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The forgotten players: The Newtown Jets

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Roar Guru
27th December, 2020
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This is the 21st article in the ongoing series where we remember some of the forgotten players from your favourite club.

In this case the Newtown Jets, for many, another forgotten club.

Newtown was a foundation club in the NSW competition and lasted until the end of the 1983 season when financial pressures, among other things, saw them leave the top tier competition.

Originally known as the Bluebags (their jerseys were the same colour as a popular laundry aid of the time), they transitioned to the catchier Newtown Jets in the early seventies.

There was just something about Newtown for me, and watching them play at Henson Park is a lasting memory. They always seemed to be a battling club, both on and off the field, and were what rugby league was once all about – working men playing a working man’s game.

Some 751 players represented the club over the years and they had more than their fair share of legends, including Frank Farrell, Brian Moore, Bobby Keys, Dick Poole, Gordon Clifford, Lionel Williamson, Tom Kirk and Les Bull.

Here’s a team made up of some forgotten Newtown players from the mid 60s up until the club departed in 1983.

1. Michael Pobjie
Pobjie was an uncompromising player and a tough defender, and he racked up 150 first grade games in his ten year career after making his top level debut with Newtown in 1981.

He played 22 games for the club over the next two years before heading to South Sydney.

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2. Manfred Moore
To my knowledge, the late Manfred Moore was only the second NFL player to play top level rugby league in Australia.

Three months after scoring a touchdown for the Oakland Raiders in the 1976 Super Bowl, the tall running back debuted on the wing for Newtown, scoring the club’s first try for the 1977 season. He lasted just four games though before heading back to the NFL.

3. Brian Hetherington
Hetherington was a former Australian Schoolboy representative who came out of the Wollongong competition to join Newtown in 1978, and played 78 first grade games for the club over the next four seasons. He later joined the Illawarra Steelers and then finished his career in the UK. He also played two Origin games for NSW.

4. Mal Graham
Graham represented NSW Country before joining the Jets in 1982, and played 47 games for the club over the next two seasons. He then spent the next five years in England before finishing his career in the Newcastle competition.

5. Ray Blacklock
An exciting ball runner with speed to burn, Blacklock played for three clubs in his career. He got his first grade start with Penrith in 1976, and then joined the Jets for two seasons from 1981, playing 31 games for the club. He finished his career in Canberra.

6. Paul Hayward
Hayward was a very talented player who died too young. A Souths junior, he made first grade with Newtown as a 19-year-old in 1973, and played 76 games for the club in his six year career. Hi career came to an end in 1978 at the age of 24 when he was arrested and jailed in Thailand for drug exportation.

7. Greg Hartley
Before his careers as both a broadcaster and a controversial and flamboyant referee, Hartley was a promising half back for the Newtown club.

Unfortunately, a serious injury restricted his first grade appearances to just a handful of games before he retired at the age of 25 in 1967.

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Joshua Cleeland of the Newtown Jets

While the Jets don’t play in the top division anymore, they’ve got a cult following. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

8. Oscar Danielson
Danielson, a tough ball-playing forward, came to the Jets from the New Zealand domestic competition in 1970 and played 44 first grade games for the club over the next three seasons, before finishing his career in the Wollongong competition. He also played 5 Tests for NZ.

9. Ron Turner
A tough and skillful player back when hookers earned their money the hard way, Turner had six successful seasons with Cronulla before joining the Jets for just one season and nine games in 1976. He also played one game for NSW and four times for Australia.

10. Craig Ellis
Big and Strong, Ellis played over 100 first grade games in his ten year career. He made first grade with Newtown in 1978 and went on to play 82 top level games for the club over the next six years, before heading to Wests after Newtown were expelled from the top tier competition.

11. Gary Sullivan
There weren’t many better forwards than Sullivan in the early 70s as evidenced by his seven games for Australia and three for NSW. He came from Kurri Kurri in the Newcastle competition to join the Jets in 1970 and played 107 first grade games for the club over the next six seasons, before retiring from the big time and finishing his career back where he came from.

He ended up spending time in goal after being convicted for armed robbery.

12. Charlie Renilson
After a 300+ game career in the UK, Renilson joined the Jets in 1969 and played 71 games for the club over the next three years. A tough and relentless forward, he also played eight times for Great Britain.

13. Neil Pringle
Pringle was a polarising player who never really made friends with the opposition. A great ball runner and cover defender, he never took a backward step. Called into first grade with Newtown as a 20 year old in 1972, he went on to play 64 games for the Jets over the next three years.

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He then headed to Balmain for a very successful eight-year stint before illness put paid to his career in the big time.

14. Dean Lance
Dean Lance played at around 80kgs but was one of the games best ever defenders who rarely missed his man. He played an even 200 first grade games in his nine year career, the first 40 coming with Newtown in the 1982 and 1983 seasons.

He then headed to the Raiders, going on to become club captain and later winning two premierships. He then took up coaching and coached nearly 120 games at the top level.

15. John Elias
A talented back rower when he put his mind to it, Elias was a true journeyman who played for a dozen clubs, both here and in Europe, during his career. He got his start in the big time with Newtown in 1983, and played just the one game for the club. He also could be described as a “colourful identity”, and had many run-ins with the law.

16. Greg Bandiera
A very talented centre and back rower, Bandiera was unlucky not to play more than his 74 games in the top grade during his eight year career. Hailing from Queensland, he joined the Jets in 1970 and played 18 games for the club over the next two seasons before heading to the Roosters.

17. Bill Noonan
A feared prop or hooker, Noonan was one of the hard men who roamed the earth in the 70’s. He came from New Zealand to join the Bulldogs in 1970 and played over 160 games for the club before transferring to Newtown in 1979, where he ended up playing 35 games for the club over the next two seasons.

He also played three Tests for NZ. He’s had some unfortunate health issues in recent times but will go down as the first Kiwi to play in and ARL grand final, when he took the field for Canterbury in 1974.

Some other Newtown players who you may have forgotten are halves Barry Wood and Phil Young, and identical twins Chris and Paul Dawson who have been in the news lately.

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