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Moree University Shield ties that bind still strong after 45 years

THE mighty Moree Boars celebrated 100 years of local rugby league at the weekend with a huge centenary ball at the Memorial Hall.

The ball featured guest speakers Tony Butterfield and David ‘Cement’ Gillespie as well as a charity auction hosted by David Watts that raised thousands of dollars.

Local league’s night-of-nights, which also honoured club stalwarts Alf Scott and Todd Mitchell followed a 30-all draw against arch-rivals Inverell Hawks at Boughton Oval on Saturday afternoon.

Hosted by Moree treasure Michael ‘Ando’ Andersen, the centenary celebrations brought together hundreds of past and present Moree players and supporters as well as club officials and committee members who packed down to laugh and reminisce about past great deeds and fond misdemeanours from a rugby league era that is rich in sporting and cultural history.

The weekend also brought together a group of hometown heroes that put Moree on the national sporting stage 45 years ago.

These are a group of blokes that are as close now as they were nearly half-a-century ago when, as Moree High School’s open-weight rugby league team, they swept through the 1973 University Shield competition undefeated.

The phenomenal run climaxed with a 13-12 grand-final win against Forbes High School at Gosford’s Grahame Park in front of 8000 spectators – and many team members were back in Moree at the weekend to celebrate and remember an incredible rugby league season that will never be forgotten.

The John McLean-coached team was made up of local league legends Mike Hadfield, Michael ‘Buster’ Duke, Terry Quinn, John Brooks, Bernie Briggs, Harry Allen, Peter Peachey, Greg King, Richard Brown, Stephen Dawson, Paul Peachey, Tony Dean, Peter Gillan, Stephen Jones, Gregg Humphries, John Brazier and Peter Butler.

Back row from left: Paul Peachey, Tony Dean, John Brooks, Terry Quinn, Richard Brown, Gregg Humphries and Peter Butler. Front row from left: Harry Allen, Mike Hadfield, Moree Services Club manager Leon Smith, Stephen Jones and Peter Peachey. (Image Copyright Bill Poulos).

Sadly, John ‘Greasy’ Brazier and Bernie ‘9’ Briggs, the team’s two youngest players, both succumbed to cancer in recent years.

Mike Hadfield, instrumental in organising team reunions over the past 15 years, said at a private lunch at Moree Services Club on Saturday that 1973 was indeed a special year in Moree’s history.

“We thought that it was only fitting that we should have our reunion at the Moree Services Club, given that the club kindly supplied all of us with University Shield blazers all those years ago,” Hadfield said.

“We still have them, and there are a couple of us that still fit into them, believe it or not, and we wear them with pride,” he smiled.

“It’s great that we can all get together again to think about a time in our lives when, really, we were pretty naïve,” he said.

“We learned a lot of things in that time and it was a time that we will never, ever forget – it is something that we will keep forever.

“And it was a period that evolved in to a lot of great things and the best thing that happened in that period of our lives was that we loved playing out footy – we enjoyed it and we had a lot of fun,” he said.

“Sadly, there are a couple of team members that aren’t with us anymore, Bernie and Greasy, and we miss them greatly.

“However, life goes on and we will continue to gather together in years to come for as long as we can.”

Team captain Terry Quinn, now CEO of NSW Country Rugby League, said that, back in the day, the university shield boys just didn’t quite grasp what they had achieved.

“The impact of what we did when we won that game was lost on us. The fact is that we didn’t know what we had done,” Quinn said.

“And I honestly believe that game of footy not only helped the Moree community but it helped us along in life as well.

“I know we’re all getting older, and I sometimes struggle to get up to Moree as often as I’d like, but I will always make my way here for something like this.

“I’m a proud Pally boy and, as we all know, Moree is a suburb of Pallamallawa,” Quinn smiled.

“But I was a very proud captain all those years ago and the unity that has grown between this team in the years since is magnificent.

“I thank everyone for being a part of it and for being friends of mine,” he said.

Words: Bill Poulos

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