Innisfail, south of Cairns on a sugar cane farm
What was your childhood like?
It was fantastic, got to say that I can’t think of a better place for a little boy to grow up. There were more things to do for boys like fishing, diving, hunting, there were rivers, streams, canoeing, it was a great upbringing.
Did you collect footy cards as a kid?
I still don’t know where to get them now. Every fortnight I am signing cards. I have a big book of them, someone sent me a full book. When I go to the stadium these days, I will have to sign 100 of them,
What was your first football experience?
I started playing when I was six years old in an Under 9’s competition and I just had a great time. I was always a bit quick. My father was a football and Union player and he taught me how to tackle and some passing skills.
Who were your footballing heroes as a kid?
I used to watch Sydney football on a Saturday afternoon until I was 13. Bob Fulton was the first guy I liked to watch play, he was pretty red hot.
How was it playing for Souths in Innisfail?
It was fantastic. The thing about Rugby League was, it was just as tough playing in the local footy as it was in First Grade, just not as fast. When I was 17, Billy Slaters Dad was my Captain Coach at Souths. He was a lock with a dodgy knee. We had four clubs at Innisfail.
How did you get to Easts?
That year I played with the big boys. I made it in the Queensland side and then was selected to play for Australia whilst playing for Innisfail. At the end of the year Arthur Beetson and Bob Fulton came up from Easts when I had just returned from the Kangaroo Tour.
How was your first time in the top grade?
It was at Lidcombe Oval and Tom Raudonikis was running the show. It was the fibro crowd. As I ran out, they had formed a semi-circle and they would spit on you and were saying things like “I am going to kill you, ya bastard”.
They had a real tough pack of forwards with John ‘Dallas’ Donnelly and Bruce Gibbs. It was a bash up all day.
Ken Wright came from Rugby Union and they got him in the first tackle. They rubbed capsicum spray in his eyes and he had to come off. I was marking Warren Boland.
What was the Culture like at Easts?
It was really good actually. Everyone was single and there was a lot of partying going on that year. We trained and played hard and then played hard after the game as well. The next year we made the Grand Final.
The first year I lived with Paul Mir and the following three seasons I lived with Crusher (Noel Cleal).
My mates included Marty Gurr, Ian Schubert, Kevin Hastings, Royce Ayliffe and John Tobin.
How was it playing for Easts in 1979 to 1982?
Everyone enjoyed themselves and looked after each other, I really enjoyed my time there, especially making the 1980 Grand Final.
My contract ran out and the big boss wasn’t there to increase my wages and Bob Fulton took four of us across to Manly.
1978 debut for Australia, youngest ever at 18 years?
I had just finished playing the final game for Queensland against NSW. They had beated us three games to nil. I had played well against Terry Fahey and scored a 60m try and another off a kick. I found out that night at Balmain Leagues Club and I was all happy.
Two or three weeks later we played a series against New Zealand and I got Man of the Match.
1978 Kangaroo Tour?
Fantastic. I was a bit young for it but had a great time. I enjoyed the experience. I shared with Chris Andersone in the Wingers room.
1980 Grand Final?
I just remember after it really. We thought we were going to win. There were 1000 bottles of champagne in the room. Two weeks earlier Monty Pythons movie came out and someone starting whistling ‘The Bright Side of Life’ song. It was one of those days. Canterbury out played us on the day.
I think we won about 16 games straight during the season. During the year I was Centre or Fullback, I played Centre that day.
1982 Kangaroo Tour?
I played in Papua New Guinea, they’re so fanatical. I could go up there today and they would say “You are Kerry Bousthead”, it was an eye opener. They were a very tough team but not fit or skillfull. You came off the field knowing you had been in a game.
In England I was sharing with Greg Brentnall. We were winning everything, we came close to losing a couple of times. Our closest matches were club matches, we needed to be careful. We had to be even more careful in France.
In France we had a big talk about how we will beat the referee. They had been stuck into us big time. The last game we got through against them and were leading by 25 points. The word went out in the last ten minutes that is was payback time. Craig Young was there and he said to the boys “You square up” and he goes “I got him” and then took his head off.
What made you move to Manly in 1983?
What was the culture like at the Manly between 1983 and 1986?
It was very different from the Roosters. We were all married by then pretty much.
The whole team were either Australia, New Zealand or Pommie Internationals except for Phil Blake and that was Phil Blake who was the Rookie of the Year.
I was good mates with Sponge (Dave Brown) and also good mates with Phil Blake and Crusher. Paul McCabe and Chris Close ended up being Groomsmen at my wedding.
It was a really good bunch of blokes. Ray Brown was a really good guy, he trained everyday. Monday, Wednesday and Friday were the official days. I am sure everyone else trained every other day.
1983 grand final?
The thing about Parra was they had a tackling forward pack and a brilliant backline, players like Steve Ella. They played better on the day.
The story behind Rugby League Week’s cover - The Boss?
I was running real hot on the wing at the time and they called me The Boss of the Wingers. Chairman of the Wingers.
Playing for Hull KR 1985 to 1987?
The last two seasons at Manly I had broken three bones and just wanted a break after eight years in Sydney. So I just went and had a change for a bit. I went over for a year and then had a break and then played for a second season.
Playing for Hull KR against the touring Kangaroo side in 1986?
That was fantastic, a real honour. I had played 25 Tests for Australia by that stage. I was all excited and John Dorahy was playing in the Centres with me. He said “Don’t go getting too excited, we are marking Mal Meninga and Gene Miles”. They beat us by 47-7 and every try they scored was with their Forwards. The only seven points we got were by a try to me and two goals kicked by Joe Cool (John Doarahy), all scored by the Aussies.
What made you join North Sydney in 1988?
My coach was Frank Stanton and he had gone to Norths. I was worried about breaking more bones at the time. Manly and Brisbane had offered me dollars per game contracts and I had three kids at that stage. North Sydney offered me the best contract I had ever been offered and they had a pretty strong side as well.
The culture at North Sydney was very different at that time. They had some very good young fellas. Gary Larson, Billy Moore, Greg Florimo and David Fairleigh. Really good competitors. Over those three years we went from bottom dwellers to Finals contenders.
I enjoyed it, it was such a different club for me. I learnt how to go from the bottom to the top. My previous clubs had all been top line clubs.
Me personally, psychologically, when you break a number of bones, your mind doesn’t let you run in as hard as you used to.
Played Six matches for NSW, how were these days?
Right from the start I played on the wing for NSW and we would beat Queensland. Then Iunder the Origin concept along with guys like Rocket Reddy, we would beat NSW.
How did it feel to play for the Maroons after State of Origin was initiated, and the first ever Origin, how was the feelings before the match?
It was a lot different. Queensland said right from the start that we are going to get serious, get the best possible team. We got Rod Morris and John Lang up, who was playing at the Roosters with me.
The money helped, we only got paid for a win and it was $1,250, so we just said lets have a red hot go. They brought us up a week early and NSW picked a side on the Sunday night and trained for one day then played us. I played Origin for five years and won everytime.
Greatest memories of playing rugby league?
No doubt my goal from the very start was playing for Australia, so pulling on a jersey to play for Australia.
Being voted the best Australian Winger from 1970 to 1985.
My goal wasn’t about playing Origin, that was a stepping stone to play for Australia.
Who was your most respected rival?
Eric Grothe, you always knew you had a game on your hands when you marked up against him. Terry Fahey and Ellery Hanley as well, he was on the Wing the first time he came to Australia.
eric grothe always knew you had a game on your hands when you marked up against eric. terry fahey and ellery hanley on his first time to australia he was on the wing.
Who was the best team you played against?
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
My last year I couldn’t play consecutive games. I would play two and miss one. My back was failing me and I knew I didn’t want to be injured for life. My footy boots collapsed on the last day, both of them.
1990 appointed Promotions manager for the North Queensland Cowboys?
They needed someone with a profile to try and start up the North Queensland side. I was the only employee there for four years and I basically wasn’t getting paid all the time.
One of the proudest moments of my life was when the Cowboys ran onto the field.
1991 Coaching North Queensland in the Winfield State League?
One of my jobs was to make North Queensland competitive and we won the State League. Laurie Spina was there and the Final was in Brisbane.
1995 Chief Executive of the North Queensland Cowboys?
It was only three weeks in and they joined Super League. I left and decided just to work a normal job, I was very upset about it.
I never went back there until the year before last, when I was invited to be on the board.
Everyone agreed to terms with Rupert Murdoch who gave them a share in the company, and three days later they went to Super League to make some money out of it. I used all of my connections to get the club into the ARL.
1997 to 1998 and 200 Judiciary Tribunal?
I was still a little bit sour on football at the time. I had been the CEO of a club and then went down to giving people a two week holiday.
2000 Australian Sport Medal?
Australia Day Award, it was a really nice award.
2008 Named in the 100 Greatest Australian Rugby League Players?
To be put amongst a team that has Billy Smith, Bob Fulton, Eric Grothe, Wombat (Graham Eadie) and Graeme Langlands, 1970-85. That is spectacular, half of those blokes are immortals, that is my biggest kick.
What followed after football?
I was at Brisbane, had kids going to Private Schools and decided to focus on work. I had 15 years of owning a Ray White Franchise, 2001 to 2014.
I have four kids, two boys and two girls. They played footy until the age of 18. Coaches were mainly looking for big fellas. The young fella made the Queensland University side.
How has the game changed since your playing days?
They are realizing that they need fast blokes in a side, you should have a mix of everybody. Valentine Holmes and have a look at the Auckland Nines footage, Gileen Mosbe, he is lightning. The opposition are petrified of blokes like him.
Did you keep a scrap book?
A lot of my gear was thrown by a flatmate, most of the Sydney stuff. My Mother has some but not much. She has a lot of the Cowboys stuff.
Brents, Towong in Brisbane.