark Broadhurst was going to put the brawl on in the first scrum.  Bowdo heard about this and handled himself, what got him down was the second headbutt.  Terry Randall got sent off after this.  I am glad Randall was off.  Egor was a hard tackler.  I went on the field to play football not to fight. 

Newtown v Canterbury at Henson Park, the two Mortimer boys hit me at the same time.  It was the first 0-0 draw.

After the 81 Grand Final a lot of people were off contract and wanted more money and that put Newtown on a downward spin.  Come 1983 Peter Kelly and Dean Lance arrived.  We had a lot of young people in the last year and they took us out to Campbelltown and it was like 38° which was just murder.  1983 was a bit of a struggle. 

How was the 1981 Grand Final experience?

Bad day for goal kicking.  I came up against Brett Kenny.  He is the most elusive 5/8 I came up against.  We played Parramatta in the First Semi Final and they beat us 10-8.  I learnt from that game that Brett Kenny had to be stopped.  So in the Grand Final I just focused on trying to Stop Brett Kenny.  I had a rib cartilage which happened during Parramatta's first try, his boot stud went straight into my rib and he got the ball to the winger and they scored.  Warren Ryan was worried about it and wanted to take me off, but I said I am right.  Kenny took over with 20 minutes to go, probably the worst thing he did, we were leading at that time.  He also took off Geoff Bugden as well, in those days you shouldn't take off your front rowers.  It was a Grand Final you don't get taken off.  What had been happening in the Semi Finals was Ken Wilson was replacing Tommy Raudonikis.  On Grand Final day Tommy said replace me today and I'll bash the F*&% out of ya.  So instead of taking Tommy off he took me off.  I held Kenny for 60 minutes.  He did the same thing at Balmain. 

How did you end up at the Dragons?

Newtown folded in 1983, I knew they were going to fold and contract had run out.  I called Souths to find out if they needed my services, I didn't have a manager or anyone to look after me.  I then called St George and they said come and talk to us.  I spoke to Roy Masters. 

How was the culture at the Dragons?

My first game for St George was the Charity Shield and it was basically a blue.  Roy Masters was a genius.  Roy said to me, you have had a year after your operation and you are ready for your prime. 

You had to be disciplined to play there compared to Newtown.  At St George you had the likes of Craig Young, Robert Stone, Steve Gearin, Michael O'Connor, they were all disciplined.  Craig Young and Robert Stone are very good people.  Steve Gearin was very helpful to me.  Pat Jarvis was built like cement. 

Perry Haddock was the halfback and I was outside him. 

What was your highlight of playing First Grade football?

My father put me into the game out of Soccer because I loved the game so much more. 

My highlight of playing is playing outside of Tommy Raudonikis in the 1981 Grand Final.  There is nothing else you could ask for, put it this way, Tom Raudonikis played for NSW, Australia and 13 years of first grade football and that was his first Grand Final.  Now if you forget about my two games for Balmain in 1980, 1981 was my first year in first grade and I am straight into a Grand Final. 

What they did was blood me with Tommy two weeks before the Semi Finals.  The two Jacks, the trainers and they said to me keep going how you are going in Reserve Grade and you are a good chance in First Grade. 

I played with some terrific footballers Steve Roach, Ben Elias, Kevin Hardwick, but my highlight was Tom Raudonikis. 

Who was your most respected rival?

Brett Kenny and Terry Lamb.  Terry Lamb is the hardest 5/8 I played against and Brett Kenny was the most elusive I played against. 

I lived at Earlwood back on those days and Terry Lambs parents lived down the road. 

What was the best team you played against?

You would have to say Parramatta, they were awesome, especially in the 1981 Grand Final.  Manly as well had about 10 out of the 13 players, played for Australia. 

When did you know it was time to give the game away?

Laughed, when my whole body gave up.  I had knee problems.  In 1986 I went to Balmain and the coach said I was too slow for 5/8 and said he will put me in second row.  I didn't turn up the following week, I never went back.  I felt insulted. 

What followed after football?

Operations and work.  I have been a forklift driver for 35 years.

How has the game changed since your playing days?

All the players want to do now is cover the ball up, when I played I was an ankle biter, hit them around the bootlaces and they go straight down.  I don't agree with the way the coaches are teaching them how to tackle and wrestle. 

I have a beautiful life partner, her name is Tracey, we have been together for 16 years.

What are your hobbies?

Having a bet on a Saturday

Have you collected your own footy cards ?

No I didn't

What’s your favourite restaurant?

A place called No Names and we used to go there after training at Moore Park with all the Newtown boys.  Spaghetti Bolognese, it was great and you got heaps of food.