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Of Swedish lime trees and a Zimbabwean lake: The rugby league landscape

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Roar Guru
2nd January, 2022
28

What do you see as you wander through the rugby league landscape? Hulking props, wily halves and speedy backs, perhaps.

Today, all I see are rugby league’s flora, waterways, geology and vistas.

1. Ray Lindwall, St George
Lindwalll is best known as one of Australia’s greatest fast bowlers. He took 228 Test match wickets at an average of just 23 and scored two Test centuries during a 14-year international career.

Before he became a cricket great, and after he acquired the surname Lindwall, he was a fullback for St George and played in the Dragons’ 1942 and 1946 grand final defeats.

Ray Lindwall in action

Ray Lindwall in action for Australia in Test match cricket. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

2. Reggie Cressbrook, North Queensland
Cressbrook played 34 games for the Cowboys between 1995 and ’97 and was much admired by the faithful during his brief career.

3. Terry Hill, Souths, Easts, Wests Magpies, Manly and Wests Tigers
A boring choice perhaps, but Hill is a significant figure in rugby league history.

He won a premiership, represented New South Wales and Australia, very nearly played for Souths, Easts, Wests and Norths (sort of), and was one of the plaintiffs in the 1991 legal challenge against rugby league’s internal draft.

4. Phil Ford, Warrington, Wigan, Leeds, Bradford and Salford
Ford was a junior Welsh rugby union international who had a long career in rugby league, playing 16 seasons and 383 games in the English Championship, as well as 23 Tests between Wales and Great Britain.

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His finest moments came on the 1988 Lions tour of Australia, when he played all three Tests and was dubbed ‘the rubber man’ for his speed and agility against the Kangaroos.

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5. Trevor Lake, St George
Lake was a rugby union player from the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) who moved to Wigan in 1962 and became a try-scoring machine, including a double in Wigan’s 1965 Challenge Cup final victory over Hunslet.

He moved to St George in 1967, but it didn’t work out at the post-dynasty Dragons. Lake played just eight games before retiring with a knee injury in 1968.

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6. John Woods, Leigh, Bradford and Warrington
Numbers behave differently in English rugby league. More accurately, rugby league players achieve differently.

Woods played 18 Test matches for Great Britain and England, including Ashes series against Australia in 1979 and ’82.

At club level, he managed more than 500 games and 3895 points: the joint fifth highest points total in English rugby league history. He’s not even close to the leaders in either category.

7. Cliff Lyons, Norths and Manly
Lyons played 332 first grade games and won two premierships, played six Origins and six Tests, is part of Australia’s rugby league hall of fame and, last I checked, was chairman of the Manly-Warringah Rugby League Football Club.

He made most of it look easy.

8. Glenn Lazarus, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne
When Lazarus was one of Queensland’s federal senators, I occasionally saw him down at the local shops.

Walking toward him was almost akin to experiencing a solar eclipse, everything else within view receded behind the planet-sized object approaching. I can’t imagine attempting to tackle him.

Langer-Lazarus

Allan Langer and Glenn Lazarus lift the 1992 Winfield Cup. (Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)

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9. Sandy Pearce, Easts
Sidney Charles, or ‘Sandy’, Pearce works on a couple of levels.

Pearce played for Easts against Newtown at Wentworth Park on Australian rugby league’s founding day, played in Australia’s first ever Test victory against New Zealand in June of the same year, and was one of the first Kangaroo tourists.

He won three consecutive premierships with Easts between 1911 and 1913 and was still going at the age of 38 when he toured with the 1921 Kangaroos.

Pearce is recognised as one of Australia’s 100 best rugby league players.

10. Eorl Crabtree, Huddersfield
Crabtree was a gigantic prop who made over 400 appearances for Huddersfield and played 13 Tests for England, including the Four Nations final defeat to Australia in Melbourne in 2010.

11. Bill Marsh, Balmain
Marsh was a highly rated and versatile forward who started hitting his peak in 1955 when he was selected to play for New South Wales against the French touring team.

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In 1956, he moved to Cootamundra as captain-coach and missed the chance to nip the Dragons’ dynasty in the bud. He went back to Balmain in 1957 and won a World Cup with the Kangaroos the same year.

12. Dane Carlaw, Brisbane
The versatile former Broncos forward also has a versatile surname – rock, hill or burial mound.

He won a premiership with Brisbane in 2000 and two Origin series with Queensland in 2001 and ’02.

13. Ferris Ashton, Easts
Ashton was quite the sportsman. While serving in World War II, he was the Navy’s middleweight boxing champion. He also played first grade cricket for Waverley during his rugby league career.

He played 84 games for Easts between 1950 and 1956 and, while it wasn’t a successful period for the club, Ashton played eight Tests for Australia and toured with the Kangaroos in 1952-53.

After he retired, Ashton became a popular pundit on Channel Seven’s Controversy Corner, alongside Rex Mossop.

Bench: John Greengrass, David Barnhill, Heath L’Estrange and Paul Field.

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