BROTH­ERS IN ARMS

60 years of ty­ing up the laces and run­ning onto the field for the Broth­ers Rugby League Foot­ball Club

Sunday Territorian - - LIFESTYLE -

THERE’S not a hint of hes­i­ta­tion af­ter John Adams is asked what makes Dar­win Broth­ers unique. “Once a Brother, al­ways a Brother,” the long-serv­ing club pres­i­dent fires back.

“My fa­ther played, I played, my son played and now my grand­son is play­ing and it’s the same for so many other fam­i­lies.”

2018 is the Brethren’s 60th year. They are the old­est rugby league en­tity in the Top End to never have changed their name, and hold the most first­grade pre­mier­ships along with Night­cliff on 15 — a statis­tic that im­me­di­ately at­tracts the at­ten­tion of life mem­ber Mick Palmer. “Once you’re in, you’re not al­lowed to leave. You’re def­i­nitely not al­lowed to go to Night­cliff,” the for­mer player, coach and ad­min­is­tra­tor says wryly.

From the stars of the early years such as Dave Napia, Stewie Thomp­son and Pierce He­garty, to Wil­liam ‘Nun­gah’ and Frank ‘Doo­dles’ Ah Mat in the early 70s, Broth­ers have al­ways played elec­tric, at­tack­ing-minded rugby league.

In the 1980s, it was Bob Hanna and in more re­cent times, Moses Wig­ness and cur­rent cap­tain and two-time Frank John­son Medal­list Leon Ro­tumah.

For­mer club trea­surer Alan Brad­bury re­mem­bers com­ing to the club as a 21-year-old from Bris­bane in 1967.

“My first im­pres­sion was that they were just one big happy mob,” Brad­bury re­calls.

“I worked for the bank in Bris­bane and got trans­ferred to Dar­win and was ac­tu­ally of­fered to go to Waratahs (now Litch­field).

“But I couldn’t find where they were train­ing so I went to Broth­ers. That was it, I went there once and I never left.

“We’ve al­ways been that way, we’ve all been in the same group. Peo­ple have be­come re­lated through mar­riages over the years, and we are all good mates. Some blokes you don’t see for 10 or 12 years but noth­ing changes

when you see them.”

The club’s most suc­cess­ful pe­riod came un­doubt­edly be­tween 1988 and 1991, four straight first-grade pre­mier­ships with a squad packed with ta­lent, as Adams re­calls.

“There were a few guns in that team. You had play­ers like Steven Stokes, Kevin Quall, Ninny Bris­ton, Paul Wither­spoon, Scott Clar­idge, Fred Smith and Tony Mor­ris — a big white fella who was six foot, four inches and drove a Har­ley, that was a bit dif­fer­ent,” Adams says.

“Paul Wither­spoon, we called him Clark Kent be­cause he wore the glasses and was a phar­ma­cist but when he played rugby, he was a gun. He had legs like tree trunks and just killed it all the time. Sean Good (the fa­ther of cur­rent Broth­ers A-grader Daniel Good) was a leg­end, he was prob­a­bly one of the best full­backs run­ning around, the bony, skinny-arse thing he is.

“It was ba­si­cally the same side over those four years. We had a few slight changes, Peter Danger­field came into it.”

Adams be­lieves the Brethren were then at their strong­est.

“Through the era of the 1980s and 90s, that was prob­a­bly the best team go­ing around. I can’t say much for the 1960s and 70s, but it was the first time the club had won four A-grade and re­serve grade pre­mier­ships in a row,” he says.

“There were re­ally good num­bers at the club through that point and it showed in win­ning those re­serve grade com­pe­ti­tions as well.”

Un­like any­where else in the coun­try, Dar­win lo­cals have the best of both worlds when it comes to foot­ball.

Aus­tralian Rules in the wet, rugby league in the dry. And if you’re a Brother, then you’re also a Dar­win Buf­falo — a tra­di­tion that is still held to this day, with Josh Saveka and Liam Philpott play­ing grand fi­nals for both clubs over the past 12 months.

“Most of the fam­i­lies from the Buf­faloes are also with Broth­ers,” Adams says.

“The Ah Kits, the Ah Mats, the Stokes, the Ray­monds. You play for Buf­faloes, you play for Broth­ers.”

For Mick Adams, John’s fa­ther, a for­eign sport quickly be­came a corner­stone of his life as a teenager.

“I played Aussie rules but the blokes I knocked around with told me to come and try rugby league. I didn’t know much about it but I ended up play­ing un­til 1996. It be­comes your fam­ily,” Adams says.

“When you get into Broth­ers, you don’t only be­come part of the team, you be­come a part of the club. On and off the field, the peo­ple look af­ter you.

“We not only look af­ter play­ers but their fam­i­lies as well, I think that’s why our ju­niors are strong, fol­low­ing that tra­di­tion.”

The Brethren have al­tered their ways through­out the years, as times have changed. But one thing that will never waiver is their pas­sion for beat­ing Night­cliff.

“We’ve had to move with the times. Min­utes were taken on bar coast­ers from many years ago, that’s all changed. The old times were pretty lax to say the least,” John Adams says.

“The days of just rock­ing up and get­ting dressed un­der the old mango tree at Richard­son Park, which Broth­ers were renowned for, are long gone.

“Night­cliff used to call us mon­keys for hang­ing off that mango tree, it’s prob­a­bly why we had so many bat­tles. We were two very proud clubs who both had a lot of lo­cal play­ers play­ing.”

Palmer re­mem­bers the an­tag­o­nism be­tween the two foes start­ing as soon as the Drag­ons were ad­mit­ted into the Dar­win Rugby League in 1971.

“It started with Night­cliff try­ing to em­u­late Broth­ers, try­ing to be every­thing Broth­ers were about, with­out hav­ing the abil­ity or the nous to do so,” Palmer says with a smile.

The two clubs will cel­e­brate Broth­ers’ mile­stone with a Fri­day fix­ture un­der lights at Rugby Park on July 20 be­fore a gala ball is held the fol­low­ing night at Sky City.

As good as those cel­e­bra­tions will be, there is one thing that would cap off a per­fect year.

“A grand fi­nal against Night­cliff, with a Broth­ers win,” Adams says.

Broth­ers’ first-grade cel­e­brat­ing at Richard­son Park af­ter their 14-10 grand fi­nal vic­tory over RSL in 1973

Coach Frank 'Doo­dles' Ah Mat and Rob­bie Cooper cel­e­brate Broth­ers’ 1988 Dar­win Rugby League grand fi­nal win against Ca­sua­r­ina

Wil­liam 'Nun­gah' Ah Mat was the first recipent of the Frank John­son Medal in 1973. Pic­tured here with the Aus­tralian Sports­man As­so­ci­a­tion tro­phy

Leon Ro­tumah is picked up af­ter scor­ing a try in the 2009 grand fi­nal. Broth­ers beat Univer­sity 44-10

Broth­ers’ Brothe ers’ 1989 premier­ship pre­mie er­ship win­ning side

Broth­ers’ first A-grade side in 1958

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