FOOTBALL COVERAGE SPONSORED BY INTURA
By HARRY CLARKE
CHINCHILLA’S historic rugby league club has assembled a team of All Stars to take on a bunch of relative no-names from the east next month, and the line-up of players should send shivers down the spine of every opponent.
Players in the modern era grew up watching them. Their contemporaries wanted to be just like them. Canteen ladies swooned whenever these titans of the game strapped on a set of inch-long metal tags.
Lee Irwin, Mick Ashurst, Chrissy Davies, both “Cheesy” and “Burger” Iverson – the list of big names goes on.
The forward pack alone is something to behold with Chris Clarke and Steve Keating up front, Anthony Horswood at hooker, Steve Brownhalls and Simmo Colls playing second row and Patty Gleeson locking up the scrum.
Also among the Chinchilla All Stars’ extended 26-man squad are rugby league greats such as Noel O’Leary, Tim Pitt, Tim Keating and “Hurler” O’Dea.
Indeed, the trophies won between each player during their careers would fill an industrial-sized work shed.
The Chinchilla All Stars will host a so-called Legends of League team at Bulldog Park on Saturday, June 17.
Some readers might have also heard of a few players from the opposition such as Scott Prince, Sam Thaiday, Ben Hannant, John Hopoate, Antonio Winterstein and Kevin Campion.
The Legends of League are a makeshift team of former professional players who tour communities around Australia, taking on past local players in a friendly Over-35s match.
The organisation’s aim is to promote the code and build grassroots footy by also hosting social events, visiting schools and conducting coaching clinics with the youngsters.
“It’s also about reconnecting people with their own communities,” said Legends of League coordinator Craig Teevan.
“People use these events as a reunion, an opportunity to come back to town and relive their younger memories.
“It’s a good fundraiser for local, grassroots rugby league because all the money spent on game days goes back into the clubs so they can better their facilities or provide their kids with better equipment,” Teevan said.
“You don’t get to see these sorts of quality players in too many small towns and playing a game against the locals. We sometimes see upwards of 3,000 people come out to watch.
“The guys are very good in the communities. They’ll meet and mingle with the sponsors on the Friday which is always a good social day.
“The games are always tight. Our guys play as hard and as fast as the locals do, but they also like to show off their skills as well. A lot of people walk away from these games saying things like ‘Oh, Scotty Prince could still be playing NRL’.”
But the Legends of League players’ decorated careers in Maroons and Kangaroos jumpers are arguably eclipsed by what members of the Chinchilla All Stars have done on the bush footy paddock.
While Broncos forward Sam Thaiday might have won Dally M Second Rower of the Year for two years running, Chinchilla halfback Mick Ashurst was named Best and Fairest in the 1993 Terry Charles Cup Carnival to kick off a stunning comeback season at the age of 35.
Chrissy Davies and Anthony Horswood led the Chinchilla Bulldogs to south west rugby league premierships in 2014 and 2015, but Ben Hannant and Antonio Winterstein never won back to back grand finals for the Cowboys.
CHINCHILLA ALL STARS V LEGENDS OF LEAGUE, JUNE 17, BULLDOG PARK
FOOTBALL COVERAGE SPONSORED BY INTURA
“We’ve had a few of the old boys come down to club training and a couple of calves have gone already, but a couple of them are looking fitter than our A-grade players,” said Chinchilla Bulldogs president Charlie Redgen, in a chilling warning to the Legends of League.
“I tell you what – we’ve got some old boys that are keen to play footy. We’ve got 26 there and we probably could have picked a team of 50.
“The idea of putting the jersey back on was popular. I think we asked 26 people and we got 26 people saying ‘yes’. There was no hesitation from any of them.
“It will be a mix of good footy and good fun, then into a good night as it always is out here.”
The Legends of League squad will spend two days visiting schools in the district including at Miles and Jandowae and holding an official team announcement event at the Club Hotel on the evening of Friday, June 16.
A big Saturday at Bulldog Park will begin with junior games, an Under-16s game, a women’s game, and a local Under-25s Vs Over-25s hit out before the main game.
Sponsors of the event include WDC, Max Fitness, Chinchilla Club Hotel, Origin, CS Energy, Qube and Goondir Health Services.