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Uni Shield 45-year reunion to be a highpoint of Moree Boars’ centenary celebrations

THEY are the blokes that put Moree on the national sporting stage back in the early 1970s – and they’re returning home to the black-soil plains to help celebrate 100 years of local rugby league when they join hundreds of other like-minded league tragics at the Moree Memorial Hall on July 21.

The year 1973 was a defining period for this group of men.

Back then they were just a rag-tag collection of Moree High School lads ranging in ages from 15 to 18, thrown together for a few games of footie.

They dreamt big, and those dreams were realised when they marched – sorry, stampeded – through the University Shield knock-out competition undefeated.

Captained by Terry Quinn – now the CEO of NSW Country Rugby League – and coached by John McLean, this group of teenagers formed lifelong friendships that have realised at least three official reunions in recent years.

Moree High School overcame insurmountable odds to win the 1973 University Shield Grand-Final, beating Forbes High School 13-12.

And, back in 1973, they united a town as their quest for schoolboy rugby league’s most cherished trophy became a reality.

The squad, made up of names that would later become etched in local and State sporting history, faced a task of herculean proportions.

It is 45 years since that momentous 80 minutes of football placed Moree High School at the top of schoolboy rugby league’s food chain, and former team-mate Mike Hadfield says having a team reunion that coincides with Moree Boars’ centenary celebrations on July 21 was a ‘no-brainer’.

“The 45-year reunion had originally been scheduled for August 18, the exact date of our win at Grahame Park in Gosford,” Hadfield said.

“However, when news of the 100-year celebrations was announced it was agreed that the date be changed as most of the players had played with the Boars.

“While the main event for the weekend will be the celebration of 100 years of rugby league in Moree, the 1973 Uni Shield-winning team see it as a great opportunity to celebrate their victory, some 45 years after the event, and to also experience with many more mates the great years of playing rugby league with the Moree Boars,” Hadfield said.

The 1973 University Shield win is still regarded as Moree’s finest team achievement.

Moree High was one of 184 schools vying for 1973 University Shield honours and the team was meeting opponents in a competition that is built on history, and acknowledged as the initial springboard to rugby league greatness.

But against overwhelming odds, Moree High took on all-comers and soundly defeated them.

The way they were: Front row: Moree High School principal Ian Hodge, Mike Hadfield, Michael “Buster” Duke, Terry Quinn, John Brooks, Bernie Briggs, coach John McLean. Middle row: Harry Allen, Peter Peachey, Greg King, Richard Brown, Stephen Dawson, Paul Peachey. Back row: Tony Dean, Peter Gillan, Stephen Jones, Gregg Humphries, John Brazier, Peter Butler.

The players’ entry into sporting folklore began at Taylor Oval in early 1973 and was completed six memorable months later at Gosford.

Moree delivered hidings to Warialda (48-6), Tenterfield (59-2), Armidale (20-6), Tamworth (14-2) Maitland (27-5), Lismore (44-10) and Newcastle (26-10) before beating Forbes High School 13-12 in front of a record 8000-strong crowd at Gosford’s Grahame Park.

Saturday, August 18, 1973 was truly the day of the underdog, and a defining moment in Moree’s sporting and civic pride.

“Team members and partners will once again gather to reminisce about a time in their lives that may never be surpassed,” Hadfield said.

The reunion of lifelong friends will be marked by a lunch at the Moree RSL Club at 1pm on Saturday, July 21.

This will be followed by what is expected to be a huge gathering of fellow rugby league stalwarts and friends from younger, and not-so-younger, days at the club prior to the Moree Boars’ Centenary Ball at the town hall, starting at 6.30pm.

The 45-year reunion of the University Shield team will also commemorate the loss of two team-mates in recent years.

“We have lost two of our members, John ‘Greasy’ Brazier and Bernie ‘9’ Briggs, and it is hoped that members of their families will join the Uni Shield family to respect and honour the contribution that Greasy and 9 made to Moree’s rugby league history,” Hadfield said.

Team coach, John McLean, said in an interview shortly after Briggs’ passing that the Uni Shield boys had become family, and were still a close-knit group.

“It is sadly ironic to think that the two youngest members of our ‘family’ have passed away, and that alone is tough,” McLean said.

“As the rest of us age a little more, it is to be expected that each of us will have our day but, in the meantime, we should share the many unforgettable moments and appreciate what each person has had to offer.”

McLean said that winning the 1973 University Shield grand-final was indeed a special, and important, moment in sporting history, and that it was due in part to the incredible backing and support of a small, close-knit rural town in north-western NSW – Moree.

“Most of all though, we should appreciate the effort, the advice and the skills’ development given by the members and supporters of Moree rugby league, as well as the marvellous support shown by the people of Moree,” he said.

Words: Bill Poulos

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