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On the road: Rugby league’s highways and byways

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Roar Guru
22nd February, 2022
8

All roads lead back to rugby league, and with the 2022 NRL season looming into view it’s time to remember some players who were going places.

1. Roger Estrada, Villeneuve XIII
Estrada (paved way) was a French Championship and Cup winner with Villeneuve in the late 1950s and an understudy to French rugby league’s GOAT, Puig Aubert, for the national team. He played his only Test in France’s 23-22 win over Wales at Marseille in December 1953.

2. George Ruebner, Balmain
Ruebner was a rugby union international who joined Balmain in 1967 and represented New South Wales alongside Bob Fulton, John Raper, Graeme Langlands and Arthur Beetson in 1968.

He played a key role in Balmain’s 1969 premiership, scoring the last-gasp try that clinched the Tigers’ 15-14 preliminary final victory over Manly. While Reubner was injured in Balmain’s upset grand final victory over Souths, his replacement, Sid Williams, scored the try that clinched the premiership.

3. André Carrère, Bordeaux and Lézignan
Carrère was renowned for his blistering speed and fearless play in attack and defence. He played 30 Tests for France and toured Australia in 1955 and ’64.

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In April 1964, Rugby League News reported his pending arrival by noting that he was “one of the most spectacular rugby league players France has ever had”. However, not even Carrère could prevent a clean sweep by the Kangaroos of Johnny Raper, Graeme Langlands, Reg Gasnier and Ken Irvine.

Generic vintage rugby league or rugby union ball

(Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

4. Harry Street, St Helens, Dewsbury, Wigan, Leeds and Featherstone
Street toured Australia with Great Britain in 1950 and played all three Tests as the Lions lost the series 1-2 to Clive Churchill’s Kangaroos.

On the domestic front, he won a Championship final with Wigan in 1952 and a Challenge Cup final with Leeds in 1957.

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5. Johnny Ring, Wigan and Rochdale
Ring scored 368 tries in 331 games for Wigan between 1922 and ’31, a club record later eclipsed by Ring’s fellow Welshman Billy Boston.

Ring’s only appearance in Australia was England’s controversial 22-3 victory over Jim Craig’s Kangaroos at the SCG in June 1924.

Referee Tom McMahon sent off Kangaroos’ prop Norm Potter early in the second half, before awarding a decisive try to England captain Jonty Parkin despite strong suspicion of a double movement.

While police attempted to safely escort McMahon from the ground, he was reportedly punched from behind by an incensed spectator on his way through the SCG Members’ Stand.

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6. Gus Risman, Salford, Workington and Batley
The career of Augustus John Ferdinand Risman Sr spanned 26 seasons and after finally retiring in 1954 at the age of 43, he was inducted into the English and International Halls of Fame.

Only one player (Jim Sullivan) has played more first-class league matches than Risman’s 873, and only three players have exceeded his 4050 points.

The highlight of Risman’s international career was leading Great Britain to victory over the Kangaroos on the 1946 tour of Australia. Rugby league was rightly not considered a priority in post-war Britain, but the Australian government was determined to bring the Lions to Australia.

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The then-External Affairs Minister, Herbert ‘Doc’ Evatt, arranged for the Lions to travel to Australia aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, alongside soldiers on their way home from the war.

Risman and company were then stranded at the Fremantle naval base for 11 days before a long journey across the Nullarbor on an army train with no sleeping or washing facilities.

After a draw in the opening Test at the SCG, Risman’s Lions won the next two Tests convincingly to clinch the Ashes.

Source material for Ring and Risman: Whiticker, A & Collis, I (1994), Rugby League Test Matches in Australia, ABC Books

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7. Arthur ‘Pony’ Halloway, Glebe, Balmain and Easts
The diminutive Halloway started at halfback for Glebe in their 8-5 victory over Newcastle at Wentworth Park on Australian rugby league’s founding day in April 1908.

In August 1948, his Canterbury team slumped to a 23-15 defeat to Parramatta at Belmore in Halloway’s last game as a coach.

In between, he won ten premierships, seven as a player for Balmain and Easts and a further three as coach of the Tricolours. Halloway was posthumously inducted into Australia’s Hall of Fame in 2007.

8. Henry Holloway, Newtown, Brisbane Souths and Redcliffe
Holloway played in the Kangaroos’ series defeat at home to France in 1955 and in Newtown’s consecutive grand final defeats to Souths in 1954 and ’55.

He had better luck after moving to Queensland. Holloway was captain-coach of Redcliffe between 1963 and 1966 and led the club to its maiden Brisbane Rugby League title in 1965, alongside young stars Arthur Beetson and Kevin Yow Yeh.

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9. Tom Hemingway, Huddersfield, Blackpool, Featherstone, Dewsbury and Batley
Hemingway was a talented young half for Huddersfield who was rumoured to have attracted interest from NRL clubs, before a series of injuries cruelled his rugby league ambitions.

He did still manage a place in the record books after kicking an incredible 22 goals from as many attempts in Blackpool’s 132-0 victory over Gateshead in May 2010.

10. Matt Rua, Melbourne
Rua came off the bench for Melbourne in their 1999 grand final victory over St George Illawarra and played 11 Tests for New Zealand, including the 40-12 defeat to Australia in the 2000 World Cup final.

11. Shaun Lane, Canterbury, New Zealand, Manly and Parramatta
Lane’s still going places as a gangling back-rower for Parramatta in the NRL. But a series of coaches haven’t quite trusted him due to too many mistakes and penalties conceded.

Shaun Lane.

Shaun Lane. (Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

12. Chris Close, Redcliffe, Manly, Gold Coast and Hull KR
Close was a talisman for Queensland in the early days of State of Origin and a useful player for Manly around the same time.

But he struck me as a limited player. Gene Miles and Mal Meninga were preferred for Queensland and Close’s career petered out on the Gold Coast in the late ‘80s.

Credit where it’s due, though; he played nine Origins, three Tests for Australia and two grand finals for Manly.

13. George Stonestreet, Newtown
Stonestreet played 45 games for Newtown between 1937 and 1943 but missed the Bluebags’ challenger grand final victory over Norths in ’43. He’s the grandfather of noted litigant Terry Hill.

Bench
Brad Pike, Bill Bradstreet, Wyndham Emery and José Calle

Coach
Paul Moriarty

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