Where did you grow up?
Bass Hill, it is an area closer to Bankstown.
What was your childhood like?
Yea good, I come from a Housing Commission area. It was an area where there were a lot of gangs. The Faux family, the boys held their own.
There were five boys and one girl out of our siblings. She was as tough as all of us.
Did you collect footy cards as a kid?
I did, until I saw the one of me.
What was your first football experience?
We used to travel out to watch Souths at Redfern
Who were your football heroes as a kid?
Jimmy Lisle was my hero back in those days. He was a terrific cover defender, I used to love watching him as a footballer.
With that many brothers, did you play a bit of backyard footy?
Absolutely, TV was pretty bland in those days so we would get home from school and go to the park at the bottom of our street and it was unbelievable. Every afternoon there would be forty to fifty kids playing there. We would never miss, except when it was raining I suppose. The great thing was to get into the first 13 of each side. Everyone would stay and watch that game, and it was tough. I was about eight years of age and it went up to about 14.
Any standout memories from those days?
My brother, Dennis suffered from asthma, he came down to the park and there was a gang known as the Sharpies and there were the Long hairs in those days. The Sharpies decided to pick on him, I remember running back to my brothers and my families house and said “They are kicking the shit out of Dennis” and my brother Geoffrey ran out the door and we all ran down and the only way to win this fight was to pick the biggest bloke which Geoffrey did, and he gave it to him. They had respect for us after that.
Tell us about your junior football days?
My first team was the Yagoona Lions. I was six and the whole club was great. I used to love the club and the jersey, it had a big lion on the front of it. As a six year old kid it was great, there wasn’t much else going on in the world, it was either sport or nothing.
In Primary School, I played in the Public School and I got Sportsmen of the Year in Primary.
One day there was a knock on the door and it was a man by the name of Les Thompson and I will never forget him as being my tutor in life. He was one of the great Coaches of Junior Football in the era.
Overall I was a sportsmen, I won Sportsmen of the Year at Bass Hill High School as well. You remember the guys who look after you and Les always did. I was in the same team as Steve Bowden, Don Moseley and Don Jones who both went on to play for Newtown and Canterbury. He sort of tutored all of those kids because he was a Primary School teacher. My kudos to that man because he helped a lot of kids from going the wrong way.
We won four Premierships in a row, that was a good thing at Bankstown Sports and that was the foundation for me to keep going.
I was a good Cricketer too, I don’t know if it is still a record but I took 19 wickets for 17 runs in one game. They were blind. When I was 15 I dislocated a shoulder and that finished my Cricket days. I took about six months off football. It gave me problems for my whole life, I played my whole football career with a dislocated shoulder. I remember a trainer saying to me that they spend more money on strapping me than they do for the rest of the team.
What got you to Canterbury in 1975?
I really didn’t get back to football until I was 18. I felt OK and I played in C Grade there and we won that. I don’t know what happened the following year when I was 19 but I couldn’t get into the club, they already had their team picked.
I had a trial when I was 20, which was pretty old in those days. I think they picked 36 and then dropped them down to 18 and I made the team.
It was pretty hard, it was very hard in Canterbury in those days. They had a great football club.
How was that first year at Canterbury?
They pushed me from being a lock and having the shoulder that I had, I could only really tackle front on. It was hard to cover, if I had of thrown my arm the wrong way it would pop out. Gary Smith, the Coach said “You are not going to get in to Second Row or Lock, I will give you an opportunity”
The old saying is you take any position. Well I did. I was never a Front Rower. I took the position because I knew that was my position at this stage of my life.
How was it playing Semi Finals in your first year with Canterbury?
It was fantastic. I was up against a bloke called Gary Metcalfe and we had a one on one. Actually it was in the Sunday paper the day after. On the back page.
Who won the one on one?
I don’t think there was a winner. I think in all fights on a football paddock it is a bit of a gee up, you get a few punches in
Who were your close buddies at Canterbury in those days?
I had plenty of them. Geoff Robinson, John Jones, Steve Gearin, Greg Cook. Greg Cook is probably one of my better mates, still very good friends of his. He is a tough bastard. He is one of those blokes you can rely on. Can I tell you a story?
We were down at a reunion one night and Greg said “Go and grab a cab, I will be there in a minute, I just have to go to the toilet”. We were going into the Cross to a nightclub.
I walked across the road and there was this big, huge Jamaican guy there.
I stood there and asked him “Have you seen any cabs?”
and he said “Give me your money”.
I had a suit on. I said “What?”.
He said “Give me your money or I am going to cut your throat”.
I said “you’ve got buckleys”. He threw a punch at me and it was on. Within that 30 seconds there was about ten of them. They came out of the bushes of the taxi rank. They all started just giving it to me. The only bloke who came running across the road was Greg Cook. We were fighting for our lives. They were throwing punches everywhere, they were hitting me everywhere they could.
It is a miracle that a cab pulled up on the other side. We ran to that cab and jumped in and he took off.
I will always remember what he did that night. A true man doing a mans job.
I broke the guys tooth and cut my finger. We went out that night still and the next day he stayed at my place in Chatswood and went to the Grand Final the next day. I was getting crooker by the day, I thought it was too much alcohol. It wasn’t that, it was something different and I asked my Missus to pick me up. By the end of the night I was rushed to North Shore hospital and I had a red mark going up my arm. If she didn’t pick me up I would be in a lot of trouble.
What made you move to Newtown?
I didn’t see a lot of future for me at Canterbury because they just got Bob McCarthy and Gary Stevens and blokes were pretty established.
Frank Barrington rang me up and I took the contract. It was only a small contract but what it did was give me experience.
How was your first First Grade game?
My first First Grade game was against Cronulla. It was a great experience, we played at the Cricket Ground.
Played with blokes like Paul Hayward and The Dawson’s, Johnny Floyd, Phil young, Col Casey, Fred Pagano, Col Murphy and we also had the American guy, Manfred Moore. That was funny actually, he should never have come. They got him as a bit of a publicity stunt. He could throw a ball over the Henson Park Stadium. He got cut once and was walking off.
What I liked about Newtown, although they were up against it, they never gave in. Teams like Cronulla with Cliff Watson and Tommy Bishop were just far superior.
Paul Hayward is one of the loveliest blokes you will ever meet. He could fight like you wouldn’t believe. It was the only time watching football that I was scared of the 5/8.
I come from a pretty straight up and down football career, where forwards and backs. Paul Broughton brought in his idealism from America. I will never forget, we were sitting in the dressing room and he was talking about offensive and defensive and I looked at Col Casey and he looked at me and said “Fucked if I know, what the fuck is he talking about?”. Paul was transfixed with Jack Gibson at the time by bringing ideas from America. In some ways it has worked towards the American professionalism.
Who were your mates at Newtown?
Phil Young was probably my best mate.
What made you go back to Canterbury in 1978?
I didn’t like losing. I talked to Greg Cook and he said to me to come back. “You’ve had First Grade experience so that will help you”.
Peter Moore was trying to buy a comp at that time. He bought Mick Adams and we had Bob McCarthy and Gary Stevens and we also had Peeky (John Peek). It was going to be hard. Canterbury was my team, I grew up in the Canterbury district.
How was it playing back at Canterbury?
I scored a try in First Grade against St George. I came on as a replacement for Geoff Robinson. It was at Kogarah Oval, I thought I aimed up alright.
I think with Rugby League, you don’t know how you will handle First Grade until you experience it. I thought I went alright.
Is there much of a difference between First and Second Grade?
Yes there is, I don’t think it is the strength or the courage, it is the speed and it is ongoing, no one stops. It was 80 minutes of football, where in Reserve Grade you may have had a break here and there.
In Reserve Grade the toughness is probably harder. Blokes were trying to prove themselves and blokes who had been there for a long time knew how to handle themselves. Blokes who had been dropped probably had a bit of anger
1979 Reserve Grade Semi Finals and Grand Final, how was the experience?
We did it the hard way, I think we came from fifth spot. It was hard and they were a fantastic football team, Parramatta and they were always going to be tough to beat. We were a little bit underdone getting there. They had a lot of First Grade footballers in their team and we had a lot of blokes coming through.
We got taught a lesson that day but we took a lot away from it.
Parramatta dropped a few players into that side.
The sheds were quiet, I think everyone knew they were going to be terribly hard to beat. We were trying to get our feelings in check.
The most amazing feeling is running out onto a Grand Final paddock. You lose your legs it just feels so unbelievable. This is it, made the Grand Final.
How was the 1980 season?
It was probably my best year, played eight First Grade games. It mightn’t sound that much. To play one game in a team like Canterbury was good, to play a few games was great. To get a First Grade blazer for the games I played was great.
Everybody knew each other inside out. They were just perfect with what they did, especially in the backs. The forwards were small, probably the smallest pack in the whole comp.
May I say this to you now. Everybody knows the names of the Hughes brothers, the Mortimer brothers, Steve Folkes, Geoff Robinson, Chris Anderson and Greg Brentnall, they’re legendary at Canterbury. The other blokes like the Greg Cooks, Peter Smith, Peter Cassilles. Steve Gearin doesn’t get a mention like the other blokes do, but when you think about it those blokes were the backbone for that win in 1980.
The Reserve Grade win that year was legendary. That was something special. We were playing against Arthur Beetson who was the Captain of that Reserve Grade team. Their Reserve Grade team was a First Grade football team. They had Arthur Beetson, Kevin Webb, Bob Jay, Steven Sharp, Geoff Gerard, Phil Mann, John Kolc, Graham Murray, Ed Sulkowitz, Mark Levy, Eric Grothe, Gary Dowling. There wouldn’t be too many First Grade teams that could field a team like that.
On the way over on the bus that day our Coach, Geoff Connell said “You have a game in front of you today” and everyone went, “Yeah right”. At the same time, Arthur Beetson came over the wireless and the bloke said to him “Anyway Arthur, it will be nice to finish with a win today”. Arthur replied “Yes it will be but we haven’t won yet”. I don’t know what it was, maybe the way he said it but it made us think that we had to win this and we played the best we had played all year.
They finished the comp out in front by about eight points. They were odds on to win the game. There were two instances in that game by one player that probably won the game for us. A bloke names Allen Geelan picked up Arthur Beetson and put him on his ass and you wouldn’t see that too many times and just before halftime the ball was kicked down field and Allen Geelan again, he hit Gary Dowling in a tackle which put him out for the rest of the game. The game changed, we all said that we are in this game.
It was 100 minutes of football and First Grade were watching and they tell me that Ted Glossop let them out there to watch the game nearly right through and that encouraged us.
A lot of people told me that was one of the best games of football they have watched.
How about the celebrations?
The great thing about it was we were in the bus on the way back to Canterbury, once we turned down Canterbury Road there were supporters everywhere. Getting out of the bus my feet didn’t touch the ground. We were all good about it, no stupidity, no dropping of pants in front of people.
How was the 1981 season?
81’ was just flat. In 1980 we had made two Grand Finals (First and Reserve Grade). First Grade went out not firing at all and we (Reserve Grade) made the Play Off’s. For whatever reason, Ted (Ted Glossop) didn’t call up on players to come up as replacements. I think that was a bad sign for everybody.
Greg Cook, Lee Pomfret, Mal Creevey, Peter Smith and myself were already going to leave. If you sit in Reserve Grade and not getting a chance you could see the writing was on the wall right there, the club had changed. There was a chance to give those guys who did the job in Reserve Grade Grand Final
How did you get to Illawarra in 1982?
Greg Cook, Lee Pomfret, Mal Creevey and myself needed a new direction. Greg Cook was the number one signing for Illawarra at that time and he called me and said I would love you to come down.
How was it playing for the Steelers in their maiden year?
We had some internationals with blokes like John Dorahy and Brian Hetherington there. We had some good footballers like Peter Ryan, Rod Henniker, John Jansen and there were a like kids. It was like being a bit of a tutor.
I was driving down from Macquarie Fields to go to training. It was a long drive and getting too hard and Greg (Greg Cook) said to stay at his house. That was fun.
Do you have any stories to tell about that?
I played a prank on him one day, we were living in a unit and I got into the toilet first one morning. Every morning at 8 O’clock he had to go to the toilet and I got in there early with the paper. He was knocking on the door and asking “How long you going to be?” “Oh, not long I replied” and you could hear the paper. I was doing it purposely. He said he was hanging which I replied, “Mate, I won’t be long”, and he was banging on the door until he said “Fuck you, you C£$T” and he ran out the door, down the road, across the beach and into the ocean. I went out to the balcony and looked over and this bit of steam came out of the water. He was swearing and yelling.
The other one, I was playing Reserve Grade, we were all broke then, we had no money. He and I weren’t working and they wouldn’t give you the dole because we were both playing football, we were living off the scraps. He had two chops in the fridge and he tried to hide them behind these ice cubes, so I went and cooked them up. He came home about half an hour later and he could smell the chops had been cooked. “You didn’t cook those chops did you?” he asked. “No mate” I said, as I was edging towards the door. I can hear him still today “You C£$T!”. He saw the chops with nothing left, just the bone. He chased me down the beach, he chased me for about an hour. I was yelling out him “Cookie, I will buy you another chop one day”.
What made you leave Illawarra?
I was asked to leave because I was bringing the game into disrepute. It was a lie.
Who was the best player you played with?
There are so many. If I say one then I would be saying bad to the others. The whole Canterbury club.
Who was the best player you played against?
They were all tough. In those days you never knew a bloke who would lay back. It was always on straight away.
If I had to come up with two things they would be:
I got hit by Kevin Stumpy Stevens and I couldn’t breath for about three minutes, I thought I was going to die.
The other one, I was playing for Illawarra and Wayne Pearce hit me from my right side and at the same time Kerry Hemsley hit me from the other, so I thought I was ripped in half. I was on the ground and I was thinking I had lost my legs.
Was Artie Beetson as good as they say?
Question from guest interviewer Adam Lindsay
Absolutely. He was a man mountain. He is a legend. For a young footballer like myself to come up against him and tackle him and to run into him was frightening.
I remember when we won the Grand Final I ran across the field and said “Thanks Artie”. It was one of the things I had to do.
Who was the best attacking player you came up against / with?
There were some freaks. Steve Mortimer would have to be one of the best attacking players.
Geez, that’s a hard question. The team that worried us the most was Easts.
Steve Rogers, if he got half an inch, he was gone. He was one of those blokes that it didn’t matter what your cover was, he would beat the cover.
Who was your best Coach?
Who was the best team you played against?
Easts I would say.
In First Grade it would be Manly. I was playing for Illawarra and Manly had Les Boyd.
Parramatta had Artie Beetson, Bob O’Reilly, Peter Sterling. I would say Parramatta.
Thoughts on the modern game?
I think administration should be the back seat, not the front seat, I really mean that. They say they have taken Rugby League to a new precedent. They haven’t. They are saying the money they have received from TV is fantastic, well it isn’t.
When Rugby League was Rugby League, and think about it, we would play for nothing. We were basically playing to get up for work on the Monday. I was a furniture removalist, so you can imagine getting up the next day to do that sort of work. There were a lot of other guys doing labouring, garbage runs, you name it. Hard work. We never got rewarded.
Here is the thing, the crowds we were getting was 10,000 – 12,000, now they get 13,000 but the population has doubled. It has probably tripled in NSW.
Junior league, I used to Coach and I think weight and age should be a two year thing, that would give the kids a chance to mature. I am not a racist, I love everybody just the same but a lot of those islander kids develop so much younger. You can’t blame a mother for not wanting her kid to play against what in comparison is a monster. It isn’t fair and that is what is happening, many kids aren’t playing now.
If they don’t fix this up, Rugby League is in a bad situation.
Look at what the players got when I played compared to what players get today. We still had similar crowds, we had State of Origin, Grand Finals etc and crowds were similar. I would like to work out the difference it would be with gate takings today and what the players on the field get compared to when I played and what the players got. We still have the same injuries. Knees, shoulders, ankles and we were carrying those injuries which stopped us from working our normal jobs. The players today get millions and good luck to them. The big difference is today they have managers. Peter Moore said to me in a conversation once “We are in a lot of trouble”. I asked why is that, “Because managers are going to destroy this game”.
The money should be going into a fund for the old footballers instead of these managers pockets. The blokes who can’t get a job these days because of injuries.
The administration has failed the game. They are consistently changing the game every year.
Would you like to play in todays game, especially given the constant media attention and sensationalism from reporters such as Paul Kent?
Question from guest interviewer Adam Lindsay
I got to be honest with you, I can’t live in their shoes, I can only live in the shoes I live in. The blokes I played football with, I don’t think they like todays football.
Bringing the Polynesians into todays game gives their kids a chance to play the game but it stops a lot of young Australian kids from playing the game. Think about it, we were playing 80 minute football with at times two reserves. 80 minute football is not a game for the Polynesians, they can’t play it. What they can play is tough, hard and power football for 10 – 15 minutes.
I will give you an example, we played them in an AMCO Cup game and they came out and they were huge, the biggest guys I had ever seen. The first 15 minutes was as hard as you can believe then we walked all over them after that but 30-40 points.
My question is, who are we looking after? It shouldn’t be one type of people, it should the whole base of people. It should be everybody. Not somebody.
Do they think todays football is better than that 1980 Canterbury side? I don’t think so. Canterbury were absolutely brilliant at scoring tries. These days it is becoming like American football, stop start, stop start.
I like a man on a man. If a bloke gets decked in a tackle, get up. If you can’t get up, get off and then you played with 12 men. That is the way I looked at Rugby League.
The big guys don’t get fatigues means there isn’t a place or future for the little guys in the game.
What followed after football?
I ended up coaching up in the bush at Casino, that was a lot of fun. We got to the Preliminary Final in the Knock Out competition. We got to the Grand Final, sad story. Do you remember Greg Ryan? Greg played for Balmain in the lower grades and then went back home. He was my 5/8. On the way home from training he hit a cow, which nearly killed him. He was my linchpin to the backs and when I lost him I lost a lot. He wanted his wife to get off his property and she got a hit man to knock him off. He was one of the nicest blokes you would ever meet.
Did you keep a scrapbook?
My sister did.
What is your favourite restaurant?
What is your favourite beer, back in the day and now?