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ABSOLUTELY

BLEEDING

THE RAIDERS STORY


RUGBY LEAGUE’S ULTIMATE COMMUNITY CLUB

DAVID HEADON

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First published in 2019

Copyright © Canberra District Rugby League Football Club Limited 2019

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CO N TEN TS

Forewordix
Acknowledgementsxi
Introduction1
1 Roots: Frederick Campbell to 19215
Foundation years 6
The strength of southern football 8
Points of the Lazarus sundial 9
2 A league of their own: 1921–8113
Rugby League begins 14
Bob Craig 15
Between the wars 18
A homegrown nursery 20
War years and after 26
International glamour 27
Blues, Roos and a blur named Larry 36
Changing the game 40
Time to roll up the sleeves 49

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viii

3 The Canberra phenomenon: 1982–8557


Sink or swim 57
The Pioneers, 1982 60
‘Upset of the decade’ and other achievements, 1983 69
Two steps forward, one step back, 1984 and 1985 74
4 A movie script come to life: 1986–8987
One long nightmare, 1986 87
So close and yet, 1987 96
Opportunity missed, 1988 110
‘Inside each of you is a dream’, 1989 119
5 The team of the ’90s: 1990–2001143
Oozing class, 1990 144
Rise, fall and rise again, 1991–93 152
Mal Meninga and the last crusade, 1994 168
Surviving Super League, 1995–96 181
The changing of the guard, 1997–2001 189
6 Harder yards: 2002–present205
Winters of content, winters of discontent, 2002–06 205
Leave your ego at the door, 2007–08 223
Return of a favourite son, 2009–13 233
Forever Green, 2014–19 260
7 Ties that bind285

Key sources 291


The Canberra Raiders  293
Index299

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FO R E WO RD

A few years ago I had a coffee with Dave Headon at a café in Charnwood
to discuss the idea of a history of the Canberra Raiders. We were
both excited at the prospect. Shortly after, I went to see Raiders Board
Chairman, Dr Allan Hawke, putting it to Allan that, with the 30th anni-
versary of the Raiders’ first premiership in 1989 getting close, the time
had come to preserve and celebrate the club’s story. Of course Allan
agreed. The project, a vital addition to the cultural history of the national
capital and its surrounds, had begun.
Numerous discussions with Dave since then have rekindled in me all
kinds of nostalgic memories. From the time my father Les founded
the club—an ambitious organisation from the start, keen to establish
its NRL credentials while losing nothing of its country charm—the
Raiders have carved out a special place in Rugby League. In the process,
the nation’s capital gained a genuine identity and, as so many commenta-
tors have since observed, a soul. The unbridled crowd scenes in downtown
Canberra after the mighty Green Machine’s premiership victories in
1989, 1990 and 1994 had to be witnessed to be believed. The club was still
a ‘family farm’, as one writer noted, it was just that the farm had expanded
into a whole community and, as the years passed, an entire region.

ix

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x A B S O L U T E LY B L E E D I N G G R E E N

The attractive way the Raiders played their football was a big part
of their lasting appeal, but so too was the quality of the individuals
involved. The overwhelming number of boys from the bush recruited
in the early years, from New South Wales and Queensland, gave the
Raiders a sturdy mix of integrity, humility and spirit of togetherness
that we have never lost, despite some testing times.
Through it all, one Raider stands out above the rest. I recall Mal
Meninga’s enduring impact on our club as if it was yesterday. During our
tough inaugural season in 1982 Canterbury Bulldogs Secretary, Peter
‘Bullfrog’ Moore, sidled up to me with the advice that to be successful
the club needed to recruit at least one ‘class player’. We embarked on a
search-­and-­locate mission. When I managed to sign Mal in late 1985,
the Raiders had secured a future champion. I just didn’t anticipate the
full extent of his magical influence to come.
The rest, as they say, is history—a history that ranges across a wonder-
ful array of champion players and champion blokes who have put such
value into the Raiders name over nearly four decades, building steadily
on the foundations of the mostly anonymous footballers throughout
the Monaro region who had exhilarated crowds for 100 years before
the Raiders began in 1982. This book supplies the essential context
of the deeper past, enabling readers to gain a full appreciation of the
achievements of the last few decades.
Back in the late 1980s Raider Hall of Famer Dean Lance, at the
end of an exemplary career that had produced some of the game’s
most memorable tackles, commented that the Raiders are more than a
football club, they’re ‘a way of life’. Nothing has changed.

John McIntyre,
Canberra Raiders Patron
and proud Life Member

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ACKN OW LE D G E M E NTS

When researching and writing this history over the last three years,
I have received nothing but encouragement and support from everyone
in the Canberra Raiders club. In particular, I would like to thank John
McIntyre, Mal Meninga, Ricky Stuart and Chris O’Sullivan, who gave
so generously of their time, along with Don Furner, Simon Hawkins,
Marian Furner, Anita McIntyre, Allan Hawke, Yvonne Gillett, Tim
Sheens and Steve O’Callaghan.
Ros Kelly, Monsignor John Woods, John Mackay and Dennis
Richardson provided valuable input, and I was also helped by some sage
advice from a number of Raiders players, both past and present. These
included Jay Hoffman, Steve Walters, Glenn Lazarus, Steve Jackson,
Dave Furner (as player and coach), Andrew McFadden, Brett White,
Terry Campese, Sia Soliola and Matt Ford. A discussion I had with the
late David Grant’s wife, Louise, came at just the right moment to assist
me with my work on the club’s formative years in the early 1980s.
I did feel the weight of expectation of a few wise spirits, individu-
als of consequence who are no longer with us but whose inspirational
presence was palpable. They are given their due in these pages, though I
felt they should also be mentioned separately in my acknowledgments.

xi

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xii A B S O L U T E LY B L E E D I N G G R E E N

I speak of the club’s founder, Les McIntyre, genial Fred Daley, first club
captain David Grant, the tireless Don Elphick and Meningans’ founder,
Dr Geoff Caldwell.
I was subtly pushed along by a host of Green Machine enthusiasts
such as Wendy Wilson, Gary Dunbar, Dave Rickard, Steve French,
Bec Macdonald and the irrepressible Tony ‘Victor the Viking’ Wood.
However, I must give special mention to my wonderful research
assistant, Tessa Wooldridge. A Raiders ‘tragic’, Tessa brought energy,
resourcefulness and unfailing good humour to every task I set her. She
never let me down. The same can be said about Jason Mathie, the club’s
commercial and marketing manager, who provided help whenever
called upon.
When I was growing up on the northern beaches of Sydney—it
seems an age ago now—I spent season after season in the 1950s taking
the green double-­decker bus to Brookie Oval with my mates to watch
the Manly Seagulls in action. Back then, the team comprised mostly
locals. It was a different era, many years before the ‘Silvertail’ Eagles
image was created. After living overseas and in Darwin for a number
of years, I headed to Seiffert Oval for the first time in mid-­1985. Fond
memories of my childhood came flooding back. I was hooked, and
the expanding Headon clan shared the enthusiasm. We became just
another family of ardent fans even before the great Meninga arrived
and changed everything.
Finally, I want to thank my wife and best friend, Billie. Writing this
book meant that our retirements had to be postponed. I had a million
newspaper reports to peruse, and she had to puzzle through my pencil
drafts, type the manuscript from go to whoa, correct untidy syntax here
and there and gently urge me to ease up on those I was perhaps treating
too harshly. Her enjoyment of the unfolding story kept me rolling along.

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I N TRO D UCT IO N

In their monumental A Centenary of Rugby League 1908–2008, Ian


Heads and David Middleton describe the Canberra Raiders’ first
premiership success in 1989 as, quite simply, the code’s ‘Greatest
Grand Final’. Ever. Make no mistake, the Raiders’ opponents that day,
Warren Ryan’s Balmain Tigers, played their part in a game which was
one for the ages. But the Raiders’ young guns, expertly marshalled by
Dean Lance and Mal Meninga, played a brand of football that couldn’t,
and in the end wouldn’t, be denied. Exciting, adventurous, full of
precocious ambition and relentless attack.
Older Raider supporters today remember exactly where they were
during the late afternoon of 24 September 1989 when John ‘Chicka’
Ferguson stepped, stepped and stepped again into history, Chris
O’Sullivan kicked a crucial extra-­time field goal and Steve Jackson
­bullocked his way over for the match-­winning try that ensured him
free dining-­out rights at any Raider function for the rest of his life.
Renowned Australian novelist Tom Keneally, a Manly Sea Eagles
fan, joined a host of ecstatic commentators struggling to find words
worthy enough to describe the game they had just watched. Keneally
perhaps summed up the euphoria best when he declared it was ‘a movie

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2 A B S O L U T E LY B L E E D I N G G R E E N

script that came to life’, a game destined to be ‘a unique memory’. Ricky


Stuart’s boots (given to him by fellow-­Queanbeyan product, rugby
legend David Campese) were compared by Keneally to ‘fragments of the
True Cross’. Too far-­fetched? Not for the hordes of Raider true believers.
For the fledgling Raider club (with its wide geographical reach
across the Limestone Plains and beyond), this first climax in 1989
was early reward indeed. But the achievement also provided a ringing
endorsement for the notable history of Rugby League in southern New
South Wales, with its honoured traditions throughout the Monaro
and surrounds—traditions and inter-­town rivalries virtually as old as
anywhere in Australia.
The first European visitors to the Canberra region pitched their
tents in 1820 on what is today called Acton Peninsula, a small, fertile
area nurtured by the Ngunnawal for many millennia, and now a stone’s
throw from the Australian National University. Within decades, only a
few miles away up a dirt track north in Ginninderra, Canberra’s rich
sporting history began. First it was wallaby-­shooting, horse-­racing
and cricket. Then Rugby Union in the 1870s. When Rugby League, the
professional game, began in Sydney in 1908 it took just over ten years
for it to plant lasting roots in the Canberra–Queanbeyan area.
While the ‘foundation’ Sydney Rugby League teams rightly boast
of their longevity, the occasional pundit still persists in labelling the
Canberra Raiders as johnny-­come-­latelys. Such comments are either
naïve or ill-­informed, or both. For not only did the Raiders become the
first non-­Sydney team (with Illawarra) to play in the Sydney compe-
tition; not only did the club win a classic Grand Final a mere eight
years after its controversial entry into the competition; not only did the
team go on to win two more premierships in quick succession playing
football that arguably re-­set the parameters of the modern game; not
only did they do this by introducing to the code a raft of fresh, new
cham­pions, and a few older ones, many of whom have gone on to
establish the enlightened coaching patterns of the 21st-century game—
but they did all of this starting from modest beginnings with a group of

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I ntroduction 3

players whose character, 1982 right up to the present, has been matched
only by their pride in the distinctive lime-­green jersey.
When I was considering titles for this history a couple of years ago,
the Canberra Times newspaper ran a story on the new ACT Australian
of the Year, Raider cult hero Alan Tongue. The story featured an old
photo of Tonguey training with his (then) ultra–Gen Y teammate,
a young, spiky-­haired, blond-­tipped Jarrod Croker. Asked to recall
Tongue as a player years later, captain Croker summed him up
perfectly: ‘For the size of him, he was one of the toughest blokes I ever
played with. Guys like that . . . made you want to come back every
week and pull that green jersey on. That’s what it’s all about. You
play for guys like that every week . . . You see guys like Tonguey who
absolutely bleed green.’
When present-­day coach, club and rugby league legend Ricky
Stuart took up his new post in late 2013 he could not conceal his
delight in coming home. Stuart soon made it clear that he wanted
the Raiders back on their rightful pedestal, after some lean years, as
one of rugby league’s leading clubs. A product of the powerhouse
St Edmund’s College in the heart of Canberra, Stuart has many times
stated in the media that a crucial part of the pursuit of rugby league
excellence involves his players understanding their place in the history
of the club.
The pioneer Raider players might not have realised it when they
ran onto Queanbeyan’s Seiffert Oval for the first time in a competi-
tion game against Western Suburbs on a mild March evening in 1982,
but they had become overnight ambassadors for a game which had
been played with gusto in the region for over 60 years. Stuart strives to
ensure that the present-­day group is well aware of its responsibilities
and connection to the past. When Chicka Ferguson was special guest
in the dressing room before a Raiders game a few years ago the coach
afterwards noted with satisfaction that his players ‘feel the history
and . . . respect our past players had for the club. Seeing someone
like John come in . . . they see this is more than a football club. It’s a

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4 A B S O L U T E LY B L E E D I N G G R E E N

lifestyle . . . the players have their teammates as their family, that’s what
this club is built on.’
Canberra Rugby League, Raiders football. This great club has a
wonderful story to tell. The time has come to tell it.

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1
ROOTS
FR E DE R I C K CA MPB ELL TO 1921

Early newspaper reports confirm that the first games of contact


football in the Australian colonies were played by members of the
military. In 1829, a journalist for the Sydney Monitor newspaper
noted for his readers that ‘privates in the barracks are in the habit of
amusing themselves with the game of football’. What those privates
were actually playing we’ll never know, but within a few decades in
England and in New South Wales the biff and barge of some version
of footy acquired rules to create a code that had been developing as
part of English folk football for hundreds of years. Some participants
insisted on using their feet; others wanted to pick the ball up and run
with it. William Webb Ellis is usually cited as the first notable ball
carrier, back in 1823.
The renowned Rugby school in England produced a first set of rules
in written form for the running game during the 1840s. In colonial
Sydney, the Albert Cricket Club published the codified ‘Rules of
Football as Played at Rugby’ in the club’s annual reports of 1862 and
1863. Throughout the 1860s in New South Wales scratch matches were
regularly organised, with the first well-­publicised game taking place
in Sydney’s Hyde Park on 17 June 1865. It took a few more years, but

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6 A B S O L U T E LY B L E E D I N G G R E E N

eventually a pattern of inter-­school invitation games paved the way for


the formation of the Southern Rugby Football Union (later the New
South Wales Rugby Football Union) in 1874. This was the same year
that the first two country school rugby teams were established, one in
the west at All Saints’ College, Bathurst, and the other down south at
St Patrick’s College, Goulburn. The game was spreading, taking root.

Found ation yea rs


In these formative years, rugby found its home among the middle
classes of the ‘Mother Colony’ of New South Wales, so it was hardly
surprising that the sons of the more prosperous citizenry—profes-
sional men, landed gentry, merchants and miners who had struck it
rich—had established a Sydney University Football Club by the mid-­
1860s. On 19 August 1865, the students played the Sydney Football
Club in ‘an exciting struggle’ marred, it seems, by ‘a misunderstanding
with regard to the rules’.
The captain of the University side that day was 21-­year-­old Frederick
Campbell, grandson of the influential founder of Canberra’s Duntroon
Station, the merchant, Robert Campbell. Born in 1846 and educated at
the prestigious Cholmeley School in Highgate on the edge of London
(where he was a classmate of renowned Australian novelist, Marcus
Clark, best known for the classic convict novel, For the Term of His
Natural Life), Fred returned to Australia in 1864 following the acciden-
tal death of his older brother at Cambridge and, shortly after, the death
of his mother. He loved his rugby and played a leading role in the estab-
lishment in Sydney of the University’s rugby club and the introduction
of the game to his fellow-­colonists living on the distant Monaro plains.
Campbell purchased Yarralumla homestead in 1882. Within ten
years he had made a series of such splendid additions and adorn-
ments to the main residence that when Canberra was confirmed as the
nation’s capital in 1908, and the Commonwealth had acquired all
the land it needed, Campbell’s fine home became the Governor-­
General’s residence. It still is.

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ROOTS 7

If the rugby game was firmly in the hands of well-­to-­do colonists in


Sydney and country New South Wales in the 1860s and ’70s, this situ-
ation changed completely in the 1880s and ’90s for a few reasons, the
most important of them when working men for the first time gained
more leisure hours on the weekends. As historian Chris Cunneen
points out in League of a Nation (1996), by 1888 banks and business
houses were closed on Saturdays at twelve o’clock and within twenty
years the only workers not getting a half-­day holiday on Saturday after-
noons were shop employees. The composition of rugby teams altered
substantially as a result. Working men revelled in the toughness of
the game and many had the physical attributes to succeed. There was
only one problem: as the game got rougher, injuries increased. For
those working-­class players who got badly hurt there was no financial
compensation or assistance whatsoever.
It did not take long for the issue of payment of players to be dis­
cussed, even within doggedly amateur, middle-­class rugby circles. In
1894–95, England’s workers with a liking for rugby, virtually all of them
located in the industrial cities of the north, took action and created a set
of new rules for what they called the Northern Union game—the first
version of Rugby League. It would be professional. Players did not get
much money, but whatever they got helped.
Australia embraced the new code after a boisterous meeting attract-
ing about 50 men of influence took place at Bateman’s Crystal Hotel in
George Street, Sydney, on 8 August 1907, to establish the New South
Wales Rugby League. Henry ‘Harry’ Hoyle, a 54-­year-­old former Labor
politician known for his fiery trade union speeches, was elected pres-
ident; J.J. Giltinan, an entrepreneur and former commercial salesman
with a passion for all sport, became honorary secretary; and the legend-
ary cricketer Victor Trumper assumed the treasurer’s duties.
It was clear at the outset that the new game (called ‘Rugby League’ in
Australia from the start) had to be taken seriously by rugby’s diehards.
Those who chose to ignore it initially were forced to recognise the
challenge posed when, in August 1909, the ‘Great Defection’ occurred:

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8 A B S O L U T E LY B L E E D I N G G R E E N

fourteen rugby union Wallaby players changed codes. Considering their


day jobs, this should not have surprised anyone. Four were labourers,
two painters, two carpenters, a fish seller, storeman, boilermaker, clerk,
wharfie, journalist, boat builder, draper, fireman, tailor, compositor,
cleaner and two others of vocation unknown.
Here was proof positive of the extraordinary changes that had
dramatically altered rugby’s playing ranks. Until then, the game’s
adherents had been confident the code would survive the league threat.
The ‘Great Defection’, together with the vital signing to league of the
most celebrated player in either code, Herbert Henry ‘Dally’ Messenger,
gave Rugby League a momentum that—when it continued to be played
during the Great War years and rugby was not—it would never lose.

The stren gt h of s ou t h ern foot b a l l


From the early 1870s some of the young men of the Limestone Plains
decided that they too would like to pick up a footy and run with it.
Settlements near and far produced scratch teams, among them
Michelago, Williamsdale, Tuggeranong, Gundaroo and Bungendore,
and the more distant and populated Goulburn, Yass and Cooma.
Records suggest that the first inter-­town game of rugby down south,
between Queanbeyan and Yass, took place in 1878, in the same decade
that the code’s fortunes accelerated in Sydney.
The Ginninderra community had a special advantage from the start.
In 1864, by coincidence the year that Frederick Campbell returned to
Australia, the Cricketers’ Arms Hotel at One Tree Hill (a stone’s throw
from what is now the ACT village of Hall in northern Canberra) opened
for business. It became a hub for a range of sporting activities, attract-
ing the locals in droves and many settler sportsmen from further afield.
So popular did the Cricketers’ Arms become that when Sydney-­based
politician, committed republican E.W. O’Sullivan, stood for and won
the NSW Legislative Assembly seat of Queanbeyan in October 1885,
he made it his business at election time over the next twenty years to
travel down from Sydney, shout the bar at the hotel and move with

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ROOTS 9

dramatic flair into a recitation of his signature poem, Advance Australia.


Typically, as the Goulburn Evening Penny Post recorded in July 1894,
O’Sullivan would then treat ‘his audience to a couple of excellent songs,
after which he took his departure amid cheers’. On other occasions he
made good use of the balcony of Queanbeyan’s Royal Hotel to deliver
his persuasive mix of Federationist, feminist and sporting sentiments.
He was an avowed believer in the exciting possibilities ahead for the
Australian community, ‘a remarkably athletic people’.
Frederick Campbell was patron of the Queanbeyan District Football
Club in the mid-­1890s while Edward O’Sullivan, for two decades
(1885–1904) Queanbeyan’s activist Legislative Assembly member, was
the patron of the Ginninderra Football Club about the same time.

Points of t h e La za ru s s u n dia l
In 1860, Nathan Moses Lazarus donated a sundial to his adopted
hometown of Queanbeyan. His gift adorns a small square in front of the
Visitors’ Centre in the town today. A civic-­minded, free migrant son of
a Jewish couple who had themselves migrated from Holland to Britain,
Nathan was well aware that his father, employed in the textile industry,
had worked hard to feed and clothe his family in inner-­city London.
Times were tough. Nathan decided to strike out for the colonies to seek
a new life.
Nathan Moses Lazarus’s great-­ great-­
grandson is Glenn Patrick
Lazarus, the ‘brick with eyes’, an integral part of the Canberra Raiders’
machine in the club’s first two historic premiership wins in 1989 and
1990. Glenn is a confirmed Raiders and Rugby League legend, but more
on that later.
The Lazarus family’s involvement in all aspects of early rugby in
Queanbeyan was one of the mainstays of the game’s popularity in
the town in the decades before the Great War. The Queanbeyan Age
records that a ‘Lazarus’ played in a game against Cooma in June 1882.
This young man was certainly one of the eight sons (and ten children)
of Nathan and his wife, Harriet Grogan—an English-­born, Roman

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1 0 A B S O L U T E LY B L E E D I N G G R E E N

Catholic woman for whom Nathan converted to Catholicism. The resil-


ient Harriet had her first child aged 36, her last child aged 52 and lived
to be 100! It’s all there in the genes, as they say. The Lazarus who played
in the Cooma fixture was probably the third son, Isaiah, and the game
he played in took place exactly 100 years before the Canberra Raiders’
inaugural season in the Sydney Rugby League competition. Members
of the Lazarus family regularly assumed administrative positions and
team selection responsibilities, but their contribution was just one
family expression of many in a thriving, 19th-­century rural township
intent on growth and, with it, enhanced quality of life.
At the time of Federation in 1901, Queanbeyan fielded teams vari-
ously named the Golden Eagles, the Young Men’s Football Club (YMFC,
organised by the local Presbyterian minister), the Boys’ Club and the
Seniors. Family members could be pitted against one another, as was
the case in July 1906 when a ‘Lazarus L.’ turned out for the Warrigals
against a ‘Lazarus A’. The A. Lazarus was Alf, Alfred William, a grand
uncle of Glenn who, unlike his grandnephew, was an attacking centre.
The Queanbeyan Age reported on the July 1906 game that he ‘smartly
picked up the ball and evading opponents, crossed the line and scored’.
A more likely role model in the family tree for the Raiders’ Glenn was
probably his great grandfather’s brother, Isaiah, who was badly injured
playing his part in a June 1888 Queanbeyan–Goulburn game that was
a particularly willing contest. As the Queanbeyan Age reported: ‘In one
of the scrimmages a Queanbeyan player collared a Goulburn man about
the region of the scalp; the man so collared resented this treatment by
giving his opponent a gentle shaking, upon which the Queanbeyan player
referred to, in a clear and melodious tone, informed several of the visitors
that if they “required anything”, his address was Royal Hotel, back yard.’
Intense inter-­town and inter-­settlement rivalries began at this time,
with the Queanbeyan teams comprising just some of a number of
regional teams vying for local supremacy. These included the Cooma
Rovers, Cooma Carltons, Cooma Juniors and Cooma Waratahs, Yass,
Goulburn Pioneers, Gunning, Bungendore, Braidwood, Captains Flat,

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ROOTS 11

Numeralla and Hall. In 1905 Queanbeyan hosted a Sydney Tramways


team and in 1906 teams from Queanbeyan, Yass, Goulburn and
Cooma began competing for the coveted Ryrie Cup. Queanbeyan and
Braidwood agreed to do battle for the Mandelson Cup, probably the
first time in the region that a well-­known hotel owner had sponsored a
sporting event. It would not be the last.
Amenable locations for post-­match gatherings were an important
part of country football’s appeal from the start. For many years, the
Cricketers’ Arms was the best-­known spot in the area but as soon as
towns (in the region and across the country) began to be more than a
few tents, shanties and pockets of itinerants, multi-­purpose hotels of
all shapes and sizes were built. The Cricketers’ Arms became even more
popular post-­Federation, especially when Morris ‘Mon’ Lazarus took
over as licensee in August 1905. Mon, the oldest son of original patriarch
Nathan, made many improvements to the hotel, which thrived until
1908 when Yass/Canberra was announced as the site of the nation’s new
capital city and Commonwealth priorities took precedence.
Queanbeyan’s expanding population in the new century inevitably
led to more pubs. Three were popular haunts for sporting clubs of all
kinds, particularly the rugby fraternity: Hungerford’s Victoria Hotel
(favoured by the Golden Eagles team), the Royal Hotel and McPherson’s
Commercial Hotel. Alex McPherson, born in Dingo Creek, was the
first proprietor of McPherson’s. For a while this pub was probably the
Queanbeyan sportsman’s first choice; later, the name became better
known locally because of the McPhersons’ violin-­playing, thespian
and footballing son, Alexander ‘Barney’ McPherson, another talented
Queanbeyan youngster who went on to play first grade in Sydney.
When the unimaginatively named ‘Queanbeyan Football Club’
team was renamed the ‘Warrigals’ after the native dog, the dingo, it
took immediate confidence from the rebranding. On the back of this
initiative, the Warrigals designed a new guernsey and, henceforth, their
players turned out in a distinctive blue and white horizontal strip.
The Warrigals quickly became Queanbeyan’s most successful team, a

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situation that remained basically unchanged through the Great War


and for some years after.
A bare three weeks after the Royal Military College (Duntroon)
formally opened in 1911, the cadets put a rugby team together to play
the best side in the region. It had to be the Warrigals. Over the next
decade, the ranks of the college would be decimated, first on the hills
of Gallipoli and after that in the mud of the Western Front. While the
cadets’ team would continue to play rugby post-­war, for many years
it carried on under the terrible shadow of young lives lost. The game
was not the same. Nor was it for their first-­ever opponents, but for
entirely different reasons. The Warrigals’ game quite literally changed
completely. Why and how did this happen?

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