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The forgotten players: Illawarra Steelers

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Roar Guru
8th November, 2020
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This is the second article in a series in which I look at players who made only very brief appearances with your club.

Read the first of the series here.

The Steelers entered the competition in 1982 and had a relatively brief existence as a standalone club prior to their merger with St George for the beginning of the 1999 season.

In those 17 years 211 players represented the club. Many of them are household names, particularly down Wollongong way, and who could ever forget club legends like Michael Bolt, Paul McGregor, Rod Wishart and Alan McIndoe, who all played over 120 games for the side.

But for every club legend there was a player whose first-grade career with the club was fleeting. Here’s a team made up of players who wore the famous red jersey on just a handful of occasions.

1. Leo Epifania
Epifania began his career with Western Suburbs before joining the Steelers in the 1988 season, where he managed just one appearance – the Round 1 clash against Canberra. That was his last game in the NRL.

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2. Rex Terp
‘The Flying Postman’ was a pacey outside back who spent four years with St George before heading to Wollongong for the 1995 season, where he was selected for three first grade games.

3. Greg Carberry
Carberry was a useful goal kicking centre who played 11 games for the Steelers spread across the 1987, 1988 and 1990 seasons. He finished his career with Cronulla in 1991.

4. Shane Wilson
Wilson began his first-grade career with the Steelers in 1991 and played seven first-grade games over the next two years. He then spent the next five years with Souths, playing over 60 games for the club. A very handy centre.

5. Tony Armstrong
Armstrong was a very fast and talented player who came to Wollongong in 1986 after a solid six-year career with Wests, Canterbury and Cronulla. A prolific goal kicker, he finished just behind Steve Gearin in 1984 as the league’s leading point scorer when playing for Cronulla. He played the first six games of the 1986 year for the Steelers before injury cut his career short.

6. Grant Izzard
A Penrith junior, Izzard played a dozen games for the Panthers between 1990 and 1992 before heading to greener pastures at Illawarra, where he notched up ten games in good style before a suspension for biting put a halt to his career’s momentum. He never played first grade again.

Steeden Rugby League Generic

(Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

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7. Andy Gregory
An absolute legend of the game, Gregory had a brief nine-game stint with Illawarra in 1989. In a career spanning 17 years, Gregory played 455 first-grade games and 27 Test matches and is one of England’s greatest players of all time.

8. Sami Chamoun
The big prop notched up five games for the club in 1998 and has the distinction of being the last player to make his debut for the club prior to their merger with St George. Unfortunately that was the extent of his first-grade career.

9. Joe Thomas
Thomas was a very good hooker or lock forward who had an 11-year career with Souths, Canterbury and Wests before his final season in first grade with the Steelers in 1984, when he was selected to play first grade on six occasions. He played over 130 first grade games in his career.

10. Anthony Bonus
Bonus played a total of 12 first-grade games in a five-year career. He played for two seasons for the Steelers in 1994 and 1995 and represented them on just four occasions in first grade.

11. Kyle White
A former Australian Schoolboys representative, White was a tough, hard-hitting forward who left nothing on the paddock. After successful stints at both Wests and Canterbury, he finished his career with the Steelers in 1996, appearing in nine first-grade games. He also spent some time playing in England.

12. Martin Masella
The Tongan international played 185 games in a ten-year career in both Australia and England. He spent the 1995 season with Illawarra and played ten first-grade games for the club.

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13. Grahame Buckley
The St George junior had seven successful seasons with St George before joining Illawarra in 1986. A talented player who played well above his weight, he unfortunately managed only one top-team performance for the Steelers.

14. Aaron Whittaker
A diminutive hooker or halfback, Whittaker’s only foray into the Australian competition was in 1992, when he was selected for just two games. The balance of his career was played in either England or New Zealand, and he also played three Test matches for the Kiwis.

15. Maea David
David was a big, powerful prop forward who played in both New Zealand and England before joining the Steelers for two seasons in 1996 and 1997, being selected in first grade on 11 occasions.

16. Craig Madsen
Madsen was a talented back-rower who played 32 games across five seasons for Canterbury, St George and Wests before joining Illawarra in 1986, where he was selected to play on the bench in just one first grade game.

17. Dean Jones
Jones’s entire first-grade career comprised one game off the bench for the Steelers in 1993.