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Rugby league has been played in Moree for 100 years – and Alf Scott has been around for 94 of them

RUGBY league has been played at competition level in Moree for 100 years – and living treasure and local league historian Alf Scott has been around for 94 of them.

And, incredibly, for 71 of those 94 years, Alf has been directly involved at club and group level with the game he loves.

Alf has been kicking goals for nearly as long as the game of rugby league has been played in Moree and he remembers with absolute clarity every try scored, every goal kicked and every tackle made – and every player involved.

And he has kept a meticulous eye on the ball for every one of those years.

“I was about nine or 10 when I started sneaking over to Taylor Oval to watch the league games,” Alf smiled.

“There was no grass on the oval back then, and in those days there used to be a garbage tip about where Woolworths is now.

“It was not uncommon to see a bit of glass or tin sticking up out of the ground when the teams were playing,” he chuckled.

Since those early days, Alf has seen the glory days and grand-final triumphs as well as the low ebbs and despairing disappointments; the great players and the great games.

Moree legend Alf Scott. He has just recently retired as a committee member of Moree Boars Rugby League Football Club after more than 70 years. He is looking forward to centenary celebrations at Moree Memorial Hall on Saturday, July 21 (Image: Copyright Bill Poulos).

They are treasured memories that Alf has kept alive for nearly a century and he will share many of those special moments at Moree Memorial Hall on July 21 when Moree Boars celebrates 100 years of local rugby league.

It was only recently that Alf retired from the Moree Boars Rugby League Football Club committee, after more than 70 years of hands-on involvement.

And one of Alf’s most cherished milestones during that seven-decade-long journey was being afforded life membership of the club – 45 years ago.

That was back in 1973 when the club was known as The Big M.

For a person as enduring as Alf, that milestone seems like, well, half a lifetime ago.

“Being made a life member was one of my proudest moments . . . it was something that I just didn’t expect,” Alf said.

Two years ago, Moree Boars unveiled the Alf Scott Medal, an annual award that recognises individuals responsible for the growth, prosperity and success of the Moree Boars.

“I was very emotional the night I found out that there was to be an award named after me,” Alf said.

“It’s been going for two years now, and can be awarded to anyone associated with the club; it could be a player, an official, a coach, a committee member or anybody that has done great things for the Moree Boars. Honestly, I’m humbled by it,” he said.

But humbled is something that Alf Scott shouldn’t be.

Alf Scott receives Moree rugby league life membership on November 2, 1973 from another local legend, Harry Sullivan.

His contribution to rugby league in Moree and across the district is colossal, and what he doesn’t know about the game on a local and regional level is simply not worth knowing.

For more than 60 years Alf kept meticulous records and statistics centred on his beloved Boars, and those records are now safely held in Moree and District Historical Society archives.

“In 1956 a chap called Brian Bowman had started a book, or ledger, of every player in each grade. It listed who had scored tries and kicked goals, how many penalty counts and free kicks were made in each game and how many scrums were won,” Alf said.

“He came and saw me one day and told me that he was ‘keeping a bit of a record’ and asked if I would like to keep it going.

“I thought it might keep me occupied but didn’t realise exactly what it entailed,” he chuckled.

“Anyway, I started writing down all these records and statistics and have kept them going since 1955, when Brian Bowman started them.

“The historical society now has them all on discs, something that I can thank ‘Poey’ Raveneau for.

“He helped me out a hell of a lot and Theresa Fletcher, the Moree TAFE librarian, did a fantastic job helping me as well – I only know the basics, when it comes to computers,” he said.

The digital archives also hold historical photographs and images as well as a list of every president, secretary and treasurer for each year, and every coach of every grade for each season going back 63 years.

It is a veritable time capsule of an immensely important chapter of Moree’s sporting history.

“Every player that has played over 100 games is also listed as well as players that have played more than 200 games. The winner of every Moree Champion Best and Fairest Award for each year, which started in 1957, is also there,” Alf said.

And, while Alf has finally decided to hang up the boots, so to speak, and retire from club duties six years shy of his 100th birthday, his important legacy will live on.

That oval-shaped ball that Alf has been kicking all those goals with over the decades has been flick-passed to Moree Boars’ treasurer Kerry McDonald – and it’s a fitting appointment.

After all, Kerry was the inaugural Alf Scott Medal winner in 2016.

“Kerry will continue doing the record-keeping that was started by Brian Bowman before being handed to me,” Alf said.

“Kerry is very good, and a great club person. I know she’ll do a great job.”

Kerry was club secretary-treasurer for three years before this season passing secretarial duties to Ashlee Johnston.

“Holding both positions was quite overwhelming, which I’m sure Alf can vouch for given that he held them both for quite some time,” Kerry said.

“Alf handed down the job of record-keeping to me and I’m quite sure he has done this with great reluctance – not that he doesn’t think I’m up to the task, but simply because he loved doing it himself. 

“I hope I can carry on this position with the justice it deserves, time will tell,” she smiled.

Kerry said that Alf will be sorely missed from Moree Boars committee meetings in the future – his knowledge and wisdom is invaluable.

“I’m saddened by Alf’s retirement from the Moree Boars, although after all his dedicated years of service and commitment it is well-earned and deserved,” she said. 

“Alf will always be a part of the club and his commitment will live on with the annual giving of the Alf Scott Medal at Moree Boars’ presentation nights.

“The award was established in 2016 as we wanted to show Alf that he was truly appreciated by those of us involved with the club, and I can assure him that this medal will a part of the Boars’ annual presentation proceedings for many years to come.

“Alf has been the heart of the Moree Boars. The rest of us just revolve around him, doing what we need to do to keep it running.  

The Big M in 1961: Alf Scott says Clive Churchill (No.1 in centre) was the best player he has ever seen. He is flanked by team-mates and club officials (back row from left) Don Ford, Keith Jarvis, Kevin Burke, Ces Fitzsimmons, Harold Broderick, Arthur ‘Tich’ Henderson, Reg Mitchell, Doug Houlahan, Alf Hardman, and Bob Picone. Middle row from left: Ivan Shearer, Heiz Blume, Noel Tolhurst, Clive Churchill, George Brooks, John Cook, and Vince Naftel. Front row from left: Danny Shearer, ball-boy Michael Clarke and Rodney Skaines.

“There is not one person that has given more time to this club than Alf Scott – he’s given a lifetime and he has done more than his fair share,” Kerry said. 

Alf has just about seen it all in nearly 100 years.

He can rattle off memorable games, high points and low points, and players and administrators from different eras that all left indelible marks.

On the field he regards the great Clive Churchill as Moree’s biggest signing while in the boardroom in later years he names blokes like Burt Jovanovich, Todd Mitchell and Paul Raveneau – senior and junior – as great club men.

“They are the people that kept the game going in Moree,” Alf said.

“I really believe that Burt was one of the greatest of men for what he did for rugby league over the years for Moree and what Todd Mitchell has done for local football is unbelievable.”

Out on the paddock, surnames like Mahaffey, Jurd, Quinn, Hardman, Henderson, Blake, Mather, Peachey, Girard, Ritchie, McFadyen, Broderick, McGrady, Ryan, Shearer, Briggs, Brooks, Roberts, McLaren, Dean, Skaines, Wright, Swan, Sampson, Scott, Rice, Cook and Raveneau are well up in the top-half of Alf’s player roster.

“There have been 1800 players listed on our records since 1956. Don’t forget, I’m 94, so there’s a chance I might have missed one or two names,” Alf smiled.

“I think Barry McGrady was the most under-rated player I’ve ever seen but I would class Ewan McGrady as the best footballer I’ve seen in the modern era.

“Ivan Shearer in his era was the best and could play in any position, any time,” he said.

“Alf Hardman was a fantastic hooker and could have played for any Sydney team.

“But Churchill was the best in his era and I can honestly say that he was the best footballer that I’ve ever seen,” Alf said.

Alf recalls the heady days of 1960 when Moree signed Churchill for seven weeks to co-coach with Ernie Gilligan.

Just 12 months earlier Churchill had been the coach of the Australian Kangaroos on the tour of England and France.

“We won the grand-final that year against Armidale,” Alf said.

“The following year we went back to Sydney and signed Clive up again, and when he came back to Moree it was the last captain-coach position of his playing career.

“When Moree travelled to play, no matter where we went or what clubs we went to in Group 5, every game drew a crowd as if it was a grand-final – people were drawn to the ground to see Clive play,” he said.

Churchill, who won five ARL premierships with South Sydney Rabbitohs as a player and another three as coach, played 34 Tests for Australia and captained his country in 24 of them.

In 2008 Churchill made Australia’s greatest 100 players list and later that year was named fullback in Australian rugby league’s Team of the Century.

He played the entire 1961 season with Moree – his swansong from rugby league.

“The last games Clive played were for Moree and, unfortunately, we were beaten by Warialda in the grand-final,” Alf said.

“It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at Taylor Oval. There were people on the ground right up to the side-lines and more people stacked on semi-trailers all the way around the ground.”

The Big M was beaten that historic day but, as Alf recalls, Moree set a record that is unlikely to be bettered, let alone equalled.

“That day was the only time in the history of any type of sport in the world – yes, in the world – that three grand-finals for different codes were played on the same day,” Alf said.

Moree played Ashford in the regional soccer grand-final, with Moree winning.

Gunnedah was then beaten by Moree in the zone rugby union grand-final.

“Moree met Warialda in the rugby league grand-final after those two games. Sadly, Moree lost that one,” Alf said.

“But it was a huge day; the biggest Moree has ever seen, I reckon.

“We took so much money at the gate and canteen that the only safe place that we could put it for the night was at the police station – they gave us a key and we stuck the money in a cell,” he laughed.

Yes, Alf has just about seen it all in more than 70 years’ involvement with Moree rugby league.

And, he is quietly confident that the Boars can give Moree the centenary season it deserves.

“I’m very pleased to see Moree doing so well in all grades this season because we’ve been battling for a number of years,” Alf said.

“We were getting beaten by big margins but turned up every week regardless and fulfilled our engagements. We would always put a team on the field – that’s something I’d like to be able to say about other clubs, but I can’t.

“Scott Girard has made quite an impact as a coach in his first year as well. He’s very good, and the players get on well with him – they bond.

“Moree this year can do anything they want, I think,” Alf said.

“The main thing is to train hard. If the players are fit and they go out on to the field confident, they will win.”

Words: Bill Poulos

PART TWO: Alf Scott farewells Moree

The Moree Boars centenary ball on July 21 will celebrate 100 years of rugby league in Moree – but it will also serve as a farewell of sorts to a Moree resident that has been a loyal servant to the town, and the game of rugby league, for more than 70 years.

Moree will be left much the poorer when local rugby league pioneer Alf Scott leaves the district to be closer to family.

Alf, now 94, was born and bred in Moree and, apart from a four-year stint in the Australian Army between 1942 and 1946, has been a resident of the town his entire life.

And he has served Moree well.

Click link to read part two of the feature on local rugby league legend Alf Scott:

http://www.deluxecafemoree.com.au/alf-scott-prepares-to-leave-moree-leaving-a-lasting-legacy-to-local-rugby-league/

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PART ONE: Rugby league has been played in Moree for 100 years – and Alf Scott has been around for 94 of them

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