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The good old days, yes, in these current isolated, quiet times my mind does reflect on ‘the good old days’ especially the freedom one had as a child and teenager growing up in the sixties and seventies. My dad was a mad South’s supporter having grown up in Zetland but he didn’t influence my brother and me, so being North Ryde boys and going to Holy Cross we fell into supporting our local district team which was Balmain.
I first played footy for Gladesville Bowling and Sports Club as a hooker with memories of Ian Thompson, who went onto play for Australia, being one of the props. Holy Cross at this time played Rugby Union before switching to league. Being a hooker in the good old days meant your job was to win the scrum. The battle for scrum possession was a fun part of the game. My best effort was to go a whole game at Birchgrove Oval and not lose a scrum.
One of my early memories of going to the footy was when Leichhardt Oval really was an oval. Back in the sixties one cold, rainy day we were playing North Sydney and the crowd was really small. I was sitting with my best mate Pete when behind us some mad looking bloke with T-shirt on started shadow boxing and shouting out tigers! Tigers! and then imploring us all to join in with him. From then on we always looked forward to seeing that ‘mad’ bloke do his thing…you all know whom I am writing about! Also great memories of walking to and from the ground, doubles tickets on the main game and the bloke selling peanuts.
I remember going to what I think was the first ever rugby league game at the SCG on a Sunday which was between Balmain and St George in 1966. We won 10-3 with Keith Barnes kicking 5 goals including one from halfway. In 1969 Pete and I went to the semi final at the SCG against Souths which we lost by a point which wasn’t too bad after Arthur Beetson got sent off for fighting. Next week we went to the game against Manly to see who would get into the Grand Final and was thinking it was all over until at the last moment George Ruebner made a great run to score in the corner which left Len Killeen, being one of the first round the corner kickers in Australia, the task of kicking the winning goal from the sideline. He calmly stuck his heel in the ground, placed the ball in the divot, stepped back a couple of places and kicked it between the posts. We, of course, go on to win the Grand Final from there.
Hmm the good old days were good but it has been great also to go through all the changes, I loved the footy then and I love it now.
P.S. My Alzheimer’s test every year as I get older is to be able to name the entire Balmain 1969 premiership team by positions off the top of my head starting with Bob Smithies, Len Killeen, George Ruebner (replaced by Syd Williams) Allan Fitzgibbon……