Where did you grow up?
I grew up at Chester Hill and played my entire junior footy with Chester Hill Hornetts. I went to Sefton Primary and High Schools.
How was your childhood?
It was tough. I have five sisters and a brother. I am the youngest, you had to be fast at the table and I didn’t get to eat much. My sisters are fantastic, they protected my brother and me when we were young kids.
What was your first football experience?
Chester Hill Hornett’s, I was four years old. I tackled a big kid and got a black eye out of it, I went home and Mum said I wasn’t allowed to play football anymore. After that the coach taught me how to tackle properly and I have never had a black eye since.
As a child what was your most memorable experience of Rugby League?
I won a lot of Best and Fairest when I was playing footy, I always enjoyed going to a Presentation Day at Warwick Farm Race Course and winning the Best and Fairest.
Did you collect Footy Cards as a kid?
When I was a really young kid there were no football cards. When I was a little bit older around 15 years old but I mainly bought them for the chewing gum. Not the cards. Now there is no chewing gum in the packets of cards
Who were your football heroes as a kid?
Tom Raudonikis. I was a West’s supporter as a kid and I was lucky enough to play for them in the early days. I was a mad Tom Raudonikis fan and John Dorahy. He was a little bloke and really tough and I adored him, still do.
What happened, you were a reserve for Third Grade at Canterbury in 1979 and didn’t get a run?
In ’79 we won the Jersey Flegg Grand Final, they asked me to sit on the bench for Under 23’s and I just sat there and sat there and didn’t get a run and I thought stuff this. So that is when I decided to sign with the Magpies.
Teddy Glossop was the coach and I was only 17 years old. I was probably a bit too young and they were making the Semi’s at the time and probably didn’t want to disrupt the team.
What go you to Wests in 1980?
Our coach, Ken Gentle who coached our Jersey Flegg side, he coached the West’s Under 23’s in 1980, so he asked if I wanted to come over for a trial. I had two trials at West’s and signed a contract.
Do you remember your first game in First Grade and what were the highlights and lowlights, see you scored two tries against Balmain?
Yep, I was up against Olsen Filipaina, he was a giant of a man, probably around 100kg and I actually shit myself, but I scored two tries, so that was the highlight of it. There was no low light because we won the game.
How was your initial season at Wests, just missed out on the Rookie of the Year award to your team mate Jim Leis?
I didn’t know that I had just missed out. Jimmy had a year on me. Jimmy came to Canterbury two years later and I virtually followed him here (Canterbury).
1980 your first Finals series and the first game was against Canterbury, how was Finals football at such a young age?
I used to drink at the same hotel as Geoff Robinson and bumped into him a few times. I was a bit scared of him because I didn’t really know him, until I played with him. I had a few beers with him after a game as well.
We got smashed that year, the first one by Canterbury and the second one we got smashed by the Roosters by 45 points to 5 and we went out the back door.
How was the culture at Wests and who did you knock around with 1980 to 1983?
Trevor Cogger, Mick Duke, I knocked around with those blokes, we were all around the same age. I played against them in the 1979 Grand Final.
Jack Jeffries was hooker, John Donnelly was there too who is a legend of the Western Suburbs era. I hung around him, he was a maniac.
I wasn’t a big drinker when I was younger, I’d have two or three Vodka’s and drive home after that.
What were you doing when you were called into the NSW Origin camp in 1981, how was the lead up to the game and coming up against Wally Lewis?
The game was on Tuesday, I got called up on Monday. I flew up on Tuesday morning, met the players at 12 o’clock that day, a lot of them had no idea who I was. They had Mick Cronin, Steve Rogers, Peter Sterling was the halfback, Ray Price was in the team.
I didn’t get to have a training session with the team, I went out that night and got belted by Wally. There was a blue that erupted in the scrum, the first thing you do is go after your own player. I threw a punch at Wally, it missed him and he connected.
There was a story that you up a telegraph pole when you heard the news?
No it’s not true, I worked for a gas company. I went home after work on the Monday afternoon and my Step Dad was home and he said “Listen, you are going to play for NSW tomorrow and you have got to get to the airport”.
1982 you were selected for the Kangaroo Tour but declined due to your wedding?
If I went on the 1982 Kangaroo Tour I probably wouldn’t have got married. We got married later on that year. I am glad I didn’t go. I have three kids and everything is good.
How about your 1983 season, you won the Dally M award in a team that struggled and I believe you stuck with West’s that season for half pay?
I won the Dally M and double my salary from the prize money. I got about $10,000. The club was going through a bad time then. All of the players got half pay and I think two or three years later they paid me the money that I was owed.
What got you to Canterbury in 1984?
All I wanted in life was to win a Grand Final. I won one for Jersey Flegg and that was the only one I had every won. I was married at the time, Kim was Pregnant and I went for the money. They paid me a lot more than West’s could pay me.
West’s were struggling big time and they lost a lot of their players at the time.
New coach was coming in to Canterbury. Warren Ryan decided to change the team around. He bought Peter Tunks, myself and Mark Bugden as hooker. Won the comp that year, it was great. He brought in players that were very aggressive. Peter Kelly is another one.
How was the culture at Canterbury during the mid eighties, who did you knock around with and your combination with Steve Mortimer?
Turvey (Steve Mortimer), we are best mates. He is probably the best player I have ever played with except for Wally Lewis, Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny.
I was also mates with David Gillespie and Steve O’Brien.
Winning a Grand Final means you are always going to be friends for life, nothing changes there.
Your first year at Canterbury and made the Grand Final against Parramatta, how was the lead up to the game and the experience?
I didn’t have a lot of experience with Grand Finals, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was completely different to these days now where there is so much media attention. We might have had a media session on Thursday night and that was virtually it.
We weren’t worried about Parramatta. We were virtually a new team and we knew we could stop them. There were not many points scored in the game, 6-4, the following year was 7-6 and in 1986 it was 4-2, no tries scored.
Top off a great year winning the Rothmans Medal?
I had a great year in ’84, winning the Grand Final, and getting the Rothmans Medal and the previous year winning the Dally M. I think playing with good players does help.
1985 was another terrific year for Canterbury, pity you missed out on the Grand Final due to injury?
I missed two games all year and they were the Final and the Grand Final. I did my leg, I thought I could play but I couldn’t.
1986 played in all three Origins which were a success for the Blues?
Well, I was involved with all games, but didn’t get on with one game, I was a bit disappointed. It was great with Steve Mortimer being the Captain as well; winning that was like winning the Grand Final. We haven’t won too many lately either.
How was your debut for Australia against New Zealand in 1986?
Loved it! Playing with the Queensland players was unbelievable. Wally Lewis, Gene Miles, Mal Meninga. Playing against them is great but playing with them is incredible.
In 1986 you came up against Parramatta again, going down narrowly in a try less Grand Final?
Mate, we won ’84 and ’85 and losing a Grand Final after winning two was just so disappointing. We know we could of won as well, but it didn’t work out, Parramatta were too good on the day.
I said to Turvey, kick it out because they were buggered and he said no, have the shot and I missed.
How was the 1986 Kangaroo Tour?
One of the best times of my life, going away for ten weeks and playing every game on tour. I wasn’t selected on the last game but Paul Sironen ruled himself out with a boil on his arm. He actually ruled himself out so that I could play every single game on tour. I didn’t mean to go out in every game on tour, it just happened. It helped that I could play multiple positions. There were a number of games where I was on the bench and got to get on the field every time.
I roomed with Des Hasler, beautiful person, very, very quiet. We were both fit, we used to train everyday. We used to run to and from training as well just to keep our fitness up. What we did over there was get on the drink every night and we had to get rid of it. Dessie wasn’t a big drinker, but I was.
In 1987 you scored 26 points against West’s winning the match by 26 points to 16?
Yes, that was here at Belmore, I scored all of the points for Canterbury, I scored four tries and kicked five goals. Steve Mortimer set three of them up, I was just lucky enough to be there.
1988 season with new coach Phil Gould and assistant Chris Anderson?
We had a younger team, a different team. Glen Nissen was on the Wing, Brandon Lee came over from Penrith. We had some young kids, Steve O’Brien was in his first year.
That was a real good year, we were not expected to win the comp either. We didn’t even make the Semi Finals in ’87.
Phil Gould was a very good coach and motivator.
1988 Grand Final, the first one at the SFS and the Ellery Hanley incident?
It happened, from a scrum, the ball went out the back and Andrew Farrar tackles him around the legs and I came over the top and got him with my forearm and cleaned him up. I don’t deny doing it. It wasn’t planned, we knew he was a danger player.
I met him 25 years after the event and I apologies to him and he said “Mate, let it go, it happened on the football field”. I was quite happy with that. Great bloke.
The early nineties were not very successful until 1993 where you made the Semi Finals?
In 1990 we lost Paul Langmack, David Gillespie, Andrew Farrar, Jason Alchin and Joe Thomas all to Western Suburbs. Peter Tunks, Paul Dunn, Peter Kelly and Chris Mortimer all left as well.
We had these young kids coming through and they were the Smith brothers, Dean Pay, Craig Polla-Mounter, Jason Hetherington and Darren Britt. We thought we could create a team around these kids and it took us a couple of years to do it. We were Minor Premiers in 1993 and we were knocked out in the last two games. We got to the Grand Final in 1994 and got smashed by Canberra and then won the comp in 1995 against Manly.
In 1991 Geoff Robinson coached the Under 23’s and his team won the comp and all of those players that were coming through were in that team.
Game 299 you broke your arm in 1994, what drove you to get back on the field?
I wasn’t thinking about retirement. I never thought of retirement until 1995 when a reporter said to me “You are getting a bit old, don’t you think you should retire soon?” This made me start to think about it. I retired twice, 1995 and 1996.
In 1994 I was out for ten weeks, I came back and straight into the Grand Final.
1994 Grand Final against Canberra, what went wrong?
It started from the kick off, Martin Bella knocking the ball on, he probably should have caught it. Mal Meninga knocking me out, no one remembers that. Were we ready to jump into the Grand Final? Probably not.
1995 was meant to be your final year and the start of the year was plagued with Super League War drama, what turned it around to become a successful year?
1995 was easy for us because we had the sadness of losing the Grand Final the year before.
Midway through the year we all know that Jarrod McCracken, Jim Dymock, Dean Pay and Jason Smith went back to the ARL and we were disappointed because we had signed up with Super League. We understand about money situations. It took us about 4-5 weeks to get back together as a team. We got on the drink and history is history. Getting on the drink worked, we had to talk to each other and we hadn’t been. We were very open.
1995 the Bulldogs finished on 6th position, how was the Semi Final run to even get to the Grand Final?
We played St George here at Belmore Oval. Mundine dropped the ball over the line, that probably cost them the game. We were in the lowest position to start the Semi Finals to make it to the Grand Final.
What we did was have a good time, if we won we went up to the League’s Club and celebrated with each other and we wouldn’t touch a beer until after the next game. We were loyal to each other that year.
1995 Grand Final, how good was it, the lead up to the game, in the moment and the celebration. You were Sin Binned early in the game too, what were your thoughts at that stage?
I think I missed a tackle and they played the ball really quickly and I didn’t realize it was the next tackle so I just made the tackle, Matthew Ridge I think it was. When he said you are off to the bin I said not a problem and as I was walking off I was going to talk to the players and I looked at Dean Pay, Jason Hetherington and Darren Britt and their eyes were do focused on the game they probably wouldn’t even recognize I went off the field. I came back on and history is history, there were no points scored during that time.
Holding the trophy up at the end of the game was fantastic. It was so much better than the previous ones because I was Captain. You get to have the last say, it was just incredible. I retired at that point.
What made you go around again in 1996?
Money. Super League money, it was great. I don’t lie too much when I walk. That money to me was fantastic, I bought a house with it.
I kept myself fit during the offseason and it was around New Years and I went down to training and I beat everyone in the road run and they asked me if I had been training which I replied that I had been training every day. I just felt like it. I said I might make a comeback, and they said “Lets go”.
Your final game in 1996, how was it, the realization that it was finally over at Belmore Oval against the Cowboys, here where we are today?
Both times I retired, my last game was against the Cowboys at Belmore because they didn’t write up a new draw, it was the same as last years. I had a great farewell both years, I scored two tries in both games. I think the score was something like 64-4.
Club 349, there is a website saying a game wasn’t recorded meaning you could possibly have played 350, an additional game from 1986 in which you played?
The 350 comes from, in 1986, the first game of the season Warren Ryan put me in Reserve Grade because he wanted to keep the same team together who won the Grand Final from 1985. I started on the bench and Andrew Farrar broke his cheekbone and I went on the field after ten minutes.
Who was your most respected rival?
Brett Kenny, without a doubt. I could say Wally Lewis as well, but I played against Brett Kenny more than I did against Wally. Wally only started playing in the NRL in 1988, when Brisbane came in and I finished in 1993.
What was the best team you played against?
Parramatta in the 80’s.
What was your highlight of playing Rugby League?
Friendship. Grand Finals are important but friendship is the most important. I have been part of football since 1980
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
You don’t know, until someone taps you on the shoulder and says you probably should retire.
What followed after football?
When I retired after 1996, Chris Anderson kept me on here as coach of Reserve Grade.
I won a few comps in Reserve Grade, I think three or four, it helps when you have a very good team. In 1999 and they won the comp.
How was Coaching of the 1998 Canterbury Presidents Cup side, especially the Grand Final with your side down by 24-0 at half time? What did you say to them?
I won a few comps in Reserve Grade, I think three or four, it helps when you have a very good team. In 1999 and they won the comp.
1998 you were awarded the OAM (Order of Australia Medal)?
I was very lucky, it was service to Rugby League. I am very proud of that. Everytime I wear a suit I put the pin on. I had to go to Parliament House to get it, the Prime Minister gave it to me.
2000 to 2002 coach at Wests Tigers how hard was it to concentrate on the task with all of the interruptions? Drug Scandal, John Hopoate affair and feud with Terry Hill.
The first year was Craig Field and Kevin McGuiness, they both were put up for Cocaine. The same year was Hopoate, the incident with his finger. Pretty ordinary year. Ten weeks into the competition we were coming second and then the turmoil hit us. We just fell apart.
How was your time on the Canterbury board starting in 2003?
I got on the board in the early 2000’s, I just wanted to get back to the club.
Must be a proud moment to be voted Captain of the All time Canterbury side?
That comes from the people you play with. Play with good players and good people makes you a better person and a better player. I can thank all of the players that I had played with here at Canterbury to win that award.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
I love Chinese, I would have to say Canterbury League’s Chinese.
What are your hobbies?
I play golf every Saturday and that is about the only hobby that I have. The other hobby I have is to go to the pub on a Saturday and have a few beers.
May I ask you about the incident on the golf course?
Yep, it is all part of my life. I was on the golf course and had a few drinks and so did the other bloke and we hit up them because they were slow. He came up at me with a putter, so I threw a punch and knocked him out. I went to court, he put me up for assault. They said there is no case here and then it came out into the public and they said it had to go to court, after they were going to throw it out. I went to court and ten minutes later they threw it out. It cost me $10 Grand, I am not happy about it, but if that is the only mistake I have made then I am doing pretty good.
Have you collected your own footy cards?
The these footy cards came out, like your young bloke has there (Kurt Pain), I used to collect them for my kids, so my kids have them.