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Opinion

The Balmain Tigers' greatest ever team

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Roar Guru
20th November, 2020
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The Balmain Tigers are a foundation club and won 11 premierships.

They unfortunately don’t exist and now are a joint-venture team with the Western Suburbs Magpies called the Wests Tigers.

1. Garry Jack
Known for his barnstorming kick returns that normally broke the first line of defence, Jack was calm under pressure and had an all-round game. He was the best fullback in the world from the mid to late ’80s, which amounted to a Golden Boot win.

2. Arthur Patton
The Port Kembla flyer was an outstanding winger who captained Balmain to a premiership victory in 1944. He played a game on a broken leg, which was amazing for a winger who predominantly needed to run. He was the first Balmain player to 100 tries and retired as their greatest ever try scorer.

3. Tim Brasher
He made his debut while still in high school. Brasher was effective anywhere in the outside backs. His 1996 season was extraordinary as he was the driving force in a weak Balmain team that almost made the finals. His two try-saving tackles in the 1992 State of Origin decider proved vital in giving the Blues a close series win.

4. Ellery Hanley
He was perhaps the best import from England. The impact Hanley brought to Balmain was measurable. He had good form in 1988, when he scored so many crucial tries and helped them make the grand final. He was knocked out cold by Terry Lamb in the grand final. His pace coupled with strength made him a true game breaker. I wish he stayed in Australia for a longer period of time.

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5. Keith Barnes
He was nicknamed ‘Golden Boots’ as he was the best goal kicker of his era. His gritty defence and courage gave the Balmain sides a real hardened edge, which saw them grind out many games as close games. He captained Australia in 1959. He kicked ten out of 11 goals against Leeds, however his game-winning conversion from 57 metres out against St George will go down as one of the best clutch conversions ever.

6. Olsen Filipaina
He was a pioneer for Polynesian players as he was perhaps their first big star. Filipaina wasn’t consistent, however, as he was dropped to reserve grade and still played for New Zealand. When he was on, he was such a damaging ball runner that had a great bump off. He was so strong so he couldn’t be tackled easily. Also he put on some brutal hits. He was such an iconic figure in New Zealand rugby league.

7. Arthur Halloway
He was a part of NSW’s first ever game. He was halfback in Balmain winning five straight grand finals. His vision and passing gave his backs opportunities to score. He was so tough he had his finger amputated on the morning one day, and later that afternoon he led his team to a victory with a bloody bandage.

8. Kerry Hemsley
He was a cult hero. His moustache and long flowing hair made him a fan favourite. He was a true enforcer who came up with a play in attack or defence to change the momentum of the game.

9. Ben Elias
He revolutionised the way hookers play. He was one of the first hookers to be the focal point of the attack. He was so elusive around the ruck. Elias’ field goal, which hit the crossbar, will go down in infamy in the 1989 grand final. He was an inspirational NSW captain. Elias was the greatest hooker when he retired.

Benny Elias

(Photo by Getty Images)

10. Steve Roach
He was one of the great personalities. This bull-like prop was powerful as he could monster opposition packs and have soft hands with the ball. His aggression and tenacity made him one of the of the most controversial on-field players for his suspensions and clashes with referees. Being taken off the field in the ’89 grand final goes down as one of the great coaching blunders.

11. Paul Sironen
He played American college football for the University of Hawaii. Sironen made an instant impact in his rookie year, being crowned rookie of the year. His peak saw him be a destructive ball runner who used his tall frame to his advantage. His performances for Australia like Game 3 in the Ashes against Great Britain cemented his legacy as an all-time great.

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12. Harry Bath
He has the moniker of the best foward to never play for Australia. He played most of his career in England. When he returned to Australia he helped Balmain win two premierships. He was known for his ball-playing skills, which was unusual for second rowers at the time, and his ability to kick goals.

13. Wayne Pearce
The dedication and discipline he had to the game set the standard for how a player in the modern game should approach the sport. He didn’t drink or smoke. He wasn’t the most talented but his determination was easily his best best trait. He only weighed 88 kilos but used his heart and leadership as his best asset. He was captain of the NSW Blues’ first ever series sweep.

Bench: Jim Craig, Bruce Maguire, Bob Boland, Peter Provan

Coach: Norman Robinson

The team’s foward pack is the strength. Roach, Sironen, Pearce and Hemsley give Balmain an amazing platform, plus they have a mean streak in them to intimidate opponents.

The backs also possess strike with Jack’s dangerous kick returns coupled with Brasher giving opposition teams nightmares. Hanley is the most damaging player, and his game-breaking ability gives Balmain someone who can win a game for them by himself.

The central point of the attack is Elias, whose darts and creativity around the ruck will give teams fits as they will already be concerned with dealing with the other great players on the team.