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Brett Clark has played one of the longest Rugby League careers ever.  From Western Suburbs Magpies, to St Helens, to St George, a number of clubs in England and also a long time in the Western Australia competition.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Belfield, went to Belmore Boys High School. 

How was your childhood?

It was good, one brother and one sister.  My parents split up when I was about 16.  My Dad was still close and I ended up working with him.  We owned a company doing Security Doors and Screens. 

What was your first football experience?

Under Nine’s at Enfield Federals, my Dad took me down there because I was playing Soccer at the time.  I hated Soccer. 

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

The first game I watched was the South’s v Balmain Grand Final in 1969. 

Did you collect Footy Cards as a kid?

I did and you used to turn them over and they would form a poster.  I used to swap them at school. 

Who were your football heroes as a kid?

Tommy Raudonikis.  I liked Russell Mullins as well. 

Tell us about your junior football?

The ground was literally just around the corner from my house, I think they started me on the wing.  I basically went down every year and kept playing, and then my brother came down and played.  He gave up after three or four years, just wasn’t interested. 

I stayed with them until Under 15’s and because they didn’t have a side I went to Bankstown Sports. 

What go you to West’s in 1981?

I got to West’s in 1981 and in 1982 I played President’s Cup.  I went down to the Open Trials; you could just go down and train Pre-Season.  They would get 300-400 blokes down there and just try out, and I got right through to the last day.  The guy they gave the spot to was the Chairman’s son. 

I went back and played in the A Grade comp, I was killing it for the Enfield Federal’s, Western Suburbs comp.  We went through the season and lost one game all year, we were winning games by 30-40 points. 

Ken Gentle was the Under 23’s coach at West’s and he would come down and watch us play in those days.  He basically called me up to grade when the half-back was injured. 

I got a call up to Under 23’s in 1981 and my first game was at Cumberland Oval.  I got called into training on the Tuesday night and on Thursday Ken Gentle came up to me and asked “How would you feel about starting?”  I said to him it would be a bit daunting, I have been playing with blokes in A Grade all year.  He said you will be fine, just go out and you’ll handle it.  It was a very hard ground; Cumberland Oval was like playing on a cricket pitch.  It was a hard game too, put it this way, in A Grade I made about five tackles all game and in this game I had made twenty tackles in the first half.  They just targeted the new kid on the block. 

I don’t think I started after that but I played every game coming off the bench for the remainder of the year.  There were four games left.  I got on at some stage so it was pretty good. 

In 1982 I went to the open trials again, they all knew me anyway and they asked me to go and play President’s Cup.  We had a good President’s Cup squad.  I think 60% of that side went on to play for West’s.  Steve Goshen was the coach of the President’s Cup team.  I was actually playing in the centres then because they had a few half backs. 

In 1983 I went to the open trials again, I didn’t really have to trial and I went straight into the Reserve Grade trials and again into the centres. 

Do you remember your first game in First Grade and what were the highlights and lowlights?

I made my First Grade debut at North Sydney Oval.  Len Staker was the coach at the start of the year and got sacked and then Terry Fearnley coached. 

I remember bugger all about the game.  I don’t get nervous before games. 

How was the culture at West’s and who did you knock around with 1981 to 1987?

I enjoyed it, West’s was a good social side.  It was that social that it didn’t matter if you were Third Grade, Reserve Grade or First Grade, everyone just got on.  I would be playing Third Grade and would go out on the drink with blokes like Terry Lamb or John Donnelly or Gary Dowling when he was there.  Ted Goodwin is a good mate from those days.  Ian Schubert is another one.  We got a lot of older players, cast off’s that nobody wanted, they all came to West’s. 

I was good friends with Dallas Donnelly.  Brett and Scott Gale were good mates because I knew them since we were kids.

It didn’t matter who you were, if you needed something, people would help you out.  We were one club, not one team. 

I shared a place with Mark Harrington in the early days; he died in a boating accident.  We had a young bloke named Mark Rowling from Leeton living with us, he only lasted one year and went back home. 

I got married in between and they still lived with us after we were married. 

We used to have all of the boys come over for card night at my place.  Mick Neil’s Brother Craig would rock up with all of the young boys.  I used to go out with those boys all of the time around Lidcombe area. 

What made you want to play in England?

Lee Crooks came over and he wanted me to go over and play for Hull.  Just before I signed the contract, their coach rang me and said he wanted me to stay for the full season.  I said I can’t, because in those days you had to be back before the 31’st of March.  He said “I don’t want you then”. 

I told Crooksy, and he said he will see what he can do.  Then we played South’s this night at the SCG and Alex Murphy from St Helens was there to sign Neil Baker from South’s.  I am not sure whether we had a draw with South’s on the night but I had a pretty good game and Alex Murphy asked if I would be interested to go and play for St Helens.  That night he signed me on the spot. 

He said go and finish your year with West’s in August and then come over to play the English season and we will get you back to play for West’s again by the 31st of March. 

He didn’t sign Neil Baker, didn’t even talk to him.  Neil Baker ended up signing with Salford who ended up running last that year. 

Right place at the right time. 

How was the culture at St Helens in 1986/87 season and who did you knock around with?

At St Helens we were a close unit.

1987 Challenge Cup for St Helens, how was the lead up to this match and the atmosphere at the ground?

The lead up was great.  I came back to West’s and played four or five games and picked up a small injury.  They flew my wife at the time and me over to England. 

All of the Women were in one hotel and we were in another one, they just wanted to keep us apart for a week.  He just wanted to keep the boys together.  We trained together.  I did an interview before the game with Ian Fordham on Channel 10.  It was good. 

I did get a little nervous when I got out on the pitch, I looked up at the big crowd.  I was marking Chris Anderson, he was playing five-eight in those days.  He was Captain Coach of Halifax.  Graham Eadie was playing fullback for Halifax, he actually got Man of the Match for that game.  I think he scored a try and saved a couple. 

We were unlucky, should have won the game.  We were beaten by a point and we had one try disallowed right near the end of the game.  The guy had the ball punched out of his hands as he was going over the line, so we should have won it. 

We had a parade through St Helens after the game

What made you switch to join St George in 1988?

Basically, at the end of 1987, Steve Goshen got the flick and Laurie Freier came in.  Mid November, during pre season training he said to me he doesn’t want me to play half-back, he wanted me to play hooker.  I said, mate I have never played hooker in my life and you have a good hooker in Alan Fallah.  He said I will put Alan Fallah into the second row, you into hooker and I am going to buy a half back from somewhere else. 

I said, mate that isn’t going to happen.  I walked into West’s and asked for a release straight away. 

I was the first player to have a manager and he asked if I wanted him to shop me around, which I said yes.  Three clubs came back.  Newcastle wanted me to go there but they were waiting on Ivan Henjack and they had to wait for a decision.  Then Frank Stanton came in from North Sydney and he wanted me.  St George were happy to pay my transfer fee and North Sydney couldn’t afford that at the time.  The transfer fee was $18,000.  I probably would have gone to North Sydney if they had of paid the transfer fee.  My manager came in and said St George have come in offering big money, so I signed with them the next week. 

How was the culture at the Dragons in 1988 and 1989 and who did you knock around with?

I felt alright, I knew a few of the boys there because I had played against them.  They were a very good bunch of blokes.  I got along with most of them. 

I was still living in Campbelltown.  They bought a lot of blokes from Brisbane like Peter Gill, Trevor Bailey, Clinton Mohr, and Trevor Benson and because we were all new, we hung around and got to know each other a bit more.  Gradually we got to know everybody else too. 

We had a good year, we didn’t make the Semi Finals, and we ended up around mid table. 

Panasonic Cup victory in 1988, how was the lead up to that match and in the moment and the celebration?

The lead up was good, we trained well all year.  We beat Parramatta, Penrith and East’s on the way through.

 

Balmain were massive favourites.  They won it the year before and were Runner’s Up the year before that.

 We just went out there and knew we had to play well and we did.  We just frustrated them, that is all it was.  They couldn’t do anything right.  We just wanted it more, we were hungrier. 

What got you to Oldham for the 1989 to 1991 seasons?

In the pre season of 1989 I snapped my quadriceps, the muscle on your thigh, so I missed all pre season.  Steve Linnane was coming back from suspension.  He had previously been suspended for 20 weeks for eye gouging Greg Alexander. 

For some reason Craig Young didn’t like me.  I ended up in Reserve Grade and then ended up on the bench for Reserve Grade and never got another game.  Youngy just wanted to get rid of me.  He had different ideas for halfbacks, he bought Perry Haddock as well.  I don’t know what it was, but that year I didn’t have a good one. 

I paid my own fair over to England and we stayed in the same house as we did when I was playing for St Helens.  I had a meeting with Swinton the second day after arriving there after training and they gave me all of the details of what they wanted.  Offered me a contract, which was pretty much nothing.  They were going to get me a job somewhere. 

My mate called me and said Tony Barrow wants to speak to you, he is coaching Oldham.  They were in Second Division then.  I knew Tony then because he was coaching Warrington when I was playing at Saints.  Tony rang and told me they are going in to watch an A team game and that is like their Reserve Grade on the Friday night.  He picked me up in his car and we went and watched the Oldham game and straight after that they took me to the Chairman’s Lounge and all of the big wigs were there.  They offered me good money, I didn’t have to work.  I was getting a fee, they gave me a house, a car and were paying my bills.  I signed on the spot. 

What were your highlights from playing at Oldham and who were your team mates?

Two blokes were from St Helens from when I played there and Johnny Cogger was there, Trevor Cogger’s brother.  John Henderson was there who had played for Western Suburbs two years earlier.  A bloke named Duncan Platt who was the brother of Andy Platt was there, I had played with Andy at St Helens so I knew him.  Basically I knew half the side.  I clicked straight away and fitted in. 

Usually it takes a while to get into the groove to get to know everyone, but it was there from game one and we all sort of knew each other. 

I played two years at Oldham.  The first year we won the Second Division premiership by 30 - 29, after being down by 24 – 2 at halftime. 

The next year we were in the First Division.  We did alright in the First Division, we beat Leeds in the first match.  We won as many as we lost but we got relegated at the end of the season by two points.  The coach got sacked, Tony Barrow, because they didn’t stay in the First Division. 

The thing with Divisions, it works over there because the clubs represent a town, a village, it is very territorial.  It wouldn’t work in Australia because the clubs represent whole areas.  It is like being in the bush where every town has a team. 

Why did you then move to the Rochdale Hornets, and what were the highlights of playing there?

Peter Tunks replaced Tony Barrow as the Oldham coach, and he didn’t want me.  He brought in a book with all of the clubs numbers and said ring around and find somewhere to go. 

I rang around a few clubs, I called Kurt Sorenson from Widnes and a few other clubs and then I called Rochdale and they said they were interested but they were waiting to appoint a new coach.  They appointed a new coach by the name of Stan Gittings and he called me about a week later and said we are interested, just want to make sure you are fit enough, so come down to training.  I did a training run with him and he said “We will take you”. 

We had a good year that year.  I played two years with Rochdale in Second Division.  We had a lot of good blokes and because I had been there for a few years, I knew most of the blokes anyhow.  We played against them two years earlier. 

At the end of the first year, Stan the coach got the sack because we didn’t do as good as expected.  They brought in an Australian coach named Peter Reagan from Queensland, I had never heard of him.  He was alright, but at the end of that year he was sacked as well. 

The second year at Rochdale I tore my groin and had nine cortisone injections nine weeks in a row, so I could play the season out.  The season finished and I ended up in hospital for three weeks to get the operation. 

Rochdale said they weren’t going to sign me because I was injured.  They did pay the hospital bills and that sort of thing. 

Why did you then move to the Hunslet, and what were the highlights of playing there?

I did a bit of training in the off season and the groin did fix itself up a bit and it was the same thing, I rang around a few clubs and I ended up ringing Hunslet, the first Yorkshire team.  It was the same thing, they were all a good bunch of blokes and I had played against a lot of them before. 

I had one year there and at the end of that year I was going to retire. 

Why did you then move to the Swinten, and what were the highlights of playing there?

I didn’t stay fit in the off season and when footy season came back around a bloke called me from an amateur side in Rochdale and asked if I wanted to come and play.  He said you would have to renounce your professional status. 

I said “Yea, go on, I will play” and he said we will give you some money.  I think it was 50 pound a game, about $100. 

I played with them for about three months and I was still playing well at the time.  I used to arrange beach parties over there for all of the Australians.  Bruiser used to do it at Oldham in 1986.  I organized this beach party at the Oldham club because I was still friends with a lot of the people there and that night I got a phone call from Tony Barrow who was my old coach at Oldham, who was now the coach at Swinton.  They had played a game and four of their guys were Sent Off, and one of them was a half back.  He asked whether I was still keeping fit and I told him I was playing for Mayfield in Rochdale and he asked would you like to come and play for Swinton. 

I went down and he basically signed me on a two year contract on the spot.  I played only the year with them and came back to Australia because my Mum was sick.

What happened when you got back to Australia?

My Mum had brain cancer, she was very ill but lasted a few more years, but my Dad died in between.  My Mum died shortly afterwards. 

I went back and played for Fed’s (Enfield Federals), my local club that I had played for years with.  They were one of the best junior clubs around. 

I got back in late 1995 and I played with them in 1996 in the Canterbury comp and there wasn’t enough teams in the Canterbury comp so they put us in the St George comp.  We ended up winning the St George comp.  So I won Grand Finals with the same club 15 years apart. 

After I finished playing with Fed’s, I went and coached Cronulla Carringbah, I went and played all that year and then went and played for De La Salle, then I went and played for Nambucca Heads for a season and then from there to Perth. 

What got you to Perth?

It was 1999 and there were two ads in Rugby League Week, one for South Perth and one for Joondalup.  I spoke to South Perth and they asked what I want and they sent me a newspaper with houses etc.  Then I spoke to Joondalup and it just so happens that the guy who ran the club was a guy I used to play against at Lidcombe named Dave Bignold.  He said we want you over here, and the main sponsor was a real estate agent.   He paid for everything, my flights, my furniture to be moved from Nambucca Heads to Western Australia and he got me a four bedroom house for $120 a week. 

Basically I played in Sydney for the 1980’s, England for the 1990’s  and 2000’s was in Perth. 

I ended up playing Rugby League in Perth for 11 years and then had a go at Rugby Union.  I was 50 when I played Rugby Union.  So I was there for 17 years.  When I was over 50 I was playing Second or Third Grade on the Saturday and then Masters on the Sunday. 

Let me just confirm please, at what age did you finish playing Rugby League and finally what age did you finish playing Rugby Union?

50 when I finished Rugby League and 55 when I finished playing Rugby Union. 

I was just getting bored with league, the comp over there was just terrible and I thought I want to try something different and a mate of mine was playing Union at the time and he said, just come down and play. 

You played a great many years in both Australia and England, what were the major differences you noticed between the two places?

Australia was more regimented and England was off the cuff.  It wasn’t about defence in England, it was about scoring tries.  If you won a game 40-38, it was still a good game but back in Sydney you had Parramatta and Canterbury winning games with scores like 4-2.  So over there it suited my game more, it was more attack. 

Who was your most respected rival?

To be honest it was Terry Lamb because I knew him for so long and watched him play.  He got to grade a long time before me even though we are the same age.  He is just a good bloke too. 

What was the best team you played against?

I think Wigan, with players like Ellery Hanley, Andy Goodway, Henderson Gill, Frano Botica.

What was your highlight of playing Rugby League?

Definitely Wembley, 1986, 98,000 people.

Friends, you have those friends for life, it is a good thing.  I played with that many blokes, you may not see each other for ten years but you are still best mates when you meet.

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

I haven’t. 

Baa Baa has said to me a couple of times I don’t know how you are still playing, I wish I could.

I always said, if I did my knees I would give it away, I have been lucky, I haven’t had an operation on my knees.  I have one operation on my shoulder, one on my wrist and my groin and that’s it.

What followed after football?

Nothing really, just back to work, I have been in the security door business since I was 17 years old. 

What’s your favourite restaurant?

I love all sorts of food.  The only thing I don’t eat is fish.  If I had to pick I would have to say Mexican food would be my favourite. 

What are your hobbies?

I don’t really have any, just footy. 

I enjoy going to the reunions and similar functions.  I have been to plenty of West’s ones.  I haven’t been to a St George one but they have invited me this year. 

The Pratten Park Magpies organize the West’s ones and you have guys like Noel Kelly to Kyle White, Bruiser, just everybody comes along. 

 

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