I was born in Auckland in 1950.
With a Kiwi mum and my Aussie dad and my younger brothers, I moved to Collaroy, Sydney, in 1958. My Uncle Bob stopped sending me the All Blacks Book for Boys when he heard I had signed for the local under-10s with Rod MacQueen.
Mum was a cousin of Nev McEwan and played hockey for Palmerston North. Dad played VFL for Shepparton and trialled for Melbourne in 1939, but the war intervened. Dad was on a working holiday in New Zealand in 1948 when he found himself engaged in the Ruahine dressing sheds in Dannevirke.
I found enough private equity to play lower grades for UNSW in the Shute Shield from 1968-1973.
Around 1970, a guy arrived from Canterbury Uni to do an MBA at UNSW.
We were playing Sydney University in third grade at David Phillips Field when Ross said, “Their tighthead prop is causing us to go backwards on our own-ball, do you want me to fix it?”
“Yeah, sure, Ross,” I said, without knowing what he meant.
None of our props ever said anything like this.
As we ran away from the subsequent scrum, their tighthead had hit the deck – my God. Then a miracle occurred.
We won a ruck, close to the sideline and 60 metres out Burnsy, a breakaway, came into the back-line, dummied on halfway, went straight through, drew the fullback and “Soccer” Twoomey went over under the posts.
That night, we made more history, but that’s another story.
In July, Ross and I were in the front row with Ben Zappia from Joey’s, and we won the Australian University Rugby Championship in Perth, beating Sydney University again.
In 1973, a new president of the rugby club arrived who didn’t know anything about rugby.
He came from South Australia, but he wanted to become Vice-Chancellor of UNSW (CEO) using the club as a stepping stone.
Dave organised a Trans-Tasman rugby tour with matches against Auckland, Massey, Canterbury, Otago Universities, Timaru, and Gore.
We beat Auckland and Massey, and in Palmerston North, Bob Burgess, All Blacks No.10, wanted to talk about Apartheid, Vietnam and Jesus Christ Superstar. President Dave was already worried about our propensity to enjoy drinking and singing.
After going 2-0 and in honour of Dr Bob, we did a chorus of:
“Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine
And we want you to sleep well tonight”.
At Timaru and Gore, we played and won again. We were consistently coming from behind.
President Dave explained that we were taking the first half to figure out how the opposition played the game, tune into the referee and not being too far behind, make it up with our fitness and back-line skill, filled with league club backs.
Everything was going great until we met Otago and Canterbury and came back to earth, losing both but leaving tired and happy; we took our New Zealand form into the Shute Shield back home with tight forwards, rolling mauls, advantage line obsession and playing in their half.
So, what can we learn from this light-hearted tale?
Well, when I joined the UNSW Rugby Club, I was placed in fourth grade as hooker.
We were all young guys from CHS and GPS schools, so we were used to winning.
In fourth grade, we won seven in a row against Manly, Randwick, Norths etc, before we started to move up the grades and the rot set in.
As soon as you lose a few on the trot and don’t have the tight bonds anymore, you think it’s enough to go close without actually winning.
Nothing succeeds like success.
Having a competition that is not competitive is not success. It doesn’t help anyone.
What’s our geographical situation with rugby?
We are part of south-east Asia and Japan, the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.
The major soccer regions have their club competitions and a regional cup. That leads me to think we should probably ditch Super Rugby in favour of an NRL equivalent Rugby AU club competition, mirrored in New Zealand, Japan and Pasifika. We could have an Anzac-Japan Stanley Cup.
Food for thought.
PS: the true peak of my career was in 1998 in the Twickenham dressing sheds.
I was being introduced to the Wallabies. They looked quizzically at Rod MacQueen and myself, until Joe Roff finally said: “Well, Geoff, what’s your connection?”
“I played under-10s with Rod for Collaroy Plateau in 1960!”
“Was he any good?”
“Not really, a better coach!” I said with a grin.