Best ever Proser­pine util­ity play­ers

Whitsunday Times - - SPORT -

WHIT­SUN­DAY rugby league his­to­rian Tony Price is writ­ing a book about the his­tory of rugby league in the Whit­sun­day re­gion lead­ing up to a player re­union this year. The Whit­sun­day Times is pub­lish­ing reg­u­lar ar­ti­cles by Mr Price in the leadup to the event. This week he lists some of the best ever Whit­sun­day util­ity backs.

There were many play­ers in the old Whit­sun­day com­pe­ti­tion that seemed to play for­ever and statis­tics are hard to ig­nore when com­par­ing a player from one era to the next.

There is no­body that can com­pete with Ernie Hock­ings from Bowen when it comes to dura­bil­ity as he played club football from the mid-1930s well into the 1950s.

Proser­pine’s Jack Arnold was an­other that played for an ex­tended pe­riod from around the late 1930s once again into the 1950s.

When we com­pare play­ers that have com­peted at a high level it is hard to go past Collinsville’s Lind­say Phillips who played first grade for Collinsville from 1971 un­til 1989 ap­pear­ing in nine North Queens­land fi­nals in the Miner’s colours.

Lind­say Phillips was a fix­ture in Whit­sun­day teams for most of his ca­reer and also played Fo­ley Shield for Townsville and Mackay in a ca­reer that spanned twenty sea­sons. Proser­pine’s Rus­sell Cald­well played se­nior football from 1963 un­til at least 1979 and was in­volved in six Townsville fi­nals in­clud­ing his Heat­ley Blazer win­ning per­for­mance in 1975 while Billy Lade and John McDon­ald from Proser­pine played in eight North Queens­land fi­nals in ca­reers that lasted around twelve sea­sons.

In to­day’s rugby league most backs look like for­wards as speed and strength are the keys to suc­cess and win­ning the ball from set scrums is no longer re­quired.

In the pe­riod of Whit­sun­days in­volve­ment in the Fo­ley Shield from 1969-94 it was good if you had a util­ity player that could play in any po­si­tion as there was no in­ter­change in those days.

Proser­pine’s Luchie Gardel played for Whit­sun­day as a full­back, winger, cen­tre, lock, 2nd row and front row in a ca­reer that went from 1971-88 so I’d sug­gest that he was as good as any in the art of adapt­abil­ity.

An­other great util­ity player from days gone by was Phil Nolan who played se­nior football in most po­si­tions with com­pe­tence and ag­gres­sion.

He was se­lected in the Proser­pine Team of the Cen­tury as a front row for­ward but was just as good play­ing in the cen­tres.

Who was the fastest player that ever wore a Proser­pine jersey – was it John McDon­ald, Barry Par­nell, Kevin Bauer, Dennis Nor­man or Les Hani­gan?

Les Hani­gan had good cre­den­tials as he was a pro­fes­sional sprinter in Syd­ney win­ning the North Syd­ney Gift among other races but Kevin Bauer would be hard to beat over any dis­tance.

He ran in the Queens­land ti­tles in the early 1960s win­ning the 440 yards and com­ing sec­ond in the 100 and 220 yards against sprint­ers that went onto Com­mon­wealth and Olympic Games se­lec­tion.

John McDon­ald was a rare tal­ent and his se­lec­tion in the Proser­pine Team of the Cen­tury was jus­ti­fied as he was the com­plete winger with great speed, great de­fence and a mag­nif­i­cent goal kicker.

There was no faster player in the Whit­sun­day area in the pe­riod from 1975-85.

Barry Par­nell and Dennis Nor­man played in the mid 1960s with Par­nell still a ma­jor force in Whit­sun­day rugby league in 1973 un­til he suf­fered a bad break that ended his ca­reer.

Dennis Nor­man was a great player that had a lot to do with Proser­pine win­ning the 1965 North Queens­land fi­nal with a two try per­for­mance in a very tight game.

He was a school­boy sprint star that was as fast as any men­tioned above.

BEST BACKS: Winger Les Hani­gan came to play in Proser­pine in the 1970s and im­pressed ev­ery­one with his blind­ing speed and abil­ity to play a num­ber of dif­fer­ent po­si­tions.

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