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Blain

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I looked up Filipaina Horriors, thanks for the tip. Fantastic article here on him;

The Forgotten Story of ... Olsen Filipaina, the Polynesian who tamed Wally Lewis

How the reserve-grade playing garbage collector, with the help of his mum, schooled an Australian legend in one of Kiwi rugby league’s greatest moments

Olsen Filipaina, photographed in Ryde on 26 April 2015, was the standout player of the Test series between New Zealand and Australia in 1985. Photograph: Jeff Kan for the Guardian
Patrick Skene

One of the most dynamic changes to the game of rugby league has been the “Polynisation” of the sport; growth has been so rapid at junior levels that in the NRL now 35% of players are of Pacific background. The Polynesian community is woven into the fabric of the game and it is difficult to imagine a time when Polynesian players were racially vilified and ridiculed for not being good enough. Thirty years ago one man in particular helped change that perception with a display of rugby league that announced the arrival of the Polynesian power game.

“Olsen Filipaina was a pathfinder. The first to show what Polynesians could do,” says Graham Lowe, former New Zealand, Queensland, Manly and Wigan coach. “Olsen was the face of hope for many Polynesians who were disadvantaged by lack of opportunity. I just love the guy.”

The “Big O” was born in 1957 and raised in the South Auckland suburban badlands of Mangere East, a league heartland, the son of a Maori mother and Samoan boxer father. Celebrating his 58th birthday at a Greek tavern in Sydney, he looks fit and has the measured gravitas of a man with nothing to prove. “Back then there were gangs in Mangere and it was kind of a Samoan ghetto,” he says as he chews a lamb chop, a glint in his eye. “But we had rugby league and a loving family and that was enough.”

Filipaina has just finished his Ryde Council garbage collection shift, the same garbage run he has famously done for 35 years. “I remember the early days in summer on the trucks, I worked so hard once I got my weight under 14 stone and I couldn’t play, I couldn’t break the line,” he says. From a young age playing for Mangere East Hawks, breaking the line was Filipaina’s thing. His speed and balance gave him unique power and combined with big thighs and a love of physical contact he was the full package. His playing contracts were all done on a handshake. His first was a hamburger and Fanta per game in Under-14 level. Later, it was a case of beer for the Mangere East Hawks A-Grade.


Friday night’s Anzac Test will mark 30 years since Filipaina starred for New Zealand against Australia. Photograph: Jeff Kan for the Guardian
There is no madder rugby league fan than the Mad Butcher, Sir Peter Leitch, the official patron of New Zealand Rugby League and owner of the largest butchers chain in New Zealand. Leitch was heavily involved with Mangere East Club and saw Filipaina grow up through the junior ranks. “Olsen once gave me a trophy for helping him out, that’s the sort of guy he is.” says Leitch. “There is no nicer, more humble, more respectful guy. I love him like a son.” Leitch and many in New Zealand Rugby League were worried about Olsen going to Sydney, the chief concerns being the lack of Australian understanding of the Polynesian way of life that centre around parental authority and religion.

“Frank [Stanton, Balmain coach, Olsen’s first coach in Sydney]wasn’t a bad guy, but he was very hard on Olsen and to get the best out of him, he should have done it in a different way,” says Leitch. “Really, none of the Aussies could handle Polynesians and the difference in culture.” Olsen finished up at Balmain after four seasons featuring 77 games and 19 tries. He moved to Eastern Suburbs for the 1985 season where he languished in reserve grade.

In 1985 Sydney’s Winfield Cup was the global glamour competition and the overwhelming majority of players were of tough Anglo-Celtic stock with a sprinkling of Aboriginals, Kiwis and Southern European migrants from Greece and Italy. Internationally the barbarians were at the gate. In 1983, New Zealand’s pack of part timers had shocked Australia 19-12 at Lang Park, their first win over the Kangaroos in 15 games since 1971. The war clouds gathered for the Kangaroos-Kiwis 1985 series. The confident Kiwis were under the command of Lowe, and ready to challenge for supremacy.

The Kangaroos were headed by the king of Lang Park, Wally Lewis, a man voted the greatest of the century alongside New Zealand’s Mark Graham and England’s Ellery Hanley. His superstar team included all time greats Mal Meninga, Steve Roach and Wayne Pearce. The Kiwis had assembled a pack of part timers plucked from Brisbane, Auckland and England and some playing in the Winfield Cup. In a shock move ridiculed by the Australian media, the Kiwis had moved Filipaina, a reserve grade playing garbage collector, from the centres to five-eighth to mark Lewis.

Filipaina in his days playing for Balmain. Photograph: Scanlens

“For Olsen to be playing reserves was a disgrace,” says Lowe. “I knew no matter how well he was playing in Sydney, I could bring it out. He was a superstar in Auckland and if I see it just once, I know it’s there and I’ve just got to find it.” Lowe had a secret weapon – cultural understanding. He says Australian coaches didn’t know how to deal with Polynesian players, and that they “didn’t understand family orientation, eye contact, religion and, very important, the expectations of family members”.

“Aussie coaches were in your face, talking a million miles an hour and would humiliate you in front of your team-mates,” says Filipaina. “Lowey was different, he did the little things that made you comfortable and trust him.” Prior to the decision to tactical switch, Lowe did something extraordinary. He called his secret weapon in Auckland; Olsen’s late mother Sissie. Lowe explained the challenges Olsen faced in Lewis and tried to get her buy in. “No coach will ever have as much power as a mother and she is the best judge of what he is capable of,” Lowe said explaining his strategy. “If Sissie had even the slightest doubt, I wouldn’t have shifted him.”

Sissie agreed and, according to Lowe issued a stern warning to convey to her son – “I’ll clip his ears if he doesn’t.” When Lowe informed Filipaina that he would mark Lewis, he added, “Your mother said you’re up to it.” Although Filipaina hadn’t played five-eighth since high school, he says it “made him believe”. Pre-game, Lowe gave Filipaina a stirring pep talk. “I said this is the dream that every child has, to play against the best,” remembers Lowe. “You are marking the best player in the world but I think you can get past him.”

Lowe’s Kiwis lost the first game at Lang Park 26-20 but Filipaina played like a man possessed, dominating Lewis in a spiteful encounter that featured ‘The Fight’ between Greg Dowling and Kevin Tamati, triggered by alleged racial slurs. There are few stronger instincts than territory and Filipaina humbled Lewis on his own ground. Filipaina accepted the man-of-the-match award and at the post-match function was snubbed by Lewis. “One of my main goals was to meet Wally, the State of Origin legend,” says Filipaina. “I tried to introduce myself and he pushed my hand away and made an enemy. I had beaten him on his own turf, all day I was in his face and he couldn’t do anything. Now my goal was to mutilate him in front of a Kiwi crowd.”

Lowe explained the snub: “Wally has a lot of mana and was the most competitive person in the world. An impertinent reserve grader had just knocked him off his perch.” It drove Filipaina to raise the black flag in the second Test at home in Carlaw Park in Auckland. He crunched Lewis in defence, bumped and fended him off at will and ran straight over the top of him using what he laughingly calls “the Maori sidestep”. The Kiwis lost the game 10-6 in the last minute, but Filipaina again won man-of-the-match in a losing team.

Some moments in sport go to a place that never fades and Lowe says he’ll never forget Olsen in that game. “He reverted back to playing for Mangere East Hawks – he was home and comfortable. It looked like he had the ball on a string,” Lowe recalls. “Having been so dominant and lost, the boys were broken and the chieftain in Olsen came out. He sat with the young ones, told them stories, got them laughing and we started believing again.” In an event etched in New Zealand rugby league folklore, Lowe took his reluctant team to Queen Street in the heart of downtown Auckland. “They were so disappointed but when they got off the bus they were mobbed and showered in love by fans,” says Lowe. “By then end of Queen Street I knew we were going to give them a hiding.”

In the third Test a week later the Kiwis crushed the Australians 18-0 in a famous victory. Lewis must have been glad to see the end of the menacing Polynesian and the leg drive of his thighs, a legacy of strength from his ancestors, the great Polynesian navigators that paddled across the Pacific. Filipaina was named man-of-the-series. When people ask Lowe how he got the best out of Filipaina and the team he answers: “No magic wand. I just brought a sense of love to those boys.”

“We were happy,” Filipaina agrees: “It’s hard to explain the pride I had wearing that black and white New Zealand jersey.” The enduring moment for Lowe was Filipaina joining his mother on stage after the third Test and they cried together in joy. “All Olsen ever wanted to do was the best for all the coaches he has had, his family, friends and Samoan, Maori and New Zealand people,” says Lowe. “And he did it. He had been through so much and let it all out.”

“Perhaps the greatest compliment is that Olsen Filipaina was completely ignored by Wally Lewis in two autobiographies written about his career,” says John Coffey, a New Zealand rugby league historian. Filipaina and Lewis haven’t said a word since, not even at Anzac Test reunions. Feuds run deep and long in rugby league. Alexander the Great had the Afghans, Muhammad Ali had Ken Norton and Wally Lewis had Olsen Filipaina. In the history of the game, where does he sit – the man who outplayed the greatest? Duke Ellington loved to say his music was “beyond category”. Maybe that’s where we file the Big O.

As Filipaina leaves the restaurant, he says with a big smile: “I told them all back then. You don’t know who Polynesians are now but you will soon.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/apr/30/the-forgotten-story-of-olsen-filipaina
 
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mode81

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If we pull this off it would be another barrier broken. Another feather in Kearney'said cap. Not since the days of Olsen Filipaina have we done well with a reserve grade half. I'd feel like we've reached a milestone. Not bad for a country without a professional competition of their own.
Man when we have debates about certain players with my grandfather, dad, bros and all my uncles they always put Olsen on the highest of pedestals.

Owned the King apparently.. I guess I was unlucky not to see him play in person but from the stories I've heard of him he was a gun player back in his day.
 
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mt.wellington

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Man when we have debates about certain players with my grandfather, dad, bros and all my uncles they always put Olsen on the highest of pedestals.

Owned the King apparently.. I guess I was unlucky not to see him play in person but from the stories I've heard of him he was a gun player back in his day.
My favourite Kiwi player. For him to play as he did as an amatuer against the King is something I get told in hushed reverent voices everytime I talk to the older followers of the sport. Was lucky enough to get on the juice with him and Kurt Sorensen one night and the war stories they spoke of will live with me forever...
 
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Sup42

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Showing my age but everything said about Olsen is true.

I hated Wally Lewis, that hateful respect you have for the best player in the world of their generation in a Kangaroo jersey.

He was so good he could be the sole architect of the Kiwis demise in the same fashion of players that came later....and
will be more familiar to younger fans.

Alan Langer would fairly be the next destroyer of Kiwi hopes, then you'd look at players like Laurey Dailey, Brad Fittler, Andrew Johns, and Thurston.....test players that could single handedly ruin what should have been Kiwi victories in dying seconds when we were clearly the better team on the day.

Lewis to this day out of all the greats (add
Smith and Thurston) was the greatest competitor of the modern era.

None of those other blokes I named would likely bust their forearm in a world cup final as Lewis did, and beg the trainers to strap it with a phone book as some kind of pseudo Cast.....that's like bring back Buck and his ruptured nut.

Lewis was God. An Animal for victory.


I didn't read that article /looked at that Link about Olsen before posting because I fancied that I didn't need to.... I watched him live in action.

Olsen was crap as a Winfield cup player (I used to follow him and Mark Graham + Clayton Friend in Sydney....last game I saw Olsen play was at Bankstown).


The Aussies couldn't understand why such an animal in a Kiwi Jumper could be so Lazy and disinterested in the Winfield cup.

Olsen was the player that generated the saying " grows an extra leg when they pull on the black and white".....a much younger Ray Warren and a guy called Rex Mossop used to bang on about it in the same tones Gould says " origin".

The weirdest thing about Olsen was that he would pull on a Kiwi Jersey and run at Lewis Like Hurrell bullies His opposite from Canberra...except Lewis was no pansy....Olsen would run straight over the top of Lewis " The Maori side step' was another saying Aussie commentators would yell when this (first Polynesian super star) at test level left Lewis flat.

Unlike Hurrell, Olsen would smash Lewis in defence too....go round hunting him....then wipe him out.

I guess he was Konrad with stand off skills....so in other words he would splat his opposite then look to pass it straight away to a team mate in a better position..

He is without a doubt our greatest stand off...better than anyone.

Ran like Hurrell, hit like Matai (bullied and intimidated an imortal every single.time they played).....unlike every other great Kiwi who has had brilliant tests and not so good tests.


Just while I'm ranting I'll say this, Wally lewis in his time outshone and dominated every stand off He faced.....when he played Olsen....he would dissapear completely in tests.....no player.....not even Jones or any name you care to pick.....has been able to do that to say any player of the quality of an Andrew Johns....Langer....Lockyer.....Thurston....,.aCameron Smith etc....

In a test Jumper Olhsen is the most consistent player of all time.

***edit**** I just read that article and it makes my memories of Olsen look plagiarized !!! Dead set not the case....but that article explains all the stuff I couldn't understand when I posted about Olsens transformation against Lewis.. To those of us watching it was a complete anomaly...a total mystery.
 
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brightman

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In a test Jumper Olhsen is the most consistent player of all time
Big call but a worthy candidate. Call me biased but Mark Graham gets the most kudos in my book, plus he broke Wally's jaw, sometimes Lewis was just too competitive ha.
For him to play as he did as an amatuer against the King is something I get told in hushed reverent voices everytime I talk to the older followers of the sport. Was lucky enough to get on the juice with him and Kurt Sorensen one night and the war stories they spoke of will live with me forever...
My father spoke the same way about Olsen too and also Kurt. Sorenson's the one player I regret being too young to recall though I remember Dane, the ozzies were so scared of Kurt I'm of the understanding he would be suspended before a test match.
 
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surfin

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Big call but a worthy candidate. Call me biased but Mark Graham gets the most kudos in my book, plus he broke Wally's jaw, sometimes Lewis was just too competitive ha.

My father spoke the same way about Olsen too and also Kurt. Sorenson's the one player I regret being too young to recall though I remember Dane, the ozzies were so scared of Kurt I'm of the understanding he would be suspended before a test match.
What happened with Kurt was he was forced to stand down for 12 months so he could take up his contract with the Sharks, then the Aussies invented some rule that meant club sides didn't have to release players for tests, or they pulled out the ever popular pre test suspension. Mind you Kurt didn't mind causing a bit of carnage on the field so it was easy to suspend him. As I've stated here many times, easily my favourite player ever. Fast, with a step, ball skills and the ability to have the opposition shitting themselves before the game had started. He was the reason Hugh McGahan score 6 tries on his debut against PNG.
In the old days Rex Mossop used to do the televised games and would present the MOM with a VCR the following Sunday, I remember one Sunday Kurt was on collecting another one and old Moose says "You have enough of these to start your own tv channel."
 
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Sup42

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Big call but a worthy candidate. Call me biased but Mark Graham gets the most kudos in my book, plus he broke Wally's jaw, sometimes Lewis was just too competitive ha.

My father spoke the same way about Olsen too and also Kurt. Sorenson's the one player I regret being too young to recall though I remember Dane, the ozzies were so scared of Kurt I'm of the understanding he would be suspended before a test match.
I'd go Mark Graham as the best of the lot too, the difference with him was the way he lifted everyone around him and he was such cool headed leader. He had the respect of his team mates and his opponents...I guess Union had Buck Shelford and now McCaw, we had Mark Graham. He would have been one of the first Forwards that I saw who would break the line then have the vision to look to his left and right for support runners, he was a very unselfish player and had all the assets you want in a bacrower....it helped that he was a chiselled monster of a human with a training ethic as hard as anyone in that era.

Part of the bias (this is true of today) was that the Aussie media adored Mark Graham as well, the truth is they didn't rate our players....apart from him....they wished he was Australian.....he was possibly our first truely professional player.
I remember when he retired and the other greats of his era were not available for an up coming test....a TVNZ league commentator asked him how the new baby kiwi side could match Australia....

He was honest and admitted our chances weren't good (we'd just lost to PNG) the TV announcer asked ' is there any way we can win....what would you be telling these guys if you were playing....'

Graham cracked a smirk in the fashion Wayne Bennett does when asked a stupid question.....

" Play hard..........."

The baby Kiwis won.....one of those rare one off victories.....they played hard.
 
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Sup42

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What happened with Kurt was he was forced to stand down for 12 months so he could take up his contract with the Sharks, then the Aussies invented some rule that meant club sides didn't have to release players for tests, or they pulled out the ever popular pre test suspension. Mind you Kurt didn't mind causing a bit of carnage on the field so it was easy to suspend him. As I've stated here many times, easily my favourite player ever. Fast, with a step, ball skills and the ability to have the opposition shitting themselves before the game had started. He was the reason Hugh McGahan score 6 tries on his debut against PNG.
In the old days Rex Mossop used to do the televised games and would present the MOM with a VCR the following Sunday, I remember one Sunday Kurt was on collecting another one and old Moose says "You have enough of these to start your own tv channel."
There is an old school video on YouTube
Somewhere....posted by an Aussie ....of the great Kangaroo tests of the eighties....one of the clips sees a massive fight break out between us and them, Kurt Sorenson is in the middle of it....he's baring his teeth and throwing haymakers at anyone wearing green.....he looks how I imagine A Viking gone beserk with his axe would have looked splattering Saxons....a truly horrific Warrior.....Those were different times.....in the same clip there is someone being Pole axed / spear tackled (some won't know those terms = being lifted upside down and driven into the turf on your head) it is truly bizarre.....knowing what we do now.... And seeing Reffs ignore it because it was a legal tackle in those days.

My favorite memory of Kurt.....was the test where Mal Maninga debuted.....the commentators banged on about this new Queensland colossus...... Any way....Maninga tackled Kurt then got up with blood streaming from his nose and the commentators schreeched " Maninga is in Disneyland ! "........as he stumbled and staggered away from the play.....

Welcome to playing the eighties Kiwi Mongrel team son.

My favorite Mongrel was Kevin Tamati....after Dowling called his mother a black *""""" and head butted Tamati in that sin bin incident.....as u know....Tamati litteraly put Dowling in hospital.
 
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bruce

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My favorite Mongrel was Kevin Tamati
The Aussies were scared of KT...they thought he was raving mad...Gramam Lowe just used to wind him up and let him go...thems were the days.
 
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ahh the good old days, the test series that started my love affair with league, Olsen, Kurt and Kevin, Kiwi League legends to drawl over.

when does Kearney pick his team?
I'm quietly confident this weekend, can see our forwards laying a solid platform, we lack a long kicking game as well as our short, but I think youll see more attacking grubbers from Tui if the opportunity arises, need to keep the pressure on, not sure if the bomb is the right option in this test, I would keep it on the ground. got to have Nikorima in the 17 just looked dangerous every time he touched the ball, I'll be shocked if Kearney doesnt pick him.

going to be a great weekend of footy cant wait!
Great days, fell in love with league then, Clayton Friend going thru the scrum, big Joe Ropati on the wing, the gliding run of james leuluai, the Sorenson brothers Dane and Kurt, the Tamati brothers Howie and Kevin, and the greatest, Mark Graham. Great memories, sticking it to the big brother. Fuckin beautiful.....
 
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mt.wellington

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Team of the Century


1-Des White
Kiwi #323, Auckland, fullback, 21 tests (1950-56), NZ coach 1961

2-Tom Hadfield
Kiwi #375, Auckland, wing, 17 tests (1956-61)

3-Tom Baxter
Kiwi #320, Auckland, centre, 29 tests (1949-56), deceased


4-Roger Bailey

Kiwi #402, Auckland, centre, 29 tests (1961-70)


5-Phil Orchard

Kiwi #475, Bay of Plenty/Wellington, wing, 21 tests (1969-75)


6-George Menzies

Kiwi #326, West Coast, stand-off, 29 tests (1951-61), NZ coach 1974/75


7-Stacey Jones

Kiwi #665, NZ Warriors/Catalans, scrum-half, 46 tests (1995-2006)


8-Cliff Johnson

Kiwi #325, Auckland, prop. 34 tests (1950-60), deceased


9-Jock Butterfield

Kiwi #355, Canterbury/West Coast, second row/hooker, 36 tests (1954-63)


10-Ruben Wiki

Kiwi #655, Canberra/NZ Warriors, centre/second row/prop, 55 tests (1994-2006)


11-Mark Graham

Kiwi #535, Auckland/Brisbane Norths/North Sydney, second row, 29 tests (1977-88)


12-Ron Ackland

Kiwi #354, Auckland, centre/second row, 18 tests (1954-63), NZ coach 1977/78, deceased


13-Mel Cooke

Kiwi #384, Canterbury, loose forward, 22 tests (1959-64), deceased

https://www.nzrl.co.nz/about-us/history/team-of-the-century/
 
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bruce

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You forgot Fred Ah Khoi and Shane Varley...you did!!
 
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Amazing how few modern players made the all timers, that list is compiled by nostalgic Historian types of the game.

I guess they had the benefit of having watched or at least heard first hand from reliable voices the legend of the men who most of us don't know on that list.

Its a weird thing buying into names you've not seen with your own eyes....one example for me is Des White, I've heard him talked about like a biblical figure by Old boys that knew thier shit.
 
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brightman

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Sunday, I remember one Sunday Kurt was on collecting another one and old Moose says "You have enough of these to start your own tv channel."
Now you mention it I actually do remember that, geez that's probably 30 yrs ago!
 
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mode81

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Amazing how few modern players made the all timers, that list is compiled by nostalgic Historian types of the game.

I guess they had the benefit of having watched or at least heard first hand from reliable voices the legend of the men who most of us don't know on that list.

Its a weird thing buying into names you've not seen with your own eyes....one example for me is Des White, I've heard him talked about like a biblical figure by Old boys that knew thier shit.
I'm interested if you were to choose your Modern Day Kiwis greats team who would be in it?

No selection process bro just from the heart

Late 80' onwards throughout those years to now days? McGahan, Kearney, Nikau, McCracken.. Jones, Freeman.. Wiki etc?
 
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surfin

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Now you mention it I actually do remember that, geez that's probably 30 yrs ago!
And some, 1979/80 were his best years, hate to upset you but if you remember those days you must be an old bastard like me.
 
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And some, 1979/80 were his best years, hate to upset you but if you remember those days you must be an old bastard like me.
nah I'm not as old as you.. or a bastard:D but I have been bleeding Rugby League since I was a toddler and I ain't 40 yet:dead:
 
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