It is not my intention to particularly name any players or dwell on their achievements but I shall probably name a few of the personalities of Gold Coast Rugby in the early years.
It was in the Gold Coast Bulletin in late 1964 that an advertisement appeared asking for people interested in playing Rugby Union on the Gold Coast.
The first formation meeting was held at a motel at Nobbies Beach, to which those interested went along. It was decided that there appeared to be enough interest to start a Rugby Union club here on the Gold Coast. An application was made to the QRU. John Ryan who was a member of the QRU Development Committee at the time was to be our first contact with the QRU.
A meeting was called to be held at a downstairs room at the old Chevron Hotel. This meeting was attended by people such as Tom Perrin who had represented Australia both in Rugby Union and Rugby League, Nap Palmer, the brother of Brian Palmer the ex Australian Coach, Ken Hughes, Paul Perrin (son of Tom, who played for Australia against Japan and France), Fred Fraser (a local media person and player), Crowey Fuller and Bob Sinclair (another New Zealander who had played 1st division Rugby in New Zealand and England and represented Middlesex County), Brian Callaghan – ex test referee, Chris Oxenford; Wren Bligh; John Fraser, Bruce King, John O’Connor ( “the baron”) and Gerry Murphy.
The first training runs for the new club were held at a small park directly behind where the Islander Hotel now stands. This ground in fact belonged to the Surfers Paradise State School. Grounds were not easy to get in those days and the first home ground for Gold Coast Rugby Union was at a park at Burleigh Heads, behind where the old picture theatre stood, named Rudd Park. This ground holds many memories for the teams that played there. Down the middle of the ground was a concrete cricket pitch and the local rule was that the player with the ball could run down the strip but he was not allowed to be tackled on the strip. Consequently, as the player with the ball arrived at the end of the concrete there were a hoard of players waiting there to take him out of play. So it was only the very brave who ran down the cricket pitch.
The ground ran roughly north south so the sun was no problem. At the northern end was Burleigh surf beach, where a considerable number of our players would ride their surf boards. It was commonplace for myself or someone else to go down to the rocks and yell out to the boys on their surf boards “you’re on in half an hour” and so the boys would catch another couple of waves and come wandering up to the rugby ground and proceed to play rugby in their board shorts.
Eventually we got our own rugby gear and so we were turned out as a team of respectable looking (at least) rugby players. The first jersey we designed had a blue yolk at the shoulders and a gold jersey. The QRU told me we couldn’t use that style because it was too much like a rugby league jersey, but nevertheless, we did use it.
In the first year the Gold Coast team were coached by Paul Perrin, who was also Captain and Bob Sinclair In those days I was a great fitness freak and the start of our training run was to assemble up on the point of Burleigh Rocks. I would then give all the team members numbers and so off we would go running along the beach towards the Miami Hotel. Every now and then I would stop the boys and ask them to number off. Should any of our members have dropped out in the run along the beach, we would turn around and run back toward Rudd Park until we found our person/s and then turn around and head off back toward the Miami Hotel. When we got to the hotel we would turn back toward Burleigh and run back along the road to Burleigh and up the very steep hill at the end along the top of the ridge and back to the point we had started at, then we would start our rugby training.
Some would have said at that time we didn’t have a lot of talent in our team, but there was no doubt that our team was the fittest in the competition.
It was in 1965 that Gold Coast played their first game of rugby, playing in the Brisbane sub-district competition. To help us get a team the first game was played at Rudd Park against the then very strong law clerks team. The Gold Coast team were devastating in their first game being very ably led by the might and strength of our fearless leader, Paul Perrin who delighted in destroying the opposition member who caught the ball from any kick off or twenty two yard drop out.
After the game, as we didn’t have a clubhouse, both teams would go across to the surf to have their after match shower. Very enjoyable! We would then go over the road to the Burleigh Hotel and get some cartons of beer and both teams would sit around on the grass at Rudd Park and enjoy an ale or two, or sometimes even more.
Eventually the proprietor of the hotel saw that there would be a bob in sales for him so he generously let us use two of the hotel guests rooms for the guys to shower in. Can you imagine 15 guys crammed into a hotel room getting showered and changed? ——————– any way it was a start !
The proprietor further allowed us the use of a back room at his pub to have our after match functions which was greatly appreciated. Our women would make a host of sandwiches for the teams to gorge themselves on while they partook of an ale or two, and so there were many memorable times held at the Hotel.
We had a very viable record in our first years in sub district. We won the competition in 1965, 66 & 67 & were runners up to the Bank of NSW losing by a penalty goal.
It would be remiss of me not to mention at this point the outstanding record of Paul Perrin & Fraser, his son. Paul played for Australia against a Japanese side and also against France in 1964. He also represented Brisbane & Queensland.
Fraser played for the Gold Coast eagles in 1986, 87 & 88. In 1989, 90 & 91, Fraser was selected to play for Queensland, and played against Argentina, London, France, Samoa & Fiji.
Two other players to play for Australia who were originally from the Gold Coast were, Mark Catchpole and Tony D’arcy.
Wren Bligh and Bruce King were our first representatives for Gold Coast, both being selected for the first official Queensland country team to be selected to play against a Brisbane XV. In a curtain raiser at Lang Park, to the South Africa v’s Australia test, in 1965.
Bruce King was also selected for the Queensland side & in fact is the only player ever to come from sub districts to play for Queensland.
In our first year of formation, 1965, we won the Queensland sub-district competition. A very good result from what I am sure was thought of as just a bunch of surfies.
No record of Gold Coast rugby would be complete without mention of our next talented player.
It was in 1966 that a very tall, robust character devoid of any feelings for his fellow rugby players joined our Gold Coast team. This gentle giant went by the name of Pat Rippin formerly from St. Pats old boys from Wellington, New Zealand. Pat bought the Seamist Motel at Burleigh and so it only seemed right that we graduated from the pub to Pat’s Motel for our after match functions. It would be nothing for Pat to carry an 18gallon keg up two flights of stairs to the sundeck by himself.
Anne, my wife asked me one day why the opposition team let out howls of anguish every time Pat went into a maul. I suggested to her that at the next game she watch Pat’s hands when he went into a maul. When I came off Anne was aghast and said to me “he doesn’t, does he ?” To which the answer was a very definite — yes! —
1966 was again to be the surf boys year and we again won the Queensland sub-district competition after some rather fiercely fought games.
1967 was not to be the Gold Coast’s lucky year and we went down by 3 points to the Bank of NSW. Probably the highlight of this year in my mind was the spirit shown by our one and only Fred Fraser. As I remember we played in both the 2nd grade and 1st grade sub–district finals, which were played at the Enoggera Army Barracks in Brisbane. The day turned out to be a real scorcher and the ground as hard as the asphalt road we had driven on to get there.
The 2nd grade final was naturally played first. Well, at full time the scores were equal and so the teams went into 10 minutes each way extra time. At the end of this period the scores were still locked and so, as different from today, the two teams went into another 10 minutes each way extra time. At the end of this time the opposition, (Bank of NSW) came out the winners and both teams were completely buggered.
The first grade was next to compete and certainly didn’t need much warming up.
Graeme Fuller was to be the 1st five eight for the Gold Coast 1st grade but unfortunately hadn’t turned up to the army barracks to play. Reluctantly I had to approach Fred Fraser who had just played in the 2nd grade marathon to fill in until “Crowey” turned up. As I approached Fred, needless to say, Fred was sucking very hard on a stubbie of xxxx, gasping for breath. When I delivered my request to Fred, he replied:
“Bobby, you’ve got to be kidding.”
I assured Fred that I wasn’t and he would only fill in until “Crowey” arrived. Well to cut the story a little short, at full time the scores in the 1st grade were locked and “Crowey” hadn’t turned up. Needless to say, Fred who looked like a greyhound, was also breathing like one who had just gone over 1500 metres. So on we (& Fred) went for the next ten minutes either way. At the end of this time, the scores were still locked – and “Crowey” still hadn’t turned up. So on we went for another 10 minutes each way. At the end of this extra time the Bank of NSW had come out the victors beating us by 3 points.
Our warrior of the day, Fred the Frog Fraser, had played 220 minutes of rugby in the heat of Ennogera. Not a bad effort for anyone but a remarkable feat for our greyhound “Fred Fraser.”
I saw the official opening of the Ballymore Complex. Certainly not as it is today and Gold Coast were invited to play law clerks as a curtain raiser to the main game. Both teams were very eager to display their talent on the brand new oval of Ballymore.
I got myself a new pair of boots to mark the occasion but come half time I had enormous blisters on my feet as I hadn’t bothered to soak my boots, as was the custom in those days. So at half time I sat down on the grass and was removing my boots when the referee came across to me to enquire what I was doing? Naturally I told him I was removing my boots! He enquired if I intended to go off for the rest of the game & I assured him that I certainly did not, to which he responded that it wouldn’t be the thing to do to play on the sacred turf of Ballymore in bare feet. But that wasn’t what happened, I played on!.
It was not long into the second half of the game when our hooker, Bill McCulloch, threw the ball to our number two in the lineout and he in turn returned it to Bill.
Bill took off down the sideline with the opposition winger in pursuit. I had followed Bill from my position of number 8. When Bill heard the hard breathing of the winger down his neck, he passed the ball in field to me. I ran infield with only the fullback to beat and Bill steaming up on the outside. I drew the fullback and passed the ball back to puffing Billy who with no one to beat ran about 22yards to the try line to score. The first official try at Ballymore! Unfortunately for Bill he decided that this try was to be one to be remembered and took a flying dive for the try line going about 3yards up in the air. Down came our hero, and landed on his shoulder resulting in a very good dislocation which put Bill out of the game.
It was in early 1968 that I was summoned to the “dungeon” (as it was referred to at Charlotte Street, the then headquarters of the QRU). I was told by the QRU management committee that the Gold Coast would have to come and play in the Brisbane 1st grade competition. There were two reasons given for this:
1. The Brisbane competition had a bye.
That in the opinion of the QRU, Gold Coast was not playing the right type of rugby for sub-district.
Well the second statement got me really going and I asked how was I supposed to tell my rugby players to go out and play sub-district rugby?? The Gold Coast players played to the best of their ability which had resulted in the coast winning two out of three grand finals.
The alternative given to me at the time was that the Gold Coast would not be sanctioned to play in any rugby competition under the QRU banner.
What alternative did we have??
Naturally we still got home games at Rudd Park but the games to be played in Brisbane were the problem.
The Surfers Paradise Beer Garden would open around 10am. I had an allocation of tickets to get our players into Ballymore free. At 11am I would go to the Surfers Paradise Beer Garden and do my rounds of the tables and bars trying to find anyone who might look like a rugby player and then try and entice them to come up to Ballymore to play rugby. Of course if the surf was up I knew that my efforts were going to be in vain. I would give these guys a ticket to get into Ballymore free.
There were about nine of our players who regularly turned out for the second grade first, came off the field, put on fresh jerseys and then turned out for the first grade.
Well as you can imagine, we didn’t have a wonderful amount of success in the venture into the Brisbane 1st grade competition. But it would be remiss of me not to mention the only win that we did have !!
Gold Coast were to play GPS. on the Easter weekend at Owen Park. David Clarke who at that time I think was the captain later told me that the GPS boys didn’t really see any problems in playing and defeating Gold Coast who hadn’t to that time won a game. So down to the coast came the GPS. boys and their wives and girlfriends and partook of a bbq washed down with many wines and then at the appropriate time went to Owen Park for their leisurley game against the Gold Coast. Well at that time I happened to be the captain/coach of the Gold Coast team and it certainly had not ever passed my own mind that we stood a chance in hell of beating GPS. but I knew that my guys would go out and give as good as they got.
At half time, as I remember, the score was 6-3 to GPS. Now this gave me great heart to think that we were so close to the magical GPS combination, which at that time contained some very talented players. We had the half time break at which I remember giving my team the biggest “gee” up of all times & instilling upon them that we certainly had a great chance of actually beating this wonderful team. Well we went out & played the second half and I cannot remember the exact score at the conclusion of the game, but I think it was something like 8 – 6 to the Gold Coast.
Believe me you have never seen a team of such exhilarated players as the Gold Coast boys. GPS went on to win the Brisbane 1st grade competition that year, only suffering one loss. I have never let David Clarke forget his teams one and only loss in 1968.
This bad run for the Gold Coast rugby boys was to see no rugby played in the year of 1969.
In 1970 a band of enthusiasts under the leadership of Chris Oxenford which included D. McDonald, P. Shakespear & D. Handyside reformed Rugby Union on the Gold Coast and the QRU wisely reinstated them in the sub-district competition.
Chris Oxenford coached the team in 1970 and C. Moon coached the team in 1971. I came back from New Guinea in 1973 and took over the coaching of the Gold Coast team.
It was in the off season of 1973 that a couple of guys came to me and said that they wanted to start a new rugby club on the Gold Coast. As I was aware of the problems in starting new rugby clubs I suggested to these two gentlemen, Col Macdonald & Barry Moon, that they should go to the next AGM of the Gold Coast Rugby Union and vote in the people that they thought were the right people to do the job. But they were insistent that they wanted to form a new rugby club and what was more ——– they wanted me to go with them to help set this new club up.
I told them that i wanted a week to think about it. After great consideration I decided that if we were ever going to get Rugby Union going really well on the Gold Coast then what we needed was more clubs & this was to be the start.
So in the year 1974 we saw the formation of the Surfers Paradise Rugby Union Club. Under the coaching instruction of ex Wallaby, Alan Ware, Surfers Paradise was granted the use of the TSS grounds to play their home games on.