The Entrance Tigers Rugby League
TIGERS TOP TWENTY
As part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the opening of The Entrance Leagues Club the organizing committee decided to name a Top 20 playing squad from the last 20 years i.e. 1993 to 2012. This was a daunting task as, in this period of unprecedented success for the Tigers, literally hundreds of very talented footballers have worn the black and gold jersey. This includes dozens of Central Coast Division Representatives, a number of NSW Country and NSW Residents Representatives and many who have been selected in Jim Beam Cup and Bundaberg Red Cup Representative teams. Quite a few players have played for NRL Clubs and nine have won the prestigious Sterland / Central Coast Medal. It became obvious early on in the selection process that the most difficult decisions centred not around who to select but who to leave out, such was the quality of the group of players available for selection. One criteria established early in the process was to set a minimum number of games played for the club which equated to approximately two senior seasons and guaranteed that a level of commitment to the club existed amongst nominees. Selections are a subjective matter and we are sure that any other group of selectors given this task would probably differ from one another in some respects when making final selections. Having said that we hope that the announcement of this squad generates some interesting debate but trust that you will honour those selected as players who have worn our colours with distinction. We will now name the squad and would ask that the players selected or their representatives come forward to accept a small momento.
An extremely talented backrower, one of the Coast’s top players in the 90s. Winner of Central Coast Medal, also a Central Coast and NSW Country
representative. Played 1993-97
Tough and skilful back rower/centre who has represented Central Coast, Jim Beam Cup Rep team and NSW Country. Played from 2003-07
Struck fear in opposition players from 2000 – 2008 with his hard running and aggressive defence. An original Polynesian playboy who played from 2000-08
Rated by many to be the best player to not play NRL; a Central Coast Medal winner who represented the Central Coast, NSW Country and NSW Residents
1995 Country Player of the Year. Played from 2000-2005
Class personified. Most say he was the best player on the Coast during his time here. Represented the Central Coast and NSW Country. Played from1991-94
Impossible to stop at close range, rugged and uncompromising, a Central Coast representative. Played in 1995 and1996
Will of the wisp half with uncanny try scoring talents, winner of a Central Coast Medal and a Central coast representative. Club’s top tryscorer. Played from
Backrower extraordinaire; tough and talented leader who led by example. Central Coast rep. Played from 1990 - 1993
Great dummy half, superb defender, a top ball winner, durable and aggressive. Played from 1996-99
Fantastic defender, with outstanding ball playing abilities who represented NSW Country, a Jim Beam Cup rep and NSW Residents. Played from 2002-05
Skills of a five eight coupled with toughness and vision, inspirational, a Jim Beam Cup rep and Central Coast representative. Played from 1999-06
Brilliant full back, incisive runner and strong defender, Club’s all time top point scorer with representative honours for the Central Coast and NSW Country.
Played from 1989-99
Supremely talented, ubiquitous and highly competitive who also represented the Central Coast. Jim Beam Cup player of the Year. Played from 2004-11
Outstanding competitor with rugged defence who made hard charging a speciality; inspirational leader. Bundy Cup rep player and player of the year. Played
The toughest and most feared Tiger of them all who played well above his weight – a legend; represented the Central Coast. Played from 1999-04
Outstanding defensive qualities coupled with an amazing work ethic; winner of the Central Coast Medal, represented the Central Coast Team. Played from
“Spainy’s Specials” were the bane of all opposition teams; tough as teak player who also represented the Central Coast. Played from 2000-03
An invaluable Jim Beam Cup team member renowned for his great work rate and irreplaceable stamina. Jim Beam Cup rep player of the year. Played 2003-08
A wonderful utility player who was brilliant anywhere in the backline; great evasive abilities and superb vision. Central Coast representative, NSW Country
Under 18s. Played 1999-2010
Great finisher, tough defender and best sledger; represented the Central Coast. Played from 2000-08
An inspirational leader with the talent and ability to play anywhere, a superb career with many highlights
Premiership winning coach and coach of the year on the Central Coast in 2000, Inaugural Jim Beam Cup winning coach who tasted success in 2003.
Mick has been an invaluable asset to the coaches of the 20 year period, having worked with them all. Each one of them rates Mick’s input and knowledge at the highest level
The History Of Tigers 1989 - 2012
Spencer Kicks a Goal for the Tigers - The Beginning of a New Era
John "Spook" Spencer was a talented footballer who started his career with Balmain in the centres before moving to lock forward. He was the son of well known Balmain forward from the 1940's, Jack Spencer, a local resident prior to his death in 1998 and a well respected member of The Entrance Leagues Club. Jack had been a member of premiership teams for Balmain in 1944, 1946 and 1947 as well as grand final losses in 1945 and 1948. He was a prop forward who represented NSW in 1945-46. Spook continued the family link racking up 158 games for the Balmain Tigers between 1966 and 1975 scoring just under 200 points, the majority of these coming by way of his 58 tries. Despite looking a certainty to make the 1967 Kangaroo tour a broken cheek put John out of contention. His luck improved in 1969 when he was a member of the Balmain side which defeated red hot favourites The Rabbitohs, who were coming off a premiership double in 1967 and 1968. Under coach Leo Nosworthy, a former Balmain player who had previously coached at Narromine and Dubbo in Group 11 before taking over Balmain reserve grade, the Tigers knocked the favourites over 11-2 with Spook playing a major role in the victory. John also achieved NSW representation in 1969 to top off a great year for him. He captained the Balmain side during the 70's before moving to a captain/coach position with Waratah- Mayfield in the Newcastle competition for 1976 and captain/coached Campbelltown City Kangaroos to third spot in 1978 in Group 6. He was a lower grade coach at Balmain before moving to take over the reins at The Entrance in 1987. John coached The Entrance to a magnificent victory in 1989 and stayed on until the end of 1990, although he was unable to replicate his success of 1989. John moulded the Tigers into a tight knit group which was able to overcome much bigger and more experienced opposition through determination, speed and good support play.
This was a watershed season for the Tigers in many respects. The 80's had brought very limited success and the future of the club as a force in Central Coast League was on the line. The club had put together a talented roster over the past two years with former Balmain and NSW forward John Spencer in charge. Unfortunately strength on paper hadn't translated to on-field success. Season 1989 was to prove a different kettle of fish. We talk today about the importance of a good "spine" in a team i.e. strength at the hooker, half-back, five-eighth and fullback positions. The Tigers were able to boast Tony McCudden, Pat Hart , Mark Heming and Chris Gray in these positions with a good mix of youth and experience surrounding them. Max Beecher was the skipper and although not a big forward Max was a real "mongrel" competitor and led from the front. Dave Lockley provided a bit of grunt and go forward up front and Steve McSweeny and Mick Molloy formed a well paired centre combination. Col "Crusher" Thurston, who had had a lot of big match experience in the strong Group 20 competition, was on one wing with a young Brett Stevens on the other. Stevens was a strong runner equally at home in the backs or forwards. The forward pack was rounded out by Terry Donnellan, Jason New and Jamie Beecroft, a pocket sized dynamo who gave opposition forwards no peace in either attack or defence. Chris Frost, Jeff Buckley, Michael Hart, Dave Sharrock and Ian Emmerton also spent some time in first grade. The squad was rounded out by manager Frank Court and trainers Ian "Inky" Rice, Jim Stewart, Denis (100%) O'Loughlin and John Harvey.
But the story begins early in the year. The Tigers had experienced a dry spell of almost fifteen years since the golden days of the early 70's but after five rounds had emerged as competition leaders with an unblemished record. By round seven Ken Kelly's Ourimbah Magpies thought that they had ended the Tigers' run when Peter Jamieson broke an 8 all deadlock with a field goal but the Tigers rushed on 10 points in a late flurry to record an 18-13 victory. Dave Lockley was having a storming start to the season and many good judges felt that he had provided the magic ingredient in a Tigers side not much changed from the 1988 season. A tough 8-6 win against Kevin Hastings' Woy Woy side was personally satisfying for John Spencer as in his three years at the helm the Tigers had not previously been able to beat the Roosters. Atrocious weather caused the postponement of a number of mid-season games causing frustration for the leading sides which were on a roll towards the semis. The Tigers were finding that life at the top was not always a bed of roses as every other team was after the competition leader's scalp. The unbeaten run ended with a 4-22 thud against Wyong. In a key match-up with Terrigal Beecher and Hart were inspirational when a late try courtesy of Crusher Thurston put the nail in the Shark's coffin for a 20-14 win. The Tiger spirit was then put to the test with three games in seven days to catch up a postponed game and the boys weren't helping Spencer's blood pressure, making a habit of winning in last ditch comebacks. After a few close calls the Tigers wrapped up the minor premiership with a resounding 54-0 win over Toukley and then a 32-2 thrashing of Ourimbah. The Tigers' successes were being built on tangible team spirit and magnificent defence. Woy Woy, desperate to secure a top two finish, threw a spanner in the works knocking over the Tigers 18-10 at EDSACC with the semis imminent. Momentum can be a great thing in league and the Roosters had it going into the major semi. Props Warwick Wright and Paul McPharlane were in top form for the Roosters and with the outstanding Horrie Hastings (probably the unluckiest man not to earn a Kangaroo jumper in modern football) directing play the Tigers' passage to the decider was no foregone conclusion. Defence wins big games and the Tigers hammered the Woy Woy side from the opening whistle forcing numerous errors. Terry Donnellan, one of the Tigers' best all season, was in everything and with Hart, McSweeny and Heming scheming they trounced the roosters 22-6. Wyong disposed of the Roosters in the preliminary final and set up a grand final showdown with the black and golds. Wyong, captain/coached by Tony Keevil, provided strong opposition with quality players such as NSW Country rep Billy Martin, talented lock Jim Breen and point scoring machine Errol Mehmet. Wyong were regular visitors to Grahame Park on GF day but for the Tigers a contentious 12-16 loss to Woy Woy in 1972 had been their last visit. A huge crowd was in and the lovely Entrance cheer girls added a bit of glamour to the event. Despite being minor premiers the Tigers took the field as underdogs in the eyes of many but the self-belief they had built during the season paved the way for a mighty effort. With the scores locked at 8-8 and the clock ticking down most pundits expected a field-goal shoot out but Pat Hart, despite being inconvenienced for all of the second half with a popped shoulder joint, had other ideas, scoring two late tries to give the Tigers a well earned 18-8 victory. The whole district had marshalled troops behind the Tigers in the weeks leading up to the big one with decorated shop-fronts, offices and pubs. Black and Gold Tiger Snags were on sale at the butchers and even the St George Dragon at the bank was decked out in a Tigers' jumper along with the bank staff. After a 21 year wait the premiership drought had ended. John "Spook" Spencer was able to share his delight with his Dad Jack, a well known club member.
Balmain had also marched into the Sydney decider in 1989 but were denied at the death in what is considered one of the greatest ARL grand finals in history, getting rolled by Canberra in extra time. Festivities continued unabated for several weeks in true Tiger spirit and the victory was made sweeter by the fact that legal agreement had been reached and finance had been secured to progress towards the building of a licensed club at Bateau Bay under the Presidency of club stalwart, John Hughes. Team Captain Max Beecher was awarded the Sterland Medal for season 1989 after a year of consistently good performances. Whatever happens in the future this team will go down in Tiger history as providing the starting point of what was to be an almost twenty five year period of unprecedented success for the club. All of those involved can be justifiably proud of having turned around the fortunes of the club.
The most significant loss was prop Dave Lockley who had had a stellar year in '89 but had been signed by Wyong for season 1990. The bulk of the previous year's premiership outfit had been retained and a number of promising juniors were coming through the club's ranks. Pat Hart had finished 1989 on a high but damaged a cruciate ligament in a trial early in 1990 putting paid to his season but opening the door for younger brother Mick at half back. The Tigers were always in contention but by mid July Erina were sailing along on top followed by Toukley and Ourimbah. Wyong under the captain coaching of Mal Creevy and Erina under captain/coach Greg Clements, both with extensive Sydney experience, looked the goods early in the year and this is how the season panned out with both sides meeting in the decider that year. It was a close run contest and Wyong took a points decision 8-6. In October of 1990 the Tigers announced a major coup signing the talented Parramatta utility Paul Taylor to replace retiring coach John Spencer who had decided to take a break. Taylor had finished his career at Penrith and was scheduled to have shoulder surgery and retire but decided to play on in a captain/coaching capacity at the Tigers.
Canberra's Green Machine doubled up in 1990 proving that their 1989 ARL victory over Balmain was no fluke.
Parramatta's Paul Taylor Takes Charge:
Paul "Tas" Taylor:
Paul played for the awesome Parramatta sides during their glory years in the 80's when they battled with the Bulldogs and Manly for domination of the competition. Paul was a natural half back but was used as a utility by Jack Gibson at hooker, in the halves, at full back and, considering his size, surprisingly as a back rower. This was a testament to his toughness and outstanding defence. Taylor was equally at home in the halves, at hooker or at fullback where he had spent most of his career at Parramatta to accommodate a more than useful halves pairing of Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny. He was a reserve for the historic 1981 Eels inaugural grand final win, and was fullback in 1982- 83 premierships and in the 84 grand final backing up for another premiership in 1986 under John Monie. Because of his jarring defence he often defended in the front line allowing Sterlo to cover defend at the back to keep him sharp for his attacking work. Paul also played for Oldham (twice) and Wakefield Trinity in the UK league in the off season. Tas made 157 appearances for the Eels including 15 finals appearances. Although recognised as a noted defender he also got over the chalk 31 times for the Eels. He left the club in controversial circumstances in 1990 and went to Penrith but a shoulder injury curtailed his ARL career after only three games. In 1991 he joined the mighty Tigers as captain/coach and in 1992 he was non-playing coach. Taylor had been a pupil at the Jack Gibson and John Monie schools of rugby league and brought many of the ideas of the master coaches to the Tigers. He stepped down at the end of 1992 but still lived on the coast.
After the success of 1989 Spencer stepped down as coach at the end of 1990 leaving the door open for the appointment of the highly regarded Paul Taylor, a member of the mighty Parramatta unit which had dominated the 80's in the ARL, winning the competition in 1981-82-83 and 1986. He brought well known fitness guru Bob Lanigan with him to implement a pre-season training program before Bob left to join John Monie at glamour UK club, Wigan. While the Tigers had streeted the field in first grade in 1989 and had been close to success in 1990 their lower grade sides were struggling for premiership success and one of the challenges for Taylor and his coaching staff was to make the club more competitive in the race for the Club Championship by building up the depth in the grades. One major step forward in this respect was the signing of Al Emery as reserve grade coach. Emery virtually fell into the position following a vacancy occurring when the season was just about to commence. Sometimes the cards fall your way and on this occasion they certainly fell the way of the Tigers as history would prove. Emery and Taylor were old friends from Parramatta days and would prove useful allies for the Tigers.
With Taylor running the show from half back Pat Hart experienced a slightly nomadic existence over the course of the season, first as a five eighth and then at fullback. His brother Mick was also making his mark as a competent first grader. Sean Gale, another talented inside back, had arrived from Ourimbah and Justin Kidd, Jim Godden and Graham Settree added some starch to an already strong forward pack. Lockley was back in the fold following a year with Wyong which had snagged him another premiership medal and he was a late inclusion in the NSW Country side after starring against Riverina. Names such as Glenn Ambrose, Wes Milson, Scott Cox and Steve Lilley were starting to emerge - players who would contribute significantly over the next few years. By round nine the Tigers were tied for fourth with Toukley behind Wyong, Erina and clear leaders Woy Woy. In a defining game at the half way mark Woy Woy snuck in 28-24 with Roosters' Country rep, Gavin Tutill scoring four tries in what was described as one of the best games ever played on the coast. Adam Rubagotti was establishing himself in the hooking role with Tony McCudden moving to the back row. Settree was showing his versatility pairing in the front row with Lockley. Injuries were playing havoc with the composition of the forwards and Taylor was having difficulty fielding the same pack two weeks in a row. Towards the middle of the season Beecher, Chris Gray, Mick Molloy, Beecroft and Mark Heming were back in the side and the Tigers were holding on to fourth. After a few poor seasons Toukley, with former Many Sea Eagle Neville Elwin at fullback or in the halves, were nicely placed in second spot and were the giant killers of the competition. The most pleasing aspect overall for the Tigers at that stage was that the reserves were on top, thirds were holding down third spot, the 18's were third and we were leading the Club Championship race. Graham Settree and Toukley's star hooker, Brian Fitzpatrick, were neck and neck in the Sterland Medal race. Wes Pettiford, Trevor Woods, Glenn Harrison and Steve Sheehy were also making their mark for the Tigers. Paul Kent, current Telegraph journalist, had taken up the pen for The Express Advocate and described the Tigers as "terrorising" Wyong handing them one of their biggest losses in years 33-12 at EDSACC. Some of Taylor's selection decisions did not meet with universal approval amongst the Tigers' faithful on occasions and a 22-16 loss to Toukley after leading them 16-0 at the break put our semi finals hopes under pressure. On the other hand it cemented for Toukley their first ever semi-final spot in the top grade. The Tigers eventually finished third in first grade, on top in reserves, second in third grade and fourth in the U18's. Woy Woy were to prove the Tigers' nemesis in an injury disrupted first grade contest bumping them out in the minor semi. The Roosters side that day had players of the calibre of former Australian rep John Muggleton, experienced winger Jeremy Cusack, star half Kenny Fuller and representative forwards Jason Burraston and Warwick Wright. Another current Telegraph journalist Paul Crawley was the hooker. Fortunately, an upside to the disruptions to first grade meant that a number of players had qualified for the second grade finals and Alan Emery was able to put a strong and experienced side on the paddock against a star studded Erina team captain/coached by former Western Suburbs Magpie Michael Duke. The reserves grand final squad was Steve Sheehy, Scott Cox, Mick Hart, Steve McSweeny, Steve Lilley, Brett Tillet, Mark Heming, Jamie Beecroft, Tony McCudden, Jim Godden, Steve Cotterill, Max Beecher, Trevor Woods, Glen Ambrose, Matt McCudden, Wes Milson, John Nicholls and Dave Sharrock. This squad containing a future NSW Country rep, two Sterland Medal winners and a number of first grade premiership medal winners would have not looked out of place in a first grade grand final. The manager was long term Tiger Col Swadling. It had been 30 years ago to the day since the Tigers' second grade side had taken home the goodies, ironically against Erina, so the pressure was on. It was a see-sawing match with the scores level on three occasions. Mick Duke scored first for the Eagles for 6-0 before Mick Hart evened up proceedings. Simon Watson, former star Leeton junior and son of Riverina legend Billy Watson, then kicked a penalty to put the Eagles back in front. At the break it was 6-8 down to the Tigers before Beecher kicked the equaliser. Then Adrian Drew scored for Erina and at 12-8 with time ticking away Tony McCudden scored a barging try out wide to again level at 12-12. Erina's Stephen Burns kicked a field goal for 13-12 Eagles and that looked to be it. But the fat lady hadn't started her song! In injury time Jamie Beecroft fed a perfect pass to Hemmo who eluded the defence to slide over for 16-13 and the game and the trophy belonged to the Tigers. Taylor re-signed for 1992 but decided to hang up the boots and control proceedings from the side-line. Things were looking promising for another good year in 1992. Unfortunately the Club Championship had just eluded us but the depth in the playing ranks was evident.
On the Sydney scene the old 'chocolate soldiers' had emerged as the mighty Penrith Panthers and took out their first ever premiership under coach Gus Gould.
Taylor was now settled in the Tigers' camp and strengthened his squad considerably with the addition of Norths five eighth Andrew Fullagar, Toukley's prolific point scorer Shane Hawes, speedy winger Geoff Woodward and local junior star Matt Marker. Chris Gray, Sean Gale, Lockley, Beecher, Settree, Rubagotti and Kidd were still on board and damaging front rower Chris Prigg had shifted across from Erina. Emery took up where he left off with the reserves in 1991 and added local juniors such as Justin Brolly and Jason Carpenter to the mix. Fullagar, Pat Hart, Lockley, Kidd and Adam Rubagotti were named in a strong CC Divisional side with Lockley named as captain. Taylor had assumed a non-playing role but much discussion centred around his decision to leave Pat Hart at fullback with young Matt Marker at half. The Tigers were being touted as premiership favourites despite just missing the boat in 1991. The Tigers enjoyed a successful season under captain Graham Settree but on the eve of the finals Taylor surprised the club by announcing his decision to step down as coach at the end of the season. This was despite the club enjoying two of its best seasons on record having qualified four teams for the semis in 1991 and with the prospect of even more success on its way, the club having already secured the coveted Club Championship and with all four teams guaranteed semi final berths in 1992. Rip Taylor's Wyong side had wrapped up the minor premiership and Erina were challenging strongly under former Wests Magpie Tom Arber. Wyong's only defeat had been at the hands of the Tigers. Our challenge was to get over the top of Gosford Townies in the minor semi to have any chance of progressing. The game was considered an even money bet although the Townies were two up in the competition rounds. Gosford's strengths seemed to be in the centres and Taylor moved Graham Settree out there, possibly in an attempt to unsettle Townies' star Steve McCoy with his jarring defence. The first grade rolled Gosford and advanced to the preliminary final against Erina who had lost to Wyong in the major semi. Justin Kidd was a risk having only just recovered from a serious knee injury. Unfortunately the first grade fell one short with Erina advancing to the decider eventually won by Wyong 18-16.
The Tigers, despite their strong roster, had had a see-sawing season, beginning as clear favourites before being written off half way through the season. A storming game for NSW Country at the SFS saw Dave Lockley offered a Penrith contract and his loss subtracted a lot of sting from the Tigers' pack mid-season. In a memorable moment in the City v Country game Lockley took the ball up into the teeth of the City defence only to be hit high in a tackle by noted enforcer Mark Carroll in a collision which caused spilt beer around the entire stadium. Lockley was stunned, Carroll was cautioned and Country received the penalty. From the tap Lockley had no hesitation in taking the hit up and headed straight back at Carroll resulting in another massive collision and squaring the ledger. Good judges in the members' stand were looking for their little black books to note the name of this country boy who obviously had a bit of go in him! Some of Taylor's selections throughout the year were contentious and the main beneficiary was Emery who had the services of a talented and experienced reserve grade side. The Tigers seconds again looked the team to beat. The lower grade sides also dominated the semis with 18's, reserves and thirds all progressing. It had been a long time between drinks and the club was justifiably proud of its achievements. Club President Phil Andrews described the spirit in the club as "outstanding" and with the construction of the licensed club all but finished 1992 was a good year for the Tigers. In seconds Emery's boys went back-to-back defeating Erina 24-14. The Thirds went down to Wyong 24-16 and the 18's defeated Erina 11-10 in a game which kept the big crowd on the edge of their seats until the final whistle. While "Tas" Taylor would be missed, a ready made replacement was waiting in the wings.
From Ashcroft to The Entrance - Emery Steps Up
Alan Emery first came to prominence in 1975 when he was a member of the champion Ashcroft High School side which swept away all opposition before winning the final of the prestigious Amco Shield (later the Commonwealth Bank Cup and Arrive Alive Cup) defeating Parramatta Marist 16-3. Emery was awarded the Player of the Year in this elite schoolboy competition joining such luminaries of the game as Peter Sterling, Ivan Henjak, Paul Langmack, Ben Elias and Greg Axexander on the honour role. Media at that time had Emery pegged as the "next big thing" to take his place in the star studded Parramatta roster of that era but fate intervened when he suffered an horrific knee injury in 1978 which prematurely ended his career. Alan came from a rugby league family and he maintained his interest in the game through his brothers and his father who was a well respected Parramatta district coach. The Tigers were lucky enough to snare him in 1991 to coach their reserve grade side while a former colleague, Paul Taylor, was coaching the first grade. Alan made every post a winner and in 1993 was elevated to the top job where he enjoyed immediate success. When he retired from the position at the end of 1995 he stayed on as a committee man but the lure of competition became too great and Woy Woy Roosters, who had experienced a decade without success at the top level, wasted no time in signing him in 1998. He added two premierships to their trophy cabinet in 1998 and 1999, in the latter season remaining undefeated. This 1999 Roosters side was desperately unlucky not to have won the Clayton Cup which went to Barellan. Barellan was a small country town with a strong rugby league following but they participated in Group 17 which was considered almost a second division competition compared with the other powerful Riverina competitions like Group 20 and Group 9. In any match up between the sides good judges felt that the result would have been a foregone conclusion and the Woy Woy club took the unprecedented step of requesting an explanation from the CRL, but the result stood and the Roosters were left as puzzled as most other experienced league followers. Alan continued with the Roosters when they joined the Jim Beam Cup in 2003 but they had limited success there and he again retired, apart from some consultancy work with the Toukley club, to spend more time with his family and to concentrate on his employment. Alan had trained as a school teacher but had always worked in other professions. He is currently employed as a supervisor at the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre at Kariong where a number of other former Central Coast league identities are employed. Alan was a thoughtful and thorough coach who had a deep understanding of the game. His coaching methods were a mixture of good tactics, close analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of opposition teams and good man management. The players liked and respected Alan and responded well to his coaching. He wasn't afraid to make hard selection decisions and kept the squad on its collective toes. He allowed the players significant input but, at the end of the day, went with his instincts which generally proved to be spot on. He formed positive relationships with all groups within the club from directors, through committee to supporters. He had a knack for recruiting the right players to fill certain positions and was popular with the players of opposition teams. Alan enjoyed the social side of the game and was on every team's hit list when a trivia night was on. His knowledge of sporting trivia and geography was top shelf. In the area of music trivia he even outshone Patrick Hart although his half-back would challenge this assumption! He still keeps his finger on the rugby league pulse and in discussions with him one day when he happened to be at a Bundy Cup game at Cabramatta prior to a family gathering the coaching staff was surprised at his knowledge of our opposition players for the day.
After back to back successes with the reserve grade side in 1991 and 1992 Alan Emery was the logical replacement for Paul Taylor as first grade mentor in 1993. The nucleus of the 1992 squad had been retained and Emery considered some of his former reserve grade charges well capable of making the step up to permanent first grade duties. The players gelled well socially and responded positively to Emery's coaching. He was a thoughtful coach, a good student of the game and had the happy knack of being able to bring the best out in his teams. As often happens though with a new coach and a new combination the season had its ups and downs and at the late stage of the year it was feared that the side would not secure a place in the four team semis. However Emery was confident that his squad was capable of mounting a serious premiership challenge if they could gain some momentum during the last few games of the season. The assignment was a tough one. To qualify for fourth spot the team needed to record victories over the top three placed teams on the table at that stage and this is exactly what they did. Now that they had secured fourth spot they needed to repeat the dose to get through to the decider. In the knockout semi they accounted for Erina convincingly 40-4. At the same time minor premiers Wyong had disposed of Woy Woy 17-12 in the major semi setting up a showdown between the Roosters and Tigers in the preliminary final. Once again, in front of a large crowd, the boys surprised everyone except themselves recording a comprehensive 32-18 victory. Wyong had enjoyed another successful season being minor premiers in first, reserve and third grade and winning the Club Championship. Their three senior teams had qualified for the GF. They began well on the day defeating our Tigers' thirds 34-0 but lost narrowly to Erina in reserve grade. Wyong went into the big one as raging hot favourites but they were sent home disappointed as Emery's charges swept the minor premiers aside 23-12 much to the delight of the huge Tigers' contingent in attendance. Not only had the silverware returned to the Tigers' den for the second time in five years but several individual players were honoured by being part of the successful Central Coast Division side which on their way to the Country Championship had defeated heavyweights Newcastle (32-30) , Northern Division (42-10) and ACT/Monaro (22-10) in the final. Shane McDermott, Andrew Fullagar and Justin Kidd were part of this successful side and Fullagar and McDermott went on to represent NSW Country. Graham Settree was awarded the prestigious Sterland Medal and young winger Jeff Woods was judged Rookie of the Year. Brian Rees won the Cec Robson Memorial Scholarship from the U 18's and Al Emery capped off a great year winning the Coach of the Year award. The first grade premiership squad comprised Dave Wellings, Steve McSweeny, Andrew Fullagar, Wes Milson, Jason Carpenter, Justin Brolly, Steve Lilley, Mick McGuire, Shane Hawes, Matt McCudden, Shane Hawes, Peter Jamieson, Shane McDermott, Sean Gale, Max Beecher, Justin Kidd (Captain), Graham Settree, Patrick Hart, Dave Steptoe and Jeff Woods. Other good club players did their part on occasions throughout the year. Well known local identities and staunch club members Col Thurston, Ian Rice and Paul Clifford filled the trainers' roles and Jim Toohey was the Manager. Al Emery was able to share his premiership success with his son James who was the ball boy. Al had now established himself among the top coaches on the Coast and was reappointed for the 1994 season. A very young Brice Johnson, later to become a Tigers' head trainer, had a moment of glory on Grand Final Day in Sydney as part of the Country Team winning the Jersey Flegg Relay along with Ourimbah player John Carlaw and future Tiger Craig Ashton.
The licensed club had opened in October of 1992 and was trading well so overall things were looking good for the future of the Tigers.
Following on from the great win in 1993, the 1994 season started with the players and coaching staff full of confidence. Allan Emery was retained as 1st grade mentor with former NSW Country star Paul “Rocky” Melross in charge of reserve grade. Billy Nicholls coached 3rd grade and Paul Clifford the 18’s. There was a Manly flavour in first grade with the recruitment of Dave Hoban, Mark Lack, Peter Dowling and Jason Lussick from the Sea Eagles and most of last year’s premiership squad retained with Beecher and Kidd notable exceptions. The season began with a loss to the strong Wyong side but by round nine the Tigers were leading the competition ,despite the loss of forward leader Graham Settree with a ruptured achilles in round three, as well as emerging winger Geoff Woods and the experienced Shane Hawes. This was balanced to some extent by a late start to the season by Andrew Fullagar. Umina had recruited strongly for 1994 and the addition of Sydney players Mark Geyer and Scott Murray completed what was an extremely strong side right across the paddock. Umina were to prove our undoing in round eleven when we lost the competition lead and lost hard tackling second rower Dave Wellings who copped accidental knees in the back courtesy of Geyer, an injury which caused ongoing problems for him in the latter part of the season. A huge crowd packed into EDSACC for this clash exceeding even many of the good attendances that were a feature of the early 90's. By round 14 we had slipped to fourth (although only three points off the lead) and had lost more fire power from up front with prop Jason Lussick injured. Apart from Umina this was a very strong year of competition with all sides boasting players with Sydney and representative experience as well as a number of young players who would consolidate their reputations in this division in future years. Journalists Paul Crawley and Paul Kent were at Ourimbah, Tony Gleeson and Brett Jackson were at Erina, Richard Rice was starring for Woy Woy with Paul Douglas, and Matt Parish was captain-coach of a Gosford side containing Rod Bird and Jason Chambers. A young forward by the name of Chris Coles was running around with Wyong and Phil Gearside had returned from Parramatta to his home club Toukley. Many of these players were destined to play a major role in future Tigers’ campaigns. The first grade side at full strength was as good as any but injuries really took their toll with the club being forced to use well over thirty players in the top grade throughout the season while our main opposition had the luxury of fielding almost unchanged sides from week to week. This was also having an adverse effect on the lower grades but we still managed to finish the competition rounds with 1st grade equal second with Wyong but forced into third position and a sudden death semi on points for and against. Reserves finished second, thirds were in third spot and the 18’s were second. We were also second in the Club Championship. A great achievement all round. This was the first year of the five team semi-final structure which would give the top three sides two bites at the cherry. Setts returned from injury for the semis, but was obviously not completely match fit and Dave Steptoe and Lussick were missing. The team put up a strong showing in the minor semi against Woy Woy winning 25-18 while Wyong advanced to the grand final defeating Umina. A preliminary final showdown with the Bunnies created a lot of interest on the Coast and we had prepared tactics to negate Geyer’s charges close to the ruck. However, on final day, he played a wide running role and showed great ball skills to set up his outside backs. It was probably his best performance of the year and his side responded, playing sparkling football which we couldn’t match and we were well beaten. With a full roster any of the three remaining sides would have started at almost even money with Umina always having a slight edge in size, experience and speed. On the way home from the final Al Emery expressed some doubts about the club’s retaining him for 1995 given that we had fallen short of our high expectations but realistically injuries had provided a hurdle too high to get over in the end.
The reserves under Paul Melross made the decider but were rolled by Wyong 16-10 and the 18’s disposed of a Gosford side containing Adam McEwen, Kell Portass and Lenny Rosemeyer, all future Tigers winning 13-6. Michael Stewart was a joint winner of U18's Player of the Year with Wyong's Dean Amos. Pat Hart ended the season on a high note winning the Sterland Medal and being the division's top try scorer. Brian Rees made the NSW Country U17 team which played City at Newcastle. This team had a Central Coast flavour with our own Vince Mitchell as Manager and ex-international and local resident Greg Pierce as coach. Jason Carpenter and Jason Lussick represented CC Division seniors. Country Origin had a good year defeating City Origin 22-2 and Country Firsts beat a Metro Cup combination 25-22.
Allan Emery’s prediction that the club would be looking to strengthen its ranks proved correct although his own position was never in jeopardy, having already taken the club to two reserve grade titles, a first grade premiership and a preliminary final in four years. Some of the Manly based players returned to Sydney. Dowling, Milson, Sharrock, Jamieson, Tillet, Soutar and Wellings left for new team Berkeley Vale where Paul Melross had secured the coaching position and where good money was on offer as they attempted to guarantee their success in the first year. Lussick was lured to Woy Woy, while Gale, Stepoe and Brolly joined Terrigal. However Emery and his Sydney based brothers had a good eye for recruitment and the gaps were quickly filled. Toukley had withdrawn from first division and Umina’s inability to retain its stars from 1994 proved a bonus for us. Garry Fairhurst, a representative back, joined us from the Newcastle competition, Mick Conna and Tony Peters came across from Umina, Shane Davis, Mark Busetto and Bruce Carr came from western Sydney and Craig McAndrew was recruited from Souths. Phil Gearside and a number of other good players travelled from Toukley to continue playing in first division and a group of players came from Mounties. The club also had a sprinkling of talented youngsters coming through the grades and had retained many of its big guns from previous years such as Settree and prolific point scorer Pat Hart. Jason Carpenter was recruited by Balmain after some sterling performances in previous seasons and went with the club’s best wishes as he attempted to crack the big time.
Wyong established themselves quickly as the team to beat and rolled us in the first round. The usual suspects – Woy Woy, Erina, and Gosford - were our other main rivals throughout the year and Wyong finished the year as minor premiers being beaten only once, by The Entrance in the second round. Injuries again played their part but we had established the depth to cover most contingencies. Our biggest losses were Tony Peters (broken arm), a great utility back, and speedy wingers Geoff Woodward and Jeff Woods.
Our first finals game was against Gosford who we beat comfortably 22-12 while Erina were defeated by Woy Woy. We were rolled by Wyong 22-14 in the major semi but bounced back with a good win against Woy Woy 18-8 in the final to set up our fourth meeting with the Roos in the decider. Captain Bruce Carr was carrying a serious shoulder injury and was no certainty for the big one. Peters’ place at five-eighth was taken by Fairhurst and Dave Upcroft and local Under 18 NSW Country representative Brian Rees were on the wings for Woods and Woodward.
It rained during grand final week making the old Grahame Park pitch heavy under foot so a dour struggle was predicted. Most pundits picked Wyong and they went in firm favourites. Carr gamely took the field but his shoulder went early and reserve hooker Matt McCudden replaced him playing the game of his life and in the eyes of many good judges was the man of the match, although this honour officially went to young centre Dave Piggins who also starred. Mark Busetto returned from injury at lock and a bone rattler early in the game on former Queensland State of Origin player and Wyong’s main playmaker Michael Hagan proved crucial with Hagan forced from the field. It was a game of inches with the Tigers taking the lead 8-4 with almost twenty minutes remaining and it was the longest twenty minutes imaginable for the Tigers’ supporters as Wyong threw everything at us. The back three, Upcroft, Rees and McSweeny did magnificently in the tricky conditions as kicks of all descriptions kept them under constant pressure and the forwards led by Conna , Davis, Gearside and Settree were like a brick wall. Although our established stars did well it was our replacements and a strong bench which shaded Wyong in these departments on the day. Our 18's recruit, Brian Rees, had a great game while his Wyong counterpart, Dean Amos, had a game he'd probably rather forget. Amos however went on to forge a fine career at Souths and in NSW Country sides when he returned to Wyong. Our reserves finished third, third grade hung on for fifth spot and the 18’s were second although none made the decider. Wyong once again denied us the Club Championship. Celebrations were long and hard with Mick Conna cutting a fine figure as he paraded around the district wearing only a white nappy on Mad Monday. It was traditional for players to dress up for Mad Monday celebrations and it was usually women's outfits that were the clothes of choice. While the ladies at the St Vincent De Paul shop appreciated the extra business it was of serious concern to witness the excessive time spent by some individuals choosing the most appropriate accessories for their dresses! Big Phil Gearside cut a particularly fetching figure in a silk floral dress with matching hat and handbag. The only real give away was the hairy legs, footy socks and work boots appearing below the hem line.
Tough front rower Shane Davis made the NSW Country Firsts side where he played alongside a young hooker from Cessnock who was named Country Player of the Year - one Jamy Forbes. More of him later. Coaching wise it was the end of a very successful era as Al Emery hung up the clipboard but stayed on as a committee member. The ARL was hearing rumours about a proposed Super League competition that would turn the established order upside down.
Broso Takes the Reins
Tony was the son of a well known Randwick race horse trainer and had attended Marcellin College at Randwick where football is almost a compulsory subject. By the time he reached the Tigers as head trainer in 1995 Broso had established credentials as a player and coach in Rugby League and Rugby Union. He was a Physical Education Teacher who was an old friend of Alan Emery and this is what initially brought him to the Tigers. Tony had had a period of time off from any involvement in football as his young son Patrick had been born with a number of serious illnesses and for the entire eighteen months of the little bloke's life Tony and his wife were making daily trips to and from Sydney to visit him in hospital, punctuated by rare periods where he was allowed to come home. Free time was scarce and they had another young son at home to care for and full time jobs so footy took a back seat for several years. When Tony was in a position to return to his involvement in league Alan didn't hesitate to bring him on board. He quickly established rapport with the players and although he left the group sessions to Alan his one on one coaching and interaction with individuals quickly gained their respect. He drove them hard and got the squad extremely fit and his input to the 1995 premiership win was very significant. When Al signalled his intention to take a break from coaching in 1996 Broso was encouraged by a number of senior players to throw his hat into the ring and he was ultimately successful in securing the top coaching job. As a coach he showed a deep understanding of the intricacies of the game and if any criticism was warranted it was that he was perhaps sometimes too technical in his approach for some of the players at his disposal who approached the game with a broader brush. He was probably ahead of his time to some extent in this regard. Generally the players responded well to his coaching and once the initial teething problems were ironed out during the first few rounds of his coaching tenure the team played good football and were unlucky not to win another two titles. He was well liked and well respected by players and support staff. Although he was unable to secure a premiership Tony coached the side to a grand final in 1996, and a minor premiership in 1997 as well as securing the Club Championship. He continued coaching on the coast in both codes when his tenure at the Tigers finished and had quite a degree of success with representative rugby sides. Tony is currently a teacher at St Peter's College at Tuggerah and is the Director of Coaching for the Central Coast Centurions in the junior representative competitions run by NSWRL.
At the beginning of the 1995 season Al Emery had brought on board an old footy mate,
Tony Brosnan, as head trainer. Tony had been out of football for a few years dealing with a
serious family illness but was by then in a position to renew his interest. He had quickly gained
the respect of the players and had contributed in many ways to the success of the 1995 premiership
campaign. With Emery's support Broso put his hand up for the vacant first grade coaching
position and was appointed following the selection process. It would be fair to say that his performance
was under close scrutiny in comparison to his more experienced and more high profile predecessors. He
was also well aware that following in the wake of such a successful coach as Emery and taking
charge of the reigning premiers brought its own pressures. The majority of the 1995 squad were retained and Jason Carpenter returned from Balmain, some felt prematurely, as he was just beginning to make his mark at NRL level. Two visitors from across the ditch arrived in round five and strengthened the side immensely. Paul Johnson, a front rower, was a Kiwi international and Patrick Kiely, a hooker, had represented the Junior Kiwis. Both were from the South Island and were tough, uncompromising individuals. Johnson proved to be one of the best "go forward" men in the club's recent history and his quick play the ball kept defences on the back foot. Kiely played in the back row much of the time to accommodate talented skipper Bruce Carr at hooker and could really sting in defence. Steve Bateup, Darren Dawes and Mark Burns were other handy recruits. When rep sides were selected we were well represented by McSweeny, Donald McLeod, Shane McDermott, Shane Davis, Bruce Carr, Jason Carpenter, and Richard Rice. Shane Weatherall represented in U19's. The biggest hurdle for Central Coast Division players seeking NSW Country representation was a surprising lack of success at the Country Championships. We usually drew the powerful Newcastle outfit in the first round and didn't often progress past there. Newcastle headed to the finals with monotonous regularity and often dominated Country selections. Individual Central Coast players were sometimes superior to or at least the equal of those who did make it but hadn't been in front of the selectors when it mattered.
The early season games were a mixed bag and it took some time for Brosnan to settle on a side which could successfully play the brand of football he wanted. After turning in seventh position the side hit a hot streak and finished the year in third position behind Wyong and a much improved Berkeley Vale. In fact Wyong's only loss during the season was at the hands of Berkeley Vale 34-10. In the minor semi we defeated Erina 32-6 while Wyong only just defeated Berkeley Vale in the major play-off in extra time. The Tigers met a confident Panthers side in the preliminary final and humbled them 40-14 in a performance where the game was as good as over at half-time. This set up another show-down with our old rivals, Wyong Roos who had lost the previous three deciders. The Tigers went into the GF with a full squad having gotten Conna and Gearside back from injury late in the season. We believed that we had the fire-power to get Wyong out wide with speed if we could contain their big forwards. Then the weather took a hand as the rain continued unabated all week turning Grahame Park into a quagmire. Wyong had a big and very experienced pack led by former Newcastle prop Peter Johnson and captain Matt Harris and they were used to perfection on grand-final day with coach Rip Taylor rolling them in and out of the game to maximum effect. The going really suited their style of play and we struggled to get on the front foot for long enough to get into attacking field position consistently and went down 13-6 in a close tussle. Penalties proved crucial as Wyong only scored one converted try, but kicked three penalty goals and landed a field goal inside the final minute to put a win out of reach. McSweeny scored a converted try for the Tigers and for much of the second half there was only four points separating the sides. While naturally disappointed the club as a whole was satisfied with the way the season had ended and Brosnan was reappointed for 1997. All of our teams except reserve grade featured in the grand finals although we came away empty. The Club Championship had once more just eluded us. Pat Hart topped the divisional try scoring list backing up his efforts from 1991,1993 and1994. If anyone could sniff out a try Patrick could. The curtain came down on his career after ten years of great service to the club and his absence left a big gap. However the club had former NSW Country half-back Richard Rice in its ranks as a more than handy replacement.
Super League would be up and running in 1997 as a competition in direct opposition to the established ARL. Payments to players skyrocketed as both sides attempted to shore up support by signing prominent and even not so prominent players to bolster their numbers in preparation for court appearances. This would have serious ramifications for country based clubs as the already widening gap between what players could earn in the ARL and what they could earn with country clubs became like the Grand Canyon. It was previously quite common for ARL players to move to country areas as a captain/coach or marquee player to wind down their career and they could earn a reasonable dollar. Now even fringe players were being paid to sit on the bench for reserve grade and earning, in some cases, three or four times what even the wealthier country clubs could offer. The development of local talent became even more of a priority for clubs like The Entrance and the club was fortunate to have strong links with its junior league.
The key signing for 1997 was former Balmain boy Matt Parish who was coming off stints captain/coaching Gosford and Toronto (now Macquarie United) in the strong Newcastle competition. He brought with him old Gosford team mates centre Jason Chambers, who had been with Newcastle, utility Rod Bird and winger Matt Buttsworth and Chris Coles from Toronto, (Chris re-established contact with his Dad while at the Tigers and changed his name to O'Beirne but was and still is best known just as "Colesy"). Brian Rees returned from a stint with South Sydney. Stalwarts like Settree, Peters, Kiely, Rice, Mc Sweeny and Shane Davis returned with Davis assuming the captaincy, Bruce Carr having returned to Sydney. McSweeny was in top form and represented NSW Country.
The team took up where it had left off in 1996 winning every game until going down to Erina in a nail-biter at Erina late in the season. It was our only loss during the competition rounds and we finished six points clear of the field. This season would go down as one of our best ever as a club winning the minor premiership in all grades and finally annexing the coveted Club Championship. We went into the major semi brimming with confidence having rolled Wyong in both rounds. Conditions were good and we received from the kick-off. On the back of a solid get-out set Steve McSweeny got away a good clearing kick but was hammered after the kick by Wyong's John McArthur badly breaking his jaw. This was a crucial loss. To add insult to injury Shane Davis was also collected high, broke his cheek and joined McSweeny on the sideline. We failed to recover from the loss of these two key players and went down 14-20 in a tough game. Much was made of the two incidents in the media during the next week and McArthur, while initially receiving a long suspension, was cleared on appeal by Country RL.
Video evidence failed to identify the transgressor in the Davis tackle although everyone on the far side of the ground except the touchie was able to provide valuable clues! Gosford had disposed of Erina and our preliminary final game was against the Townies. With McSweeny and Davis gone we were forced into a major reshuffle and were guilty during the week of focusing on our next meeting with Wyong rather than the game at hand. To the surprise of all concerned we were tumbled out by Gosford 11-10 in a close game we were expected to win, having beaten them comfortably on both occasions during the year.
We were well below our best and even with Davis and McSweeny gone we had the troops to win. It was a major let-down after such a successful season. Wyong, with former QLD State of Origin front rower Gavin Jones coming off the bench, were far too strong for the Townies in the decider, especially after Gosford's key front rower Doug Edwards was dismissed early in the match for a comparatively innocuous high tackle! Reduced to twelve men Gosford were no show.
It was a hollow feeling having been the best side all year and not being there on grand final day but the pain was eased by victories to our 18's 10-6 over Woy Woy and third grade under John Thompson, father of first grade front rower Gavin, steered his side to a 18-2 shut out of Wyong. Terry Whitney was third grade divisional Player of the Year. Reserves went down narrowly to Wyong 16-12.
Steve Bateup, Shane Davis, Matt Parish, Steve McSweeny and Rod Bird made the divisional rep side in seniors and Ryan Wheele, Andrew Beattie, Chardon Waite and Brent Soutar repped in U18's.
In Sydney the ARL and Super League ran parallel competitions which saw the establishment of new clubs and the future of traditional clubs put at risk. North Sydney Bears relocated to the Central Coast as they were struggling financially, despite making the semis nearly every year since 1993. It was thought that the move would widen their supporter base and give them access to the large pool of juniors on the coast.
They say that there are some days where it would have been better to stay in bed in the morning. For the Tigers this is how season 1998 panned out. Tony Brosnan again took the reins and while we lost club stalwarts and quality players such as Graham Settree, Jason Carpenter, Jason Chambers, Matt Buttsworth and a number of others either to employment opportunities, retirement or to other clubs the core of the 1997 side remained and former Easts and St George centre Jeff Orford joined the ranks along with Manly and Western Reds backrower Jon Grieve , Country representative Billy Martin and Parramatta half Scott Hodson. We also picked up Greg Watts,a Country Firsts player in 1997, from the North Coast. The club was determined to make up for falling short of the decider in '97. The season started in the worst possible way. Watts, who was struggling to adapt to the style of his new club was consigned to reserves for much of the early part of the season, but was to figure in a major controversy just when he seemed to be finding his feet. Against 1997 grandfinalists Gosford in the first round we were leading comfortably when lock Rod Bird suffered a concussion immediately prior to half-time. In the sheds Brosnan checked with Birdy who assured him he would be fine after the break. However, immediately before resumption of play and with support staff already back on the side-line, Bird attempted to take the field and it was clear that he wasn't anywhere near well enough to continue. Watts, who had played a full reserve grade game before standing by was pressed into action at the last minute (rules at that time stipulated that a player had to have played at least half of a game in a lower grade to qualify to sit on the bench and there were no fresh reserves except in finals) . Without realising that CC Division rules required him to sign on again for first grade he took the field straight from the sheds. As soon as our bench realised that he hadn't signed on he was called from the field, signed the register, and returned to the fray. Situations such as this occasionally occurred and were easily redressed with the offending club paying the penalty of being a man short while the player left the field to complete the paper work and with no official action taken by the opposing club. As only one set had elapsed before the error was picked up we thought no more would come of it having won the game by a big margin. However, as was their entitlement, the Gosford club lodged an official protest with the division who ruled that we were to be stripped of the two points competition as per their by-laws. A harsh decision. No blame could be apportioned to Watts, it was a management error and we all hoped that the two lost points would not cost us in the long run. The severity of this penalty for what was essentially an administrative matter and for an offence that provided no advantage on the field was discussed by the division later in the season. It was decided that a monetary fine was a more appropriate penalty than loss of points however the change was not made retrospective and our loss of the two points stood. The rest of the season was a mixed bag with injuries playing their usual part but loss of form by key players and the failure to fire by some of our imports even more crucial. It was a frustrating year with great performances interspersed with losses to teams we should have beaten comfortably. Orford was one player whose form was top shelf and he provided real thrust in the centres. With these unexpected losses and less than stellar form by experienced players some disharmony began to creep in and this made matters worse. Brosnan and the players were under extreme pressure as, on paper, we had a team which should have been performing better. Some of our stars from previous seasons were consigned to reserves and we dropped a game to Ourimbah which we should have won in a canter. Shane Davis left the club after a selection dispute. Matters came to a head and after round eleven and Brosnan was forced to step down, a decision he made clear was not by mutual agreement. With the season almost complete Matt Parish was asked to take over and he did so reluctantly as his loyalty to his coach had been patently clear throughout the past two seasons. As often happens in rugby league the drama was a wake up call for the players who rallied around the care-taker coach and the side was desperately unlucky to drop a really tough game 17-16 to the strong Wyong outfit in controversial circumstances. We finished the season well but results of other matches didn't go the way we wanted them to and the two points lost in round one came back to bite us when we missed the semis for the first time in ten years by a solitary point. Although Woy Woy was the standout that season and were eventual premiers under Al Emery's coaching, if we had made the play-offs we would have mounted a serious challenge. This was the last grand final to be played at the old Grahame Park, a ground with great atmosphere and history but a nightmare in the wet .The reserve grade made the semis under Warwick Wright, the 18's lost the big one 16-10 to Gosford under John Cotterell and Paul McPhail coached the thirsty thirds to their second successive title defeating Wyong 22-2. Gav Westwood made NSW Country U18's coming through a divisional U18's that included his twin brother Brett, Tyrell Green, Todd Bolton, Nathan Lennon, Nigel Townsend, Drew Laffey and Jeff Hemming. They made the final only to be defeated by Northern Rivers with Shayne Hayne blowing the whistle - far too often on behalf of the opposition according to Westy! Steve McSweeny was in the senior Country side. Matt Smith, Jeff Orford, McSweeny, Tony Peters, Greg Watts, Richard Rice and Chris O'Beirne made the divisional side which competed in an unusual country championship format where emerging state's teams were also included.
The decision regarding Brosnan was a big call and really polarised opinion amongst club members and supporters. He had been an excellent club-man and although he was unable to deliver a premiership in his three seasons at the club a grand final appearance, a minor premiership, a club championship, sixth position in 1998 as well as excellent results from the lower grades defined a record that other clubs' coaches would have looked at with envy. Many players developed into representative players under his coaching and he was generally well liked and respected by the playing group. Tony was a dedicated family man who didn't socialise a lot outside team functions but it's certain that he appreciated being woken regularly late at night (or early in the morning) by the pizza delivery man delivering food on behalf of his thoughtful players who were out kicking over the traces!
The previous few seasons weren't without lighter moments with presentation nights featuring the politically incorrect interview segment, "Sixty Seconds with Danny Eyre" and the massed choral renditions of Singing in the Rain, complete with actions, performed by the third grade.
The ARL and Super League had merged in1998 but rationalisation of the number of clubs in the new NRL competition resulted in foundation clubs Norths, then technically insolvent, and the famous Souths Bunnies kicked out. This led to pitched battles in court where the lawyers seemed to be the only winners.
Matt's the Man for the Job
Matt was a talented schoolboy footballer who had represented Australia in Under 21 Rugby Union while establishing a grade rugby career at Eastwood. The first grade Sydney rugby competition at that time was a very strong competition which provided rich pickings for rugby league clubs. In 1988 Matt was signed by the Balmain Tigers and joined a club chock full of internationals such as Wayne Pearce, Ben Elias, Paul Sironen, Bruce McGuire, Steve Roach, Kiwi Gary Freeman and pommy super star Elery Hanley. Although used mainly as a utility player Matt held his own in that company until he decided to join the coaching ranks by taking up a captain/coach position at Gosford in 1994. He captain/coached the Townies in 1994-95 before taking up the clip-board at Toronto (now Macquarie United) in the Newcastle competition for the 1996 season. In 1997 Matt signed with The Entrance as a player, hoping to establish himself within a strong club and hopefully move into a coaching role at the club when his playing days were over. The opportunity came earlier than he had expected when he applied for and was appointed to the vacant position of head coach in 1999. As a forward Matt gave away size to bigger opponents but was a determined tough nut on the field. When renowned Tigers' hard man Kiwi Patrick Kiely was asked once who he thought was the toughest player in the Tigers' side he answered without hesitation, "Matty Parish is the man". Matt had to hang up the boots to take up the coaching role and he proved to be an astute mentor taking the side to five grand finals, a preliminary final and a semi final series in his seven years at the helm. This included a Carlton Cup Central Coast Premiership in 2000 and the inaugural Jim Beam Cup crown in 2003. He coached the Jim Beam Cup representative side for a few years with great success. At the end of the 2005 season Matt was offered a coaching position with the Central Comets, a Queensland Cup side based at Rockhampton and feeding into the North Queensland Cowboys then coached by Graham Murray, a reserve grade coach at Balmain while Matt was there. The Comets had been regarded as the easy-beats of the competition but with Matt in charge they improved dramatically. He then moved to Townsville to take over the Young Guns in a role more closely affiliated with the Cowboys before being appointed assistant coach to their NRL side. At the same time he acted as assistant coach to Laurie Daly with the NSW Country Origin teams for several years and extended this experience when invited by Ricky Stuart to join the NSW State of Origin ranks as an assistant coach, a position he has filled for the last few years. He took over as head coach of Salford Reds in the UK Super League before cutting short his tenure and returning to Australia for personal reasons. He was immediately snared by Geoff Toovey as an assistant at Manly, helping to steer the Sea Eagles to a preliminary final in 2012.
Matt was passionate about the game and this rubbed off on his players. His father Don had represented Australia and coached in the ARL but Matt was always at pains to make his own running in the game rather than trading on the family name. He enjoyed a great relationship with his dad who was always there for support but Don himself always acknowledged that Matt was very much "his own man" as far as footy was concerned.
Matt brought a new level of discipline and toughness to the Tigers and had little time for players who wouldn't buy into the team culture or who looked for short cuts. His attention to detail was way above par and his ability to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of opposition players was top shelf. A mid-week visit to one of the houses he was living in and renovating would find him sitting on the floor amongst the paint tins and other building materials with several VCR players linked up so that he could edit the previous week's video to highlight particular passages of play to show the players. In addition to this he would cut in clips of the team we were about to play on the next weekend or snippets of our game against our next opponents from the previous round. Oh, and occasionally a few seconds from the archives of a young Eastwood centre slipping around Mark Ella to score a try! The video session might only last 20 minutes but it was focussed and often had players who had had less than stellar performances the previous week looking for somewhere to hide. The other aspect of his analysis was the tip sheets he prepared on opposition players - where they would stand on a set play, which foot they would step off, their weaknesses and their strengths. One of the Wenty players once commented that it was very off-putting to play the Tigers as they would be setting up for a play and the Tigers' players would be calling out exactly what they were about to do. In 2003 Wenty centre Scott Ella had been scoring tries at will. When we were due to meet them in the grand final former Tigers and Woy Woy coach Alan Emery when asked which three Wenty players the Tigers should fear in the decider said ," Scott Ella, Scott Ella and Scott Ella." However Scott didn't get over the line much with us as Matt had analysed his game so thoroughly that when we started calling his plays and name dropping him he almost began to second guess himself and his game fell away bit. At training and at games Matt was all business. His favourite coach had been Warren Ryan - this explains a lot! He liked to watch games from an elevated position with an assistant (the poor unfortunate bastard) linked to the side line staff by walkie talkie. He was absolutely intense during the game as his emotions see- sawed from despair to delight. Somehow he always managed to find a stick, a water bottle or an umbrella to bang around to vent his frustration. Trainer Pete Ward reckoned he would find a stick in the Sahara Desert. However, even when the boys had put in a bumbling first half and he had steam coming out of his ears on the hill, by the time he reached the sheds his half-time instructions were low key, clear and to the point. Half-time rants were very rare. (Although when there was one it was usually a good one!) In one crucial game when our first half had been very poor, we were well behind on the score board and he was absolutely ropeable with the effort, by the time he had walked to the change rooms he sat the players down quietly, got them all to have a drink and have injuries attended to and then said calmly, "That was awful. This is what we are going to do to win this game." He then outlined four key elements needed for success and the boys went out, put the plan into action and came away with a win. TV evidence seems to suggest that he is much calmer on the bench these days and that Toovey, Bellamy and company have his cash in the intensity department.
Away from the field Matt loved a night out or a trip away and had a great relationship with the players. They took great delight in taking the piss out of him and some of the parties at his place were beauties. His sartorial elegance was legendary. He was sometimes criticised for being too close to his players but essentially this was a great strength rather than a weakness because they loved playing under him
and he had no trouble separating business from pleasure.
Matt has a great work ethic and deserves any coaching accolades that come his way. He maintains a vital interest in the progress of the Tigers and his son Josh is progressing through the ranks with our club.
Matt Parish applied for the coaching position for 1999 and was successful in getting a start. However, in order to do so, it was necessary for him to hang up the boots as the club at that time had a firm policy of not employing captain /coaches. Matt was still relatively young and had enjoyed a distinguished playing career. He still had plenty to offer as a player but his decision to concentrate on being a non-playing coach ultimately proved to be the right one.
Matt was faced with a big task, not just in playing terms but in getting the various groups within the club all back on the same page after the events of 1998. Long term President Phil Andrews had stepped down and was replaced by Mick Bates taking on his second stint as President. Phil had been a great servant of the football club and the Leagues Club for many years and continued his involvement with the juniors and on the board. The club had lost a lot of experienced players including Shane Davis. Orford had signed up again but a family commitment unfortunately meant that he could not play. Parish had a good eye to the future though and added local under 18 stars Brett and Gavin Westwood to the squad along with Nigel Townsend. Matt Smith, a young utility back from Queensland who had joined us in 1998 from Balmain after not being graded there, really came into his own. Matt would be a cornerstone of our teams for several years. Gavin "King of" Spain also joined the troop and added some sting to the defence. Some judges felt our juniors were not yet ready for the rigours of first grade in terms of size and experience but Parish knew better and was ultimately proved correct. Gavin Brown, a half or five-eighth, arrived from Leeds and proved his versatility in these positions and at hooker when first Scott Hodson and then Trent Murphy succumbed to injury. Gav fitted in well but having come from the rather pampered and formal environment English players enjoy in terms of training and support staff he initially found the sometimes casual Australian attitudes at his new home a bit of a culture shock. The young players were able to draw on the experience of McSweeny, Kevin Griffiths, Peters, Bird and O'Beirne, who was coming into his own as a major personality in the club. Adam McEwen joined us from South Sydney with significant NRL experience under his belt despite his youth. Wes Milson and Matt Siedlecki came across from other clubs. The squad was a good mix of youth and experience. Although previous coaches had run a tight ship Parish brought a new level of discipline and fitness to the club. He set the bar high and expected everyone involved, including himself, to come up to it. Early in his tenure he called a Sunday morning training session at Terrigal Haven. Players who had been out rather late on Saturday night with the coach in tow presumed that he wouldn't mind if they had just a little Sunday sleep-in but soon realised that if he said that training started at 6am he meant 6am not five past or ten past. They had time to consider this message as they ran penalty laps up The Skillion! Many of the key players were restricted to only a few games because of injury with records showing only eleven of the thirty four players used played ten games or more. The upside of this was that many local juniors got experience in first grade and this boosted our stocks in coming seasons. Gavin Westwood (16 games), Matt Smith (15) and Brett Westwood (14) led the charge scoring 38 tries between them out of a total of 86. The team finished the season in third position equal on points with Wyong who had a better for and against and behind Woy Woy who had cleared out undefeated to lead the Minor Priemiership by eight points. Reserve grade finished second and the thirds finished in third spot. We rolled Erina in the minor semi and faced off against a big, fast and very experienced Wyong coached by Rip Taylor in the final at Woy Woy Oval. Wyong boasted Mark Breceljnik, Dean Amos, Kyle White, Matt Harris, Peter Lennan, Dave Barrett, Anthony Fenton and Dave Lawton as well as clever Western Division recruit, Matty Ralph. The game was a tight one but they were too good on the day and earned the right to challenge Woy Woy in the decider. Woy Woy that year had a star studded line up coached by former Tigers mentor Alan Emery and featuring former Tigers players of some repute, Jason Carpenter, Bruce Carr, and Shane Davis, the latter two former The Entrance Captains. In terms of a re-building year the season was very successful for us and in addition to developing a fit, well drilled side Parish had developed a really tight knit group which gave them an edge when the going got tough - and it usually did, especially against the big guns Erina, Woy Woy and in particular, Wyong. Gavin Westwood won the Rookie of the Year for the Central Coast which must have been in a nail-biter of a contest against his brother Brett, Wes Milson won the Sterland Medal after a great season and third grade, under Gary "Egg" Edwards, took home the chocolates for the third year in a row. What was developing was a culture of having the best defensive record in the competition as a major goal and this has remained a feature ever since. Parish's motto was, "Attack is a team responsibility. In defence it's personal." Those whose defence went astray did not look forward to follow-up video sessions featuring numerous replays and inquisition by the coach. Colesy was the only senior divisional rep with the team dominated by Wyong players. Luke Rees was our only U18 rep.
In 1999 Parish instituted a pattern of early season away trips to play trials, often against North Coast representative sides, which not only gave the coaching staff a chance to run the ruler over the new players but also allowed the new boys to get to know their fellow Tigers. Bonding was alive and well! The initial trip in 1999 was in a mini-bus which had seen better days, probably over a thirty year period, and which struggled going uphill over a speed hump. As it limped up the hill at Freeman's Waterhole the little pom, Gavin Brown, only newly arrived from the Old Dart, sprang from his seat in the rear in alarm as smoke poured from the engine below and ran up and down the aisle in panic screaming, "Fire! Fire! The fooking bus is on fire!!", in his best Yorkshire accent, trying to collect his bag and open the front door at the same time. This was much to the amusement of our old driver who was used to the bad habits of his vintage vehicle.
If 1999 had been a year when our young guns had been given a shot it was obvious that with players like Kiely, Bird, Brown and Peters gone we would need to plug a few gaps in terms of size and experience. A lot of time and effort went into identifying the positions that needed strengthening and front row, centre and particularly hooker (following an horrific broken leg for Trent Murphy who had been seen in 1999 as a long term fix in this position) were key areas. We also needed more depth at fullback and in the halves. We really needed a captain with country first division finals experience. Pundits in the press wrote us off before the season listing us as, "..former competition heavyweights, The Entrance", a phrase which provided much motivation throughout the year.
The recruitment panel hit the jackpot with the signing of former Balmain Tiger and Country Player of the Year Jamy Forbes, who was coming off a premiership win in Group Ten, along with his Orange Hawks team mate big Fus Afoa and the intimidating back row/ centre Steve Ekepati. Utility back and hot shot goal-kicker Scott Salter was recruited from Ourimbah and Berkeley Vale's top gun, Paul "Smokey" Dawson, also came on board. As always our opponents weren't sitting on their hands in terms of recruitment with Josh White, a Western Suburbs first grader from Sydney joining brother Kyle, now the Wyong coach. This had an upside for the Tigers as regular half-back Mark Breceljnik, a former Sterland Medal winner, prolific goal-kicker and representative player for the Roos, a man who had been a main-stay of their previous premiership wins was overlooked for a starting half-back position at Wyong and rang the Tigers looking for a chance. He didn't need to ring twice! We then heard about a young winger or centre from Souths and Cronulla reserve grade who was on the market. We had previously been disappointed when supposed 185cm, 100kg signings had shrunk considerably by the time they arrived in the flesh. However, this one was different. When Christian Kerisiano walked into the joint he was so big (130 kg and 190 cm) he exceed all expectations and was, surprisingly, a very quick back who had great hands. He was christened "Big" simply because he was. The makings of a top squad were there and it was all systems go. The new recruits settled in well and Fus Afoa looked like being the best front rower to come to the coast for many years. Umina, under Cliff Lyons, had been flying high early in the season with Canterbury and later Bronco player Barry Berrigan a sensation in the try-scoring department from fullback. Fus decided Berrigan had a target on his chest in our first much anticipated encounter with the Bunnies at Umina and spent the whole game terrorising him, trampling him underfoot twice as he headed for the stripe. Team captain Forbes lived out of Fus' pocket and also had a field day. Berrigan, excellent player that he became with the Broncos, probably still wakes at night with visions of the big man heading towards him with the brakes off! Unfortunately for Fus and for us serious injury ended his season early but, as the 30th June deadline hadn't arrived, the club wasted no time in recruiting former St George front rower Jeff Wittenberg from UK Super League and former South Sydney first grader Mick Francis who was recently retired at the time, was living on the coast and was friends with the players. Our clashes with Wyong, always a battle royale, went to a new level in 2000. Parish always said that games between the Tigers and Wyong were the hardest games he had ever played in outside first grade in the NRL. Wyong were six points clear in the Minor Premiership at the end of the competition rounds and were deserved clear favourites for the title. We finished second but were quietly confident that we could match their intimidation and beat them at football. Woy Woy defeated Umina 16-14 in the minor semi and we were set for the major against our old foes, the Roos. They were a bit good on the day (20-12) and finished strongly when first Wittenberg and then Francis were forced off with head injuries in the second half. Their coach, probably in the euphoria of having his side enroute to the decider, came to the sideline late in the game making loud and disparaging comments about the Tigers pack. If memory serves correctly the term "confirmed cowards" was one of the phrases used. In retrospect this probably wasn't a wise move with players such as Milson, Wittenberg, McEwen, Francis, Ekepati, Forbes, Spain and especially O'Beirne as targets and another meeting on the cards in two weeks.
After disposing of Woy Woy 22-10 in the final the stage was set for round four of the 2000 heavyweight contest with Wyong. This grand final was special for many reasons. It was being held at the new football stadium, then "Northpower", it was the first Saturday night grand final and it was being telecast live by NBN television with Mike Rabitt, Richard Jones, and Neil Baker providing commentary. The build up in the press was terrific and the atmosphere on the night was electric with a huge crowd overflowing the western grandstand. From the word go the Tigers got out of the blocks and hammered the Wyong side in defence forcing a number of uncharacteristic errors. In attack they were controlled and put on some smart plays. Salter's kicking was a feature. Steve Ekepati, playing in the centres following an injury to Nathan Johnson, put a try on the board early showing great agility and pace for a big man, then McEwen put in a smart kick on the last tackle (as he liked to describe himself- a five eighth in forwards clothing) and Christian Kerisiano won the race to the ball for another four pointer. Breso was keeping the scoreboard ticking over with his goal kicking. At half- time we had to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves but we had shaded them in all departments and had one hand on the cash. Josh White gave Wyong supporters some hope with a four pointer from the scrum base before Gavin Westwood scored a great try wide out and then, on top of a penalty goal, man-of-the-match Chris O'Beirne stormed over under the posts and the celebrations started. The irrepressible Colesy almost made it a double when he put a little chip kick over (Colesy had not been issued a kicking licence by his coach) and only a wicked bounce prevented him regaining with an open line. That one would have really brought the house down. The Tigers won 24-10. Their "cowardly" pack had taken everything dished out and given it back in spades, even the normally well behaved Spainy letting a few go early in the game. Our backs dominated and outplayed the opposition with five eighth Scott Salter playing the entire match with a fractured cheekbone courtesy of the major semi. No-one watching would have been aware of this as his defence, kicking and general play was outstanding. The lower grades were unlucky finishing, from reserves down, fourth, fifth and sixth. To their credit Wyong had teams in all grand finals and won the 19's and 17's as well as going down by a point in the reserves to Woy Woy. This was a great club effort and they once again were Club Champions and Minor Premiers - no mean feat. The Tigers credo of, "Train hard, play hard and then party hard", was adhered to in no small way and celebrations continued throughout the week. It was a very sweet victory and the Tigers celebrated in fine fashion. The Tigers lads had always enjoyed a drink but even non-drinkers such as Pat Hart and Gavin Spain were never far from the fun over the years. Those who witnessed Spainy in full-flight after two schooners following the 2000 win agreed that it was probably just as well that he wasn't a regular imbiber! With most of the side committed to staying put in 2001 things looked fine for the future of the club. Unfortunately Wittenberg, who was great in the grand final, left to return to England to get engaged and the guard of honour as he boarded the bus on Sunday evening was a sight to behold.
The club had shown great professionalism in their attempts to stay ahead of the game having appointed a full-time football manager, Peter Bevan, at the beginning of the season and their decision had paid immediate dividends in the recruitment process. For many years the club had relied on the good graces of volunteers such as Vince Mitchell, Mick Bates, Gary Rimmer, Jim Stockwell, Phil Andrews, Frank Hooper, Alan Watkins and Ron Catts amongst others in running the football club's operations but the job was outgrowing the time available to part-time workers. The licensed club was trading well and additions and improvements were always being made with Chairman of the Board and die-hard Tiger Mick Williams at the helm. Matt Parish was voted Coach of the Year by his peers, a fitting reward for a coach whose attention to detail was spot on. Cheyne Lennon was the CC Division U18's Representative Player of the Year and Clint Smith was the highest point scorer in reserve grade. Wes Milson, Scott Salter, Jamy Forbes, and Adam McEwen were in the senior rep side.
Central Coast based Norths, no longer in the NRL, merged with Manly to form the Northern Eagles, a new club to be based on the coast and playing half of their home games out of the new Gosford stadium. This wasn't by any stretch of the imagination an equal partnership with Manly in the driving seat and although promising much in terms of development and support in the local area they delivered little.
In 2001 Tigers' territory was a happy place to be. The whole club was moving forward and the spirit was tangible. The coach had established himself and had a premiership under his belt and the core group of young players remained with valuable finals experience now in their box of tricks. Players like winger Ryan Wheele, who had shown great promise as a junior and reached reserve grade level at Newcastle only to have his career stalled by a badly broken leg, were now part of a premiership winning group hungry for more silverware. Brett Blaker, another local product whose early promise had plateaued slightly, showed Parish enough to make him a target for first grade. Grant Schubert joined the club from Norths, Sam Angianga, a capable reserve grader from the Bulldogs came on board and Mal Eveleigh, a quality country product, also arrived. It was a strong competition with Wyong having added Greg Florimo, a former Australian and NSW State of Origin player, Shane Wilson from Souths and Andrew Hunter from Manly. Umina had Lyons, OJ Cunningham, Ian Herron, Berrigan and Mark Soden while Woy Woy had bolstered an already talented side under coach Tony Clarke and the captaincy of Jason Carpenter. At the Tigers Jamy Forbes was relishing the captaincy and establishing himself as the coast's premier player. The Tigers started in fine style following a focused off-season training program and continuing early season trips away for trials. A former Gosford Townie Kel Portass, who had been at Umina, joined the club and the red man added some starch to an already strong pack. The season unfolded as expected with the first grade finishing behind minor premiers Woy Woy. The reserves finished second, the 19's finished third and the 17's were second. As always our main opposition in first grade came from Woy Woy, Wyong and Erina. In one memorable match against Wyong at Grahame Park Wyong centre and former Sydney star Shane Wilson made a bumping and weaving run making lots of ground until finally Colesy caught up with him from behind. Shane already boasted a fair snoz but Colesy rearranged it into more of a slalom ski-run design. Players ran in from both sides and the trainers, who were on the field at the time, joined the festivities. The result was Wilson with a rearranged nose, Greg Florimo who had run in but had missed suffered an injury, Wyong received a penalty, and the two trainers were sent off ! No names will be mentioned but contact Lyle Toms and Lenny Rosemeyer for further details.
We looked to have Woy Woy shot to bits with only minutes remaining in the major semi but one loose ball was all that was needed for the Roosters to mount an attack and give speedster Dave Maryska the opportunity to set up for six points. It was a real case of opportunity lost. After knocking off old foes the Wyong Kangaroos courtesy of a field goal in the dying minutes in the preliminary final we set up for another tilt at the Roosters, albeit battered and bruised from the Wyong arm wrestle but quietly confident. After a month of great performances we went into the game slight favourites in the eyes of many good judges but unfortunately produced a lack- lustre effort .While we never let the Roosters out of reach the spark was missing and we couldn't maintain consistent pressure. Even so a late break by John Strange saw him pulled up centimetres from the line under the black dot. A converted try at that time would have won the game but we needed Strangey to be about twenty centimetres taller. Then a last gasp effort where we had the defence shot to bits on their line with tackles remaining probably summed up the day. With an open field on the right, Sam Angianga, who was usually unstoppable at close range, was sent down a short blind side on the left but was bundled into touch on the corner post by desperate defence. It was a pretty hollow feeling in the sheds knowing that it had slipped from our grasp through our own mistakes but our effort hadn't really indicated that we deserved to win. The Roosters were worthy winners having also won the inaugural Country Challenge Championship earlier in the year. Two players who really embraced the Tiger spirit in 2001 were Gav Westwood and Matt Smith. Both first graders suffered season ending injuries early in the year but when the 19's coach stepped down early in the season these two men, not much older than the players and not having previous coaching experience, offered to take over the coaching and got the side through to the preliminary final. A great effort. We had seconds and 17's in the grandfinals under Garry Edwards and Mark Heming respectively but unfortunately came away without a result.
Clubs are built on good people and one player who comes to mind over this period is Dave Upcroft. Uppy had an AFL background but was a more than handy rugby league player. He was a utility player able to cover anywhere from front row to fullback. He had size, a good kicking and catching game and was a good defender. Uppy wasn't always able to hold down a permanent first grade spot but when the big games rolled around he was always on the bench for first grade and was sometimes thrown in to fill crucial gaps created by injury to top players. This was highlighted in 1995 when he was thrown in to replace winger Geoff Woodward in the GF and put up a tremendous display under pressure to come up trumps. Look at a photo of any grandfinal squad from first grade from 1993 to 2002 and it won't be a surprise to see this great contributor's happy face. The side lost nothing when David took the field.
During this period Darryl Grainger was producing the CC Division program and it was a beauty. The booklet was a glossy which, as well as listing team sheets, featured columns by T.V.'s Andrew Voss, Mark Geyer, Ken Hey recalling past years, and the mysterious "Mole" who scribed the "Hot Goss" column. This shady character had many unrevealed sources and, without necessarily naming names, broke some of the really big stories. Many who followed the old adage, "If the cap fits wear it," took exception to some of the breaking news stories and called for the Mole's head. The Mole, believing that discretion was the better part of valour, retired to the burrow at season's end, his(or her?) identity forever remaining a mystery .The refs also wrote a column covering rule interpretations, common areas of concern and some background information about their members such as their job, previous playing or refereeing experience, their children's achievements, their other interests and so on. This put a more human face on the officials and went a long way towards building good relationships with players for the men and women who take on this difficult job knowing that at least 50% of the crowd will disagree with their decisions on a weekly basis.
In the 2002 season the club was once again strong across all grades. The coaching staff was a settled group and well performed front rower Clayton Whitten joined the club from Norths adding some grunt up front . John Strange, a Canterbury junior who had played grade at Balmain before a stint in the English Super League had proved a real asset in 2001 and we were pleased with his decision to have another year. A major addition to the ranks was Mixie Lui who was a Norths, Country Firsts and NSW Residents player. Mixie was a highly regarded centre and a great bloke who genuinely lived up to his reputation over the next few seasons. We lost the first round clash with old enemies Wyong but reversed the grandfinal loss to Woy Woy. Forbes, Whitton and Blaker were selected for the Central Coast Division side and Forbes took an early lead in the Player of the Year points. By round eight we were sharing the lead with Wyong but had the competition's best for and against record. By round ten we had taken the lead and by round twelve were four points clear of the field. We finished the year as Minor Premiers and were joined in the semis by our reserve grade, the 19's and 17's. Both the reserves and 19's made their grand finals. Wyong was still the dominant club as far as the Club Championship was concerned and we finished second . In the major semi we defeated Wyong 24-20 in a traditional slug- fest. Erina put paid to Umina's chances and then Wyong repaid the compliment rolling the Eagles in the final. For the third successive year the Tigers faced off in the big one at the stadium and were very confident having been the better side throughout the year. Grand finals can throw up many obstacles but we struck a major one early in the game when captain and main playmaker Jamy Forbes was sent off for an alleged high tackle. For all practical purposes when he walked off our chances walked off with him. Wyong were hard enough to beat with a full team let alone with a man short for the majority of the match. The players put in to make up the short-fall but couldn't hold out the Roos. Losing another decider was a bitter pill to swallow and it didn't make things any sweeter when Forbes fronted the judiciary and was exonerated on the high tackle being found to have no case to answer. Ironically he was named the division's best and fairest player and was awarded the Sterland Medal. To add salt to the wounds we came away without a win in the lower grade deciders as well. One of the popular figures in the game at that time, Bob Sharman, as well as writing an opinion column in the weekly program, broadcast the match of the day on Cool Country FM 94.1 radio with Charlie Lucas as his off-sider. Guest commentators were featured and players and coaches were interviewed during match day. This program was very well received and was a boon for those who were unable to attend the game live, such as the ill or elderly, but still loved their footy. Unfortunately this program did not continue and was definitely missed.
Around this period a rather unusual event occurred. The club had had a few groups of cheer girls over the years but a new group emerged during this period .They were a young, attractive group with their own coach and a very professional application to music, routines and costumes. An approach to the Umina committee to perform at Umina's home ground received a positive response and the girls were allocated a secondary time-slot so as not to overlap with the local cheer squad. They set up their music, took their places and began their routine. Obviously no-one had thought to canvass the opinions of the local girls about visitors performing on their home turf. Part of the way into their routine the Umina girls also took the field and set up. Ah, a combined performance we thought. But then a rather imposing Umina group leader approached our lead dancer and, with a few well chosen words thrown in, gave her an almighty shunt in the back. Our girl, despite her small stature and demure appearance, obviously harboured a bit of the old Tiger spirit and landed a right cross that Danny Green would have been proud to claim. Then it was on for young and old with pom-poms flying everywhere. Normally such an event might have had the more feral elements of the crowd shouting encouragement but this melee started and escalated so quickly that the general reaction of the crowd was dumbfounded amazement.
Officials moved quickly to restore order and it was over as quickly as it had begun. Needless to say further cheerleading activities for the day were abandoned. It wasn't our greatest day and unfortunately for both clubs the unique event featured in the Daily Telegraph and on Channel 9's Footy Show. Some of these ladies would now be approaching their thirties and possibly have families of their own. I wonder if they smile quietly to themselves when sending the kids off to school with a warning not to get in any fights!
A wider issue was becoming apparent across the division with the four clubs backed by licensed clubs able to attract players to the extent where it was almost a lay down misere that the Tigers, Roos, Roosters and Erina Eagles would dominate the finals in all grades , a prediction that could be made well before the season had even started. Umina had had a few good years but found it hard to sustain their financial position after a year here and there of heavy recruitment, Ourimbah were always solid and could not be discounted but Terrigal, Berkeley Vale and Northern Lakes struggled to stay in touch. Gosford had already folded as a first division side as had Toukley. A strong Saturday League existed with ten teams but none were strong enough to move up to first division. Administrators were desperate to work out a way of creating a more level playing field without weakening the competition. The answer came from left field when the NSWRL floated a proposal to establish a new competition to rebadge the existing Metropolitan Cup and to extend it outside the boundaries of Sydney. Clubs were invited to attend a meeting where the proposals for the new competition (initially designated the Sponsor's Cup) were outlined and were asked to submit expressions of interest. The Tigers Committee and Board of Directors saw this as a mechanism for giving talented Tigers juniors a chance to strut their stuff at a higher level without having to move away to join a Sydney club. The club was interested, the coach was interested and the players were very interested. As we were part of a Country Rugby League area some heavy negotiations with the CRL were undertaken and clubs were informed that they could only join the new competition if they maintained teams at all levels in the local competition. This meant the financing of an extra team for each club. Initially Wyong, The Entrance, Woy Woy, Erina and Ourimbah showed interest in the new concept. Eventually Wyong accepted overtures from the Newcastle competition which had also divided into almost a two tier affair. The other clubs gave it the green light and much interest was generated on the coast and in the Sydney media as plans for the new competition were put in place. The newly designated Jim Beam Cup had arrived for season 2003.
The largely unsuccessful Northern Eagles club was dissolved at the end of the 2002 season with Manly winning the NRL franchise and Norths returning to their Sydney base as a second tier club. The footballing public of the Central Coast had never embraced the club and home games at Gosford were relocated due to poor attendance. Some pundits surmised that a merger of the worst run club in Sydney with the most unpopular was doomed from the start. The punters believed that the coast deserved its own team not one relocated from another area. There were many Rabbitohs supporters amongst the Tigers' ranks and they were pleased that their famous club had regained its spot in the NRL in 2002 after many court battles and public rallies led by club legend George Piggins.
Into the Unknown-The Jim Beam Cup
After having ruled the roost to some extent in the CC Division over the past fifteen years the Tigers were stepping into uncharted waters along with our mates from Erina, Woy Woy and Ourimbah. Although Ourimbah hadn't enjoyed the same level of success as the other clubs in recent years they had been a powerhouse on the coast during the 60's and 70's and left no stone unturned to make sure that their entry into the new competition was strong. Other clubs included in the competition included Wentworthville, Canterbury based Sydney Bulls, Windsor, Guildford Owls, Ryde-Eastwood, the famous Newtown Jets club, Souths Juniors, Penrith Cougars based at the St Mary's club and feeding into the Panthers, and the four coast sides. To ensure an even competition a salary cap was put in place as was a Player Points Index System (PPIS) where registered players were allocated points based on the level of their prior experience. Former NRL players attracted 20 points ranging down through the levels to local juniors who attracted only 2 points. NRL category players were given discounts to reflect their years out of the big league and players of all categories attracted discounts for years spent at the same club - the loyalty discount. This was a strategic move to encourage the development of local juniors and to prevent club hopping. The seventeen players named in the squad each week could total no more than 100 points. It was the end of an era for us, no longer jousting with the Wyong club, but the new competition offered fresh challenges.
The club's policy of junior development would pay dividends in the PPIS allocations as would the loyalty discounts for players from other clubs who had been at the Tigers for several years. The much vaunted move to the coast by Norths several years earlier and by the Northern Eagles in 2000 promised significant benefits for local clubs but these benefits didn't really materialise. Most saw the moves as a thinly veiled attempt to access the very large and talented pool of juniors on the coast, apparently the third largest in NSW at that time. The welfare of local senior clubs was largely ignored but there was one positive spin-off as in 2003 many Norths players returned to their home clubs or to the Tigers so that they had a chance to participate in the Jim Beam Cup. We gained the services of Jamie Davis, Brian Tritton, Cheyne "Butch" Lennon, Nathan Ward, Aaron Pascoe and Todd Bolton all from Norths. Local junior Ryan Hey who, following a stint in age competitions in Sydney after being a member of the 2000 premiership squad, was back at the club and proved a good back up for Forbes at hooker. Ryan completed the trifecta for the Hey family with grandfather Vic, an all time great and former Australian coach, having coached the Tigers in 1966/67 and father Ken, a well known Sydney first grader having also played here. Brett Blaker walked out on a Premier League contract with Souths to join the Tigers early in the season and we were pleased to welcome him back. The well credentialled Tobias Jones also shifted over from Erina but unfortunately his season was eventually ended by injury. In a three way trial against Erina and a full strength Canberra Raiders side we held the Green Machine to a draw so we knew we had something special in the squad.
The programmed side for our inaugural game was Brett Westwood, Ryan Wheele, Mixie Lui, Scott Salter, Todd Bolton, Tobias Jones, Matt Smith, Steve Ekepati, Jamy Forbes, Cheyne Lennon, Kel Portass, Jamie Davis and Brian Tritton with Chris O'Beirne, Gavin Spain, Aaron Pascoe, Ryan Hey and Gav Westwood named on the bench. However Nathan Soutar played and kicked four goals in the game. Chris Mundey, Craig Ashton, Brian Rees , Nathan Thomas, Tane Tutaki and Geoff Bellwood also featured in early games. Former Knight and Dragon Shane Powell came on board as assistant coach and former National Beach Sprint Champion Steven Munnery acted as conditioning and sprint coach. We didn't lack quality support staff.
Our first competition game was scheduled for a Monday night at the Sydney Football Stadium against Souths Juniors as a curtain raiser to a Souths v Cowboys clash. If you are going to get wet you may as well jump in the deep end and this is how it felt. Team managers travelled to the venue by car to check out arrangements prior to the arrival of the team bus. They were met by some of the high profile Souths Juniors' officials whose faces and names were well known from the media during the widely publicised campaign to get Souths readmitted to the NRL the previous year. The welcoming committee provided a list of rules for stadium use and presented our officials with a large, glossy, hard-cover book outlining the history of Souths Juniors. Then the Souths players filed in all kitted out in matching dress shirts, tailored slacks, Colorado leather shoes and carrying matching gear bags. They looked as if they had just come from City Gym in neighbouring Surry Hills as they were all very big and had obviously had the benefit of an off-season weights program. Our collective thoughts were, "What the hell have we got ourselves into here?". The message that we were now competing against experienced, traditional teams which were backed by much larger and more established licensed clubs than our own was never more apparent. We warmed up on the main field as members of The Burrow set up their NRL signs and banners and as punters began to file in from local watering holes, quickly filling the stadium. We figured that at worst we would not die wondering and once the game started the fitness and structure we had worked so hard on all pre-season kicked in. At half time we led 20-0 and went on with it in the second half to make the best start possible to our campaign winning 24-0. We met the Sydney Bulls at their home ground in the next round. They hit the ground running and were up 24-0 at the break but we fought back to level before an intercept try gave them the points. This was a bit of a wake up call. Easter rain forced the postponement of our match against Newtown. A few weeks later we received another jolt at Penrith Park before a Saints v Panthers NRL game when the Cougars were too good for us 26-12. Unfortunately in this game young forward Aaron Pascoe broke his leg and was gone for the year. One positive side-light to the day was when a steward entered the Tigers' coaching box just before kick-off and delivered an Esky full of rolls, snacks and drinks. It had a sign on top saying "Visiting Team", which we were, so we dug in, not wanting to be rude and refuse the hospitality of the host club. Part of the way through our snacks we noticed another label on the side of the Esky which brought us to the conclusion that the meal was for the benefit of the other "visitors" that day, St George NRL coach Nathan Brown and his staff. The rolls were delicious and the drinks were cold. Sorry Browny! At this stage Brett Blaker was still with Souths and had been up and down between Souths reserves and Souths Juniors JBC so he decided to come back home and slotted into our side well. After the Cougars we didn't lose another game after outings at famous venues such as Leichhardt Oval and Henson Park. By round ten we were up to second spot behind Ryde- Eastwood having only lost two games. Englishman Richard Hewitt, Jay Mitchell, Grant Condon, Ben Wrigley and Nathan Ward also made appearances at this point in the year. By round 17 we were on top with a postponed game in hand and the side was looking very settled. A feature of the season was a JBC triple header at the Gosford stadium with Ourimbah v Souths Juniors, Erina v Guildford and The Entrance v Windsor played in front of a big crowd. We finished Minor Premiers on 39 points followed by Wenty on 34, Souths 29, Bulls 28 and Cougars 27. Ryde Eastwood had fallen away late in the season and the other coast sides, although competitive, had not been able to win consistently with an Alan Emery coached Woy Woy surprisingly second from last. As we had planned and worked to do all year we finished with clearly the best defensive record in the competition. Some NSWRL officials described our style as boring but we also boasted the third best attacking record so this opinion didn't really stack up. The difference between us and some of the Sydney sides was that they were often content to win games by scores such as 44-36 while we valued our try line more and our biggest losing margin had been 14 points in our 26-12 loss to the Cougars. Wenty had disposed of Souths in the preliminary semi and the Bulls had done likewise with Penrith Cougars, had then swamped Souths 46-8 and were building a head of steam. We faced off against the powerful Wentworthville machine in the major semi at the new stadium at St Mary's. This was a monumental tussle but we did the simple things well and had a good win 24-16. Brett Westwood scored a double cheered on by three bus-loads of supporters who had travelled to the ground. The Magpies knocked out the Bulls in the preliminary final and we prepared to muscle up against Wenty again. We went into the decider with the full support of the Central Coast, including our rival coastal teams, which was greatly appreciated. All of the boys felt like they were playing for the entire Central Coast. The media was all black and gold with front and back pages dedicated to coverage of the game. The only down side to the whole build up was the suspension of Colesy after he was cited by Wentworthville for an alleged high shot in the major semi. Our very popular mate, local cult hero and top class go- forward man would miss the big one. Colesy's club spirit was underlined when he trained every session with the boys in the fortnight leading up to the game knowing that he would not be there. His place was taken by local boy Tane Tutaki. This was a very tight knit group of mates and that more than compensated for any lack of size and experience. This mateship extended through all grades as it always had at the Tigers.
The promotion of this new competition included playing the decider at the Olympic Stadium as a curtain raiser to the NRL grand final between Penrith and the Roosters with national television coverage. How much better could it get? The first half was played in steady rain which wasn't conductive to free flowing football but we always seemed to be in control despite a close scoreline. With the half-time break over and instructions to defend like desperate men, to hold our nerve and to build a good second stanza the team took the field only 40 minutes off the pot of gold. Parish made his way from the bowels of the stadium to the coaches' box wondering if the rain had stopped. When he stepped out of the lift adjacent to the coaching boxes he was greeted by horrendous lightning and thunder, a pitch black sky and pelting rain being blown horizontally across the ground. This storm kept up for almost the entire second half making conditions as difficult as could be imagined. When the final hooter went the big crowd of supporters who had travelled to the game erupted and the inaugural Jim Beam Cup was in the Tigers' den after a hard fought 14-10 victory. Suffice it to say that the sheds after the game, the bus trip home and the reception back at the club were all a joyous blur. Todd Bolton almost didn't make the big one, leaving after training on Thursday night to head to Eden for his mum's wedding. He gave the bride away, missed the Friday night team dinner, got booked for speeding on the way home to catch the bus on Saturday and lost his wallet! Todd said the win made it all worthwhile and dedicated it to his dad who had passed away a few years earlier. Incidentally, as well as being a talented footballer, Todd was also a bicycle stunt artist of some repute. On one of the annual bike rides/pub visits we ended up back at the then Indonesian themed Shelley's Beach Bar. To demonstrate his agility on two wheels Bolts shouldered his machine, clambered to the top of the thatched cabana and rode his bike down the roof of the structure into the pool!
If we thought the build up prior to the game was amazing the week that followed was even more so. The players ensured that the coach wasn't going anywhere too soon putting his old white ute up on four beer kegs in the club's car park where it remained for the week! The papers carried double page coloured team photos, the front and back pages covered the game and its aftermath in detail, electronic media was all over it and the local radio station actually broadcast from the club carpark on one day putting on a free BBQ for the team and local supporters and their children. Wyong Shire Council chipped in, striking a special medallion and plaque for the team members and hosting a civic reception for us at the Wyong Civic Centre. Wyong Race Club invited us to a members’ lunch on race day along with the Irish Rugby Union team which was touring at that time. We were named the Team of the Year in the annual Express-Advocate Sports Star Awards. We couldn't have hoped for a better start and The Entrance Leagues Club brand was firmly out there. Our PPIS for the big one totalled just under 60 points while our opponents were right on the limit at 100, a tribute to junior development and loyalty within the club. The NSWRL were happy, the sponsors were happy, the Tigers faithful were very happy and the Jim Beam Cup had started on the best possible note. Six players made the Jim Beam Cup rep squad under Matt Parish as coach. Ryan Hey was selected in the JBC Colts to play an English touring team. We looked forward to defending our title in 2004. Fears that entry to the new competition would adversely affect our local first grade were dispelled when Rick Treloar's boys were Minor Premiers and Premiers defeating Erina in the GF, 19's were second under Tony Gleeson going down to Ourimbah and Kincumber Colts, playing as our 17's, were also second.
At season's end we even entered a Rugby Union 7's competition featuring a number of overseas teams for a bit of fun and in an attempt to earn some prizemoney. With players unfamiliar with the rules and strategies of the gentlemen's game we lost our first encounter against eventual winners Fiji. Then Tritto and the coach had words as Brian (we didn't call him Brains for no reason) forcefully tried to explain the subtleties of rugby strategy to Matt (a former Australian Under 21 Rugby Union representative) a lecture which Matthew didn't receive graciously. We sulked in the tent for a while before deciding to look on the bright side of life. Two cartons of Crown Lagers were on ice for later so we decided, as the day was warm, to make an early start on our beverages. This strategy obviously relaxed the boys and as the day went on we went through the repecharge rounds with our performances on a continual upward curve ultimately winning the consolation final with some of the rugger boys not appreciating the front on tackling of Jamie Davis, Tritto and company.
Once teams get a premiership under their belt the next goal is to go back to back. The club hadn't achieved that distinction since 1956/57 in first grade and with Alan Emery's reserve grade in 1991/92 but another opportunity presented itself in 2004 for both the Jim Beam Cup and first grade sides. Having retained the bulk of the 2003 Jim Beam team and with some significant additions things were looking promising. Local boy Alex Moore, who had been at Manly through its age teams and who had been the captain of its reserve grade team after a few NRL appearances, returned to the coast. Alex was an experienced half-back with speed to burn and added a new dimension to the side. Gavin Westwood and Matt Smith were back on deck, talented fullback Shaun Laurie joined the fold along with Western Division and Country centre Jason Thorne from Bathurst. We also picked up a big unit, Eddie Rotidata, from Leeton as well as Gordon Jones from Erina and Scott Hutchinson, a former NSW Country U18 rep, from Norths. With a number of local juniors moving through into first grade the club was in a strong position. Sydney club scene powerhouses Cabramatta, backed by a wealthy club, joined the fray adding another layer to an already talent laden competition. Pre-season 7's, 9's and 8's modified rule knockouts became part of our trial matches and we enjoyed a fair share of success in these events. Gordon Jones, Ryan Kelly, and Jay Mitchell were selected in the Central Coast Division Rep side and Gordon was named CC Representative Player of the Year. The Jim Beam Cup side took up where they had left off at the end of the previous season beating every team put in front of them. The major downside though was a serious groin injury suffered by Alex Moore at Henson Park against Newtown which forced him to miss most of the season. He really didn't regain full confidence in it at all that year, missing the grand final. Alex had been sensational early on and his loss was a big blow. Everything was going as planned . We had not lost a game at home since part way through 1999 and had not lost a JBC game since early in 2003. Unfortunately this great run came to a shuddering halt when we stumbled against Windsor in the last home game of the year with Craig Trindall's kicking game ultimately making the difference in a narrow loss. The loss set us back on our heels slightly but we won through to the decider with the Bulls as our opponents. Despite our success the season had been punctuated by long term injuries to Moore, McEwen and Matt Smith amongst others. Seven top line players were sidelined for extended periods throughout the year. McEwen missed the major semi win against Windsor with a troublesome hamstring injury. Under 19's hooker Daniel Bates, who had shone in previous outings in Jim Beam Cup, was conscripted into the squad to cover the loss of Alex Moore whose groin was still only a 50/50 proposition and too much of a risk for a big game. The game was still at the Olympic Stadium but had been moved from grand-final day to the day of the NRL preliminary final as the main curtain-raiser so it was played in front of a good crowd in much better conditions than in 2003. The start to the day wasn't ideal when the team coach broke down at Tuggerah. Hasty calls to the club allowed us to divert the supporters' coach to pick up the team while a replacement supporters' bus was organised. It must have looked a strange sight to passing motorists as we unloaded the training gear including rubbing tables and got the players strapped and prepared on the grass verge outside Tuggerah Business Park. We were already late when the replacement coach arrived at Tuggerah and then when we arrived at the stadium security wouldn't let the bus in as it had a different number plate to the coach which had been assigned underground team parking at the stadium adjacent to the dressing rooms. Despite desperate pleas and explanations to the gatekeeper (obviously a distant cousin of Hitler) we were forced to find an outside park and then unload and carry all of our gear an extended distance into the stadium dressing sheds. Travelling to away games always carries the risk of being made late by unforeseen circumstances but when you are on a live TV schedule, as we were, starting times can't be put back and our pre-match warm up was rushed and abbreviated. We started on a high racing to a 10-0 lead with Matt Smith at half-back playing a blinder, scoring one and setting up another. The Bulls hit back but at 10-6 we were controlling play well. Unfortunately what should have been a free flowing game was marred by a sideline official who was obviously miffed at missing the appointment in the middle and was on his microphone to the ref incessantly. This disadvantaged both sides. The Bulls were called back for one forward pass when they were in a good position to score and Forbesy was pinged three times for forward passes from dummy half just when we were on a roll. These stoppages and penalties made it a stop-start affair. Momentum was with the Tigers but towards the end of the half when we were right on the attack and looked likely to score the Bulls winger chanced his arm and went for the intercept. He secured the ball on his fingertips and raced away for a length of the field try. Matt Smith hit back with a good individual try just before the break but we went to the sheds with only a four point lead at 16-12 in a game we had dominated. The Bulls scored after the break to take the lead and then won a contest in the air for another try and a 22-16 margin. We had our chances but weren't playing as well as we had earlier and couldn't make up the gap. Matt was quoted later as saying that he felt it was more a case of us having lost the game rather than them winning it. Meanwhile back in the local comp Rick Treloar's boys did make it back to back premierships with a good win over Umina and Rick was rewarded for his efforts with the Coach of the Year award.
In 2005, after several less than successful attempts to align NRL clubs with the coast in order to assist junior representative development the NSWRL and CRL liaised and the Central Coast Rip organisation was established to give local boys a chance to represent their local area in a locally based team. A lot of time and effort went into this venture and a senior CRL manager was appointed to oversee its operations. With a new logo, distinctive jumpers and playing on Mingara's oval the Central Coast Rip had a couple of moderately successful years but unfortunately were still regarded as the poor cousins of the competition when other teams had a direct link to an NRL side. If a very talented juniors emerged and had a choice of playing for The Rip or for Balmain Tigers many chose the option they regarded as the one with the best pathway to the NRL ie Balmain. In this way some of the best players were still siphoned off from the coast and The Rip found consistent success hard to come by.
Over the past few years we had played Newcastle sides such as Kurri Kurri, Lakes United, Macquarie, Raymond Terrace, Norths/Nelson Bay and Central Charlestown in trials at their home grounds. With our ground always unavailable due to cricket matches we were forced to hold pre-season training at the high school grounds and to travel away for trials. Playing these strong sides where the refs tended to play a shorter ten than we were used to we found ourselves dominated in the ruck and on the ground to some extent. Until that time many of our players weren't regulars at a gym and we did not really have a big side anyway. Back in the days of Max Beecher, Sean Gale and Justin Kidd the players had some basic equipment in the gear shed which they used informally and some attended venues such as Arthur's Gym off their own bat but there was no real facility to run team weight sessions on a regular basis. Visits to a gym, to a pool, to kick boxing classes and to the sandhills were used to break up the training routine a bit but we needed our own facility. Lobbying of the board received a favourable reaction and a well equipped gym, freely available to players in all grades, was established in a building adjacent to the bowling green. This was a positive step towards continuing a professional approach in order to stay a step in front of the opposition. We signed Country Firsts half Warwick Colley, Guy Williams, a centre from Rockhampton, Joe Tau for the front row, and James McCabe, a Newcastle rep from Nelson Bay. A young player from Port Macquarie, Courtney Rolfe, who was on Cronulla's radar, was parked with us so that the Sharks could monitor his progress. Through Matt's association with Ricky Stuart we also formed a liaison with NRL club the Roosters to use in Jim Beam or first grade some of their contracted players who weren't required for grade games on occasions. This arrangement had its pros and cons. James McCabe definitely looked the goods but he unfortunately badly fractured his leg and was gone for the year. James eventually resumed his career and represented Country from Nelson Bay. Warwick Colley was only a slightly built player but in a trial against Raymond Terrace, a team with a very big front row, one of their monsters charged straight at Warwick early in the game only to find himself smashed in a ball and all tackle. Suspecting a fluke shot his partner attempted the same trick only to suffer a similar fate. We got used to Wok pulling off these big hits all year. In his previous clubs and at representative level he had been used to being the first receiver on both sides of the ruck but we played with a receiver on either side. He really had trouble adjusting to the style of play the coach required and, although he was a valuable player for us, didn't have his best year. He went on to play for Country for a number of years and was a player of undoubted quality. Forbesy had retired at the end of 2004 but was finally enticed back mid-way through round one. Some of our recruits had talent but it wasn't on display consistently and Parish had difficulty picking a settled side. Injuries hit hard and the ability to use the Roosters players occasionally got us out of some tight spots. However this venture had a down-side as these boys were required to train in Sydney and were often late withdrawals from the side when called up for Easts. On one occasion in a crucial game against Newtown, Trent Carruthers was picked to play and was at the ground waiting for the team bus. At late notice he was called up to East's Premier League side which was playing at the same venue later that day. The bus was already almost at the ground and so we would have been left a man short except for some last minute organisation of gear for another registered Sydney based player. From then on we began taking an 18th man to cover such contingencies but, of course, this disadvantaged the local teams if they were playing at home on the same day .Some of the Roosters were talented but others weren't always up to the mark and didn't add a lot to the team, especially not having trained with us, not knowing the players and not knowing the calls. One of our regular Easts boys Trent Carruthers was an exception, playing well regularly and a very young Rhys Pritchard also fell into this category. For several games we had the services of a big young player who was returning from injury to Easts' ranks - David Shillington has gone on to bigger and better things due no doubt to the steep learning curve he went on at the Tigers! A local junior, Daniel Harrison, also made his first Jim Beam Cup appearance during the year and has since taken the step up to NRL with the strong Manly side. Matt Parish had at the start of 2004 been appointed as full time head coach and football operations manager but the weight of expectations of the dual role took their toll and before 2005 season's end he relinquished the managerial role and concentrated on the coaching side of things. Matt was receiving overtures from other clubs from higher levels and many suspected that he would move on at the end of the year to pursue his coaching career. We finished third despite the many disruptions during the season but went into the semis a bit under strength and not brimming with confidence. This showed on the field and although we had two bites at the cherry we went out in straight sets to Wenty. Windsor went on to annexe their first JBC premiership. The end of the season did signal the finish of Matt's tenure at the club as he signed with the Cowboys and took over the coaching of Central Comets, a Queensland Cup side based in Rockhampton and a feeder to the Cowboys. His time at the club as head coach had resulted in appearances in five grand finals and two premierships, including the inaugural JBC title. He was a very popular player and coach and had led the club into a new era of professionalism. The Under 17's under coach Laurie Weir lead a side which defeated Wyong 24-18 in the game that counted to keep the Tigers flag aloft in 2005.
From first violin to orchestra conductor for Forbesy
Forbesy has had probably one of the most distinguished careers of any player outside of the NRL ranks. He played for the strong Cessnock club and won premierships as a player at Toronto (1991), Orange Hawks (1999) and The Entrance (2000, 2003). He represented Country (1995, 1998 and 1999), NSW Residents against Queensland (1995) and the Jim Beam Cup rep side against NSW Country (2005) and was the NSW Country Player of the Year in 1995. He is one of only a handful of players to have represented three different country divisions; Central Coast, Newcastle and Western Division winning a Country Championship with the latter two (1992, 1994 and 1995 with Newcastle and 1998 with Western). Jamy played reserve grade for Balmain and is widely regarded as one of the best footballers around in the modern game not to have played NRL. He captained the Tigers' first grade and JBC teams continuously from 2000 until 2005 before taking over as JBC coach in 2006. He has always been a slightly built player and has always conceded weight to opposition forwards without much concern. Any barbershop relying on Jamy to remain solvent would do best to shut up shop as he has always had a shortage of hair. However God is fair and this has been compensated for in other respects. His slight frame and bald head has made him a distinctive figure on the field with opposition players usually getting the rear view as he gapped them for a try. Since taking on the coaching role he has guided the Tigers to a JBC premiership (2007), two CC Division Premierships (2008 as head coach with Gav Westwood as first grade captain/coach and in 2009), two Club Championships and a Clayton Cup, two Bundy Red Cup preliminary finals in 2010 and 2011 and a minor premiership and grand final in 2012. In 2011 he was the Bundy Cup representative team assistant coach and was awarded the top job for 2012. He was also the assistant coach of the Central Coast Divisional side for one year. This year he matched Matt Parish as the longest serving coach at the Tigers and having been appointed for next year will take over this mantle in 2013. His career at the Tigers now extends from 2000 to 2012.
If supporters thought that Broso was up against it taking over from Alan Emery in 1996 then Jamy definitely had big shoes to fill when he took over from Matt Parish ten years later. Jamy spent a number of years playing under Matt's guidance so it was no surprise that their coaching ideas were similar in many respects. Good defence was still a priority but Jamy's approach to attacking play was quite adventurous mirroring the way he himself had played the game. He was prepared to cop a few errors as long as they were made with players trying to test the opposition line. He did not spend as much time analysing the opposition as Matt had preferring to concentrate on the play of his own side believing that if we got our own house in order and defended well we would get the job done. This is not to say that he wasn't a keen student of the opposition's danger men or of their tactics. He still relied on statistics and video to back up his instincts and wasn't afraid to make hard decisions about selections or tactics. Jamy, having been part of the tight group culture at the Tigers for so long, maintained the emphasis on mateship and ensured that this extended to lower grade players and support staff. He was well respected by opposition players in his playing days and this respect extended to opposition coaches when he took over the non-playing role. Like Matt his close relationships with his band of players was a bonus and this was obvious to other teams who sometimes tended to go in different directions once the game was over. Jamy was secure in his own ability and was not threatened by taking on board well credentialed assistant coaches and support staff. Jamy prefers to watch the match from the side lines, sometimes very close to the sidelines in fact, rather than from a perch in the stands. He rarely "spits the dummy" in his addresses to the team and continually focuses on the positives, preferring to address areas of concern on a one to one basis and this is appreciated by the players. The mark of a good player is someone his team mates like playing with and Forbesy enjoyed this respect as a player. As a coach he is someone the players enjoy playing for and this is reflected in his results. He is not reluctant to do the little extras which make life easier for the players like the menial tasks of filling water bottles or packing away gear and plays a major hand in social events. He enjoys watching the lower grades play and is always looking for an opportunity to blood a talented young player in the top grade. He has also been known to enjoy a lower grade game or two, even at his advanced age, and still has a few tricks up his sleeve, especially on the short blind side. However his body began sending "enough is enough" signals in 2012 and we may have seen the last of the bald head nipping through the ruck. In 2013 Jamy will continue as head coach at the Tigers as well as coaching the Newcastle Harold Matthews junior representative side and it is certain that he will be keen to continue his association with the senior rep sides. Jamy loves his footy and one of his main goals for his players is that they should not only be successful in their sporting careers but more importantly that they should enjoy their football and everything that goes with it. To this point he has done a very good job of balancing the fun with success on the field.
Matt's departure left big shoes to fill but the club followed the successful arrangement of appointing from within and Jamy Forbes took over the reins. Jamy was required to step down as a player to fulfil his non-playing responsibilities.
He had forged a distinguished playing career especially at country level but was a novice coach, his only experience as assistant to Matt in 2005. However he was popular, a good thinker and very keen to succeed. Tony Gleeson continued with the first grade, the club's very successful lower grade coach Rick Treloar took charge of seconds, veteran player Matt Sieldlecki was the 19's mentor and Laurie Weir continued with the 17's. The club secured the services of fullback Craig Parke from Wenty along with their front rower Hayes Lauder and former Parramatta player Wade Le Strange whose NRL career had been cut short by a serious neck injury. Christian Hill from Manly joined us and played well. Wade Grintell joined from Canberra with good reports preceding him. Gavin Westwood was still overseas and Colley had gone but most of the 2005 crew remained and there was no reason to think that we would not be successful again. If Jamy thought that his transition to coaching would be smooth he was in for a shock. The other Sydney sides in the JBC had recruited heavily and most had signed some very big and very experienced forwards. The top side from Manly Junior League, Belrose, were ready to make their mark, Newtown had added considerably to their roster and traditional sides such as Wenty and Sydney Bulls were still coming to grips with Windsor having pinched their spot at the top of the hill in 2005 and were keen to lift to another level. In our first outing the Bulls wacked us 44-16, our heaviest defeat so far since entering this competition. All previous losses had been nail biters with our biggest losing margin up until then a 12-28 loss to the Cougars in 2003 so the scoreline was a shock. Things didn't improve when Newtown, with probably the biggest pack in the competition, rolled us 34-18 at home. We lost Lauder, Parke, Smith, Lennon, Grintell and Ashton either to retirement or long term injury. Injuries were so prevalent that for programming purposes we were forced to name a 20 man squad each week and we used well over thirty players in the course of the year with the same side rarely taking the field two weeks in a row. The Bulls were going along their merry way undefeated but we were recording a few good wins without ever being able to move above fifth position. By the half-way mark only one point separated second and sixth which is where we were sitting behind 2005 premiers Windsor on for and against, despite having recorded one of our best wins of the season 34-0 against Asquith at Asquith. Then our biggest and most experienced front-rower Adam McEwen was lost to the club and his loss had an unsettling effect on the team. We had recorded some good wins against some of the leading teams but a key loss came in round 16 when we were narrowly beaten by Asquith 26-24 at EDSACC, four tries each but with goal kicking the difference, a game we were expected to win. A game against Cabramatta, who we had beaten in the first round ,was deferred. We had to play this at night mid-week in the middle of two other hard games and it was set to be played at Ourimbah. Players still sore from the weekend rushed in from work and our pre-match preparation left a lot to be desired. A win there would have secured us fifth spot but if you can be ambushed on home soil we were by a team which turned up in their coach early were really primed and ground us out of the game. Cabra eventually bowed out in the preliminary final. Our hopes were still alive but we were getting into dangerous territory where we were relying on the results of other games to get us into fifth spot. They didn't go our way and our final performance against Belrose was probably our worst. The season was over for us, finishing 6th and consigned to unfamiliar territory watching the semis from the side line. Realistically we didn't consistently have the troops to seriously challenge the front runners. Fred Hartup summed it up well when he remembered his mother telling him that it was no good telling a team to "pull its socks up" when they didn't have any socks! Tritto was the only Tigers' player selected in the JBC Quad Series Rep Team compared with other years when we had featured prominently. The upside of our injury plagued season and one where imports didn't always come up to expectations was that a number of our local juniors and first graders got significant JBC experience which would be invaluable in the not too distant future. Gun sides Sydney Bulls under David Bayssari and Greg Matterson's Newtown met in the decider with the minor premier Bulls victorious. In difficult circumstances Jamy had done well and his first stint at coaching had taught him a lot and had brought relative success, although he refused to look at it this way, was embarrassed that we had missed the play-offs and was determined to lift the standard considerably in 2007. One unfortunate requirement of competing in the JBC was that teams fell under the guidelines of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) where players could be randomly drug tested on game day and at training. We had no problems with this apart from its inconvenience. On training nights the testing staff could turn up unannounced, nominate players from the previous weekend's game and require them to go through testing procedures which were quite time consuming. This would sometimes occur just as we were about to take the field for a ball-work session and we would have to proceed minus a half-back or hooker while they were being tested and paperwork completed. On game day two players and a reserve from either side would be randomly selected but would not know about this until the completion of a game. They would then be required to be under the constant surveillance (including while showering and dressing) of an ASADA official until they had provided a specified volume of urine as a sample. Eighty minutes of footy, especially in hot conditions, has a dehydrating effect and providing the sample is often not possible for a substantial time. It wasn't a great problem after home games as the official would simply follow his client to the club while he had a few beers and shadow him until he finally produced the required volume of the amber fluid. Away games were another issue altogether. On one notable occasion at Belrose our two lads were unable to produce the goods. We attended the Belrose clubhouse for a few beers, had a meal, stayed for their presentations and were beginning to wonder if we should check out overnight accommodation. All the while our bus driver's mood was growing darker as we went on into the night with no successful outcome. Finally the deed was done and we were on our way. Thankfully it didn't happen every week and it was gratifying that no-one ever recorded a positive test.
The other sides had had mixed success with firsts missing the semis, Rick's reserves in fourth , Matt Siedlecki's 19's and Laurie's 17's minor premiers but there was ultimately no trophy for the cabinet in 2006. Kirk Thompson was the leading point scorer in 19's with 241 and tied the player of the year - pretty impressive considering he played some games in JBC and Matt Nelson led the division's point scoring in 17's with 178 points. Old Smokey Dawson, still giving them heaps in reserves, also tied with current 18's coach Matt Hunter for player of the year in this grade. We ran second in the Club Championship behind Woy Woy with Wyong not quite the force they had been now that their focus was on the Newcastle comp. Jim Beam Cup players were given approval to be selected for the divisional rep side and Craig Parke, Matt Gibson, Brian Tritton, Ryan Wheele, Jamie Davis, Alex Moore, Matt Smith and Adam McEwen got the call up. Rob Fuller was our sole U18's rep. Planning and recruitment for 2007 began in earnest with a new side, Shellharbour Marlins, to join the competition.
In the NRL the Broncos under Wayne Bennett racked up their fifth title since entering the competition in 1988.
By 2007 the Rip had folded and the Melbourne Storm had established their NSW Cup feeder side at Mt Penang sportsground making improvements to the field and establishing an office and gymnasium. Time would tell if this venture would benefit the coast league players and fans. We had been there before and the public were cynical about the whole exercise, particularly with the Storm's NRL club based interstate. The Storm played their home games at Morrie Breen Field at Wyong. Gavin Westwood had returned from the UK but had suffered a serious skull fracture while there. He needed a medical clearance before he could resume playing and took some time to regain his confidence. Two important recruits were former Rip players Jamen McLeod, a fullback and Troy Woodley, a hooker. These players were Kincumber juniors but joined the Tigers to be in the mix for JBC selection. They were joined by Ryan Cribb also from Kincumber and Vita Hemmings from Umina. Corey Kinsela returned from a stint in lower grades at several NRL clubs and Chris Birchall, a front rower and friend of former Pom recruit Gavin Brown, was signed from the UK where he had played Super League. Brett Blaker was back after a UK sojurn, Jacob Martin joined the club and David Djukich signed from Parramatta. Some of the local boys who had been pitchforked into JBC over the past few seasons were now ready to take the step up on a permanent basis with Courtney Rolf really starting to hit his straps. One of our best recruits was not a player. Brice Johnson, a former Erina player and champion beach sprinter was secured as strength and conditioning coach. He had immediate impact conducting base line tests and developing individual programs. Although the gym had always gotten good use its function in adding bulk and strength was focussed as never before. BJ was also a great bloke who knew his footy and his contribution to our success was vital. With more depth than over the past few years the season was looking promising. Shaune Corrigan, who had been a consistent performer in our juniors, was looking ready to get some game time in 2007. The original plan was to give him a run in the trials to see how he handled things and then, if he did well, to give him some games against some of the less competitive sides. Corro, though, had a different plan and his early form was so impressive that he became a permanent member of the team and played every game but one. The strategy of using two hookers was gaining momentum and we had the ideal combination with Matt Gibson, a tough defender, starting the game and taking a bit of string out of the opposition forwards before the elusive Troy Woodley, very sharp out of dummy-half ,was introduced against a tiring defence. Our season was very successful but as always, not without its dramas. Nathan Ward began the season well and against Erina at EDSACC went in hard from a scrum and hit an Erina player with a bell-ringer. Unfortunately the player slipped at the point of contact and Wardy collected him high with the outcome being severe facial injuries to the tackled player who was in major difficulty on the field. The game was stopped for a considerable time as the doctor rendered assistance. The injuries were serious and the newspapers had such a field day that by the time Nathan fronted the judiciary charged with a Grade 5 intentional high tackle he had about as much hope of getting off as Ned Kelly did in the dock in1880. He was suspended for eleven weeks, his only chance of another appearance resting on our making the semis. While noted for his rugged defence even opposition players conceded that causing this injury intentionally "wasn't in Wardy's game". Jamie Davis and Brian Tritton also had a few weeks cooling their heels due to suspension. Jamie was a tall player and his intimidating ball-and-all tackles snuffed out many attacking raids. However, because of his height, the margin for error was slight and he sometimes found himself in the ref's bad books. Against then competition leaders Belrose David Djukich was charged with biting which caused concern in the club but this charge didn't get past first base at the judiciary. Jamen McLeod and Troy Woodley proved valuable acquisitions but we lost them for several weeks as they travelled overseas with the Australian Universities rep team. Brian Tritton and Courtney Rolf were selected in the Jim Beam Cup rep side which played a quad series. Tritto was named captain and played every minute of every one of the four matches while on tour being named Player of the Series. Injuries took their usual toll but the depth available in the club covered this well. With Birchall, Butch Lennon, Corey Kinsela, Dane Lear, Courtney Rolf and Steve Ekepati all available for the front row and former Many player Jacob Martin also capable of playing there we were more than a match for the opposition up front. One of our bigger wins was a twelve try demolition of Shellharbour Marlins which we won 58-4. Alex Moore couldn't buy a goal in the second half and copped heaps, even from the Marlins' coach, former Illawarra prop Dave Walsh, when they attended presentations. If he had been on target we would have been in the 70's. Once again we boasted the best defence in the competition. Meanwhile, in the local league, Tony Gleeson's boys led the ladder and the reserves were only one point adrift of the leaders. Alex Moore had been appointed full time as the club's development officer and was kept busy running clinics in local schools, hoping to identify a few future Tigers .One of the most disappointing losses was to Cabra at home. With the scores locked and full time looming Adam Tippet took a shot at field goal. The kick was astray but in rushing to block his kick our defence was ruled offside and he had a gift two points from a penalty to give Cabra a 20-18 win. To balance the ledger we recorded a 22-6 victory over the Bulls and at that stage shared the lead with Cabramatta and Windsor. Young guns from the 2006 19's such as Kirk Thompson and Shaune Corrigan were leading the way and utility players like Adrian Jones were getting their chances while the stars were on rep duty. We took the outright competition lead and in an innovative move played a deferred game against Chester Hill at home under temporary lights. Despite freezing weather the Wednesday night encounter drew a huge crowd and showed that with a decent lighting system these games could be a feature of future seasons. With the quad series games, normal competition games and the deferred match Tritto ended up playing seven matches in eighteen days. One of our hardest encounters was the return bout with Shellharbour at Shellharbour in a Saturday night game. The Marlins, still stinging from their first round thrashing, hit us with everything but the kitchen sink leaving the boys bruised and battered leading into the final few weeks. Tritto finally got a break but not the kind he wanted being suspended for two weeks for a dangerous throw .We stumbled a little at season's end losing the last three games but still felt we had the wood on the Bulls for the major semi. How wrong we were. They humbled us 50-10 in our worst display in years. The harder we tried the worse we got and in the end they were scoring tries at will. We had no answer and the trip home and the team meeting that followed were sombre affairs. A crisis meeting was held on the Tuesday at training when the embarrassing game statistics were available. It was a heavy duty meeting with everyone putting all of their cards on the table. The training session that followed was one of the most physical and most focussed all year and everyone went home with a changed attitude believing we could still win the title. We had great wins over Wentworthville and Cabramatta and were set for a rematch with the Bulls in the grand final. Forbesy was then forced into making the most agonising selection decision that any Tigers coach had been forced to make. Analysis of our games against the Bulls indicated that a change in tactics was needed and, in order to implement this some players with contrasting styles had to be brought in. The losers in this equation were club stalwarts Cheyne Lennon and Gavin Westwood, players who had been the backbone of the team in recent years. It is never easy being replaced and with the big prize so close it was even harder for the coach and players who were also good mates. Nathan Ward came in at five eighth. Nathan didn't have the finesse with the ball or the kicking game of Westwood but had the type of defence which could intimidate the smart Bulls halves and wide runners. Dane Lear, who had been in and out of the team throughout the year, was also brought in for Butch. Lear was solidly built low to the ground, was quick over a short distance and possessed a very quick play-the ball, a style which could trouble the bigger and less mobile Bulls forwards. The decision caused many differences of opinion and was one based not so much on relative ability but on picking "horses for courses". Unfortunately Corey Kinsela was out with injury and our great winger Ryan Wheele broke his hand in the preliminary final. The grand final was played before an NRL preliminary final at Sydney Football Stadium so a good crowd was in. Forbesy arranged for Matty Johns to address the boys before the game in our dressing rooms in the members' stand of the old SCG. His few short hints were spot on. We also warmed up on the famous old SCG. We began in good style and pressured the Bulls from the word go. There was no time in the game when it ever felt as if we were going to lose eventually recording a 30-20 winning score. As the Bulls were scoring their final consolation try our players were high-fiving in the in-goal as the hooter was sounding. Shaune Corrigan was great and everyone played their part to perfection. Captain Alex, who scored 18 of our points, proudly hoisted the cup which was back in familiar Tiger territory. Even our old team mate Adam McEwen took some time off from a day out with his Lakes United Newcastle premiership team and managed to somehow scam his way past security and into the sheds to share a beer with the boys. When we left the ground he hitched a ride on the bus for a short distance and the last we saw of Adam he was jogging, dressed in all his finery, up to rejoin his mates at Taylor Square. A good looking and well dressed young man like Adam jogging alone up Oxford St on a Saturday night could have been some cause for concern! The mood in the club was very buoyant for weeks and a group comprising team members, committee and board members set off in a mini-bus to attend the JBC Presentation evening at Mounties complex. We were looking forward to being on the premiers' table and to applauding Alex, who had been voted Player of the Year and Tritto, who was being recognised as the JBC Representative Player of the Year. We set off in good spirits but Mother Nature took a hand and before we had reached the Hawkesbury River the F3 was closed due to bushfires. Our driver, Glenn "Big Undies" Jacobs, was regularly contacting a mate from the fire services to get updates but it didn't look good. Traffic was at a standstill and although frustrated we were better placed than some of the other travellers who were booked for international flights or important business meetings. A combination of very hot weather, a dwindling supply in the Esky and the news that the road would remain closed for several hours convinced us to make the call to return to base. Glenn was able to turn the bus around, find a cross-over point and head home where the board generously shouted drinks and dinner for the disappointed group.
New recruits had been signed for 2008 and nearly all of the current team was remaining for a tilt at back-to-back premierships. Then the bombshell hit. New government non-smoking laws and increased poker machine taxes were placing clubs under severe financial pressure and our club was no different. Profits were down and funds were needed to build new out-door smoking and gaming areas and something had to give. Unfortunately we were faced with the news that the board had decided to withdraw from the Jim Beam Cup competition as one of a number of cost cutting measures. While the players understood the financial imperatives they were nevertheless devastated. Being only a young playing group they wanted to play at the highest level possible while ever they could and so for some the prospect of playing back at local level wasn't appealing. All but two who had young families or mortgage commitments indicated their willingness to take a pay cut to stay together as a group and to continue playing at the higher level but the decision had been made. There was a significant exodus from the club with McLeod, Moore, Woodley and Rolfe snapped up by NSW Cup sides, Davis, Birchall and Hutchinson were signed by Wyong, Lennon went to Berkeley Vale, Cribb to tertiary studies in Sydney, Kinsela to the police force, and Ekepati and Tritton retired. Brett Blaker was signed by Wentworthville and Shaune Corrigan, after a terrific season, was signed to a full-time contract by South Sydney. Other players from outside the club who had signed to play JBC in 2008 were released from their contracts and played eleswhere. Gavin Westwood had already been appointed as first grade captain-coach for 2008 and Jamy Forbes had been retained to coach JBC. To the credit of the club they honoured the contracts of both men with Gavin filling the captain-coach role and Jamy overseeing all grades as Head Coach. Other clubs in the local competition were not over the moon at having to match up against some of the quality JBC players who had remained to play at the Tigers. The club's reserve grade lifted the trophy again under Rick Treloar's coaching.
Gavin Westwood - Playing Coach
Gav is part of a football family at the Tigers. The Tigers has prided itself on being a family club and over the years there have been numerous groups of brothers, brothers-in-law, fathers ans sons and other related groups who have represented the Tigers in some capacity. Names such as Hart, Nicholls, Bates, Cameron, Andrews, Nelson, Woodley, Baldry, Ward, McCudden, Thurston and Eyres, come easily to mind over recent years. However, by weight of sheer numbers, the Westwoods would take the cake. Gav's father Geoff is on the committee and Gav and his five brothers have all played in first grade for the Tigers. His grandfather was an Entrance player as well. His eldest brother Paul has probably been the longest serving player for the Tigers in the last twenty years. He has made only a few appearances in firsts but has been a mainstay of the other grades and has given fantastic service to the club. Daniel showed a lot of potential but his career at the Tigers was short as he moved away for work. Adam (Jack) showed great promise in U18's and quickly rose to first grade but his career was punctuated by injury. However he was a member of some talented sides and played regularly over a long period. He remains a good club man and assisted Gav as manager in 2008. Gavin and Brett had very successful junior and first grade careers and also made the transition to Jim Beam Cup. Gavin represented NSW Country U18's and both went on a tour to Fiji with a representative Colts squad. Gavin and Brett had speed to burn coupled with great footwork and got across the line with monotonous regularity. In the same teams they showed an uncanny understanding of each other's games and contributed to each other's try scoring record. Gavin could fill any position from half-back to fullback with consummate ease although he was a natural five eighth or centre. He was quick, had great hands, possessed a spot on kicking game and was an effective defender. He could also pot the occasional goal if needed. Gav has been part of grandfinal sides in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Possibly a record for the club. He came away with premiership medals in 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2009 as well as having the distinction of being player/coach for the club's first Clayton Cup and for an undefeated run in 2008. Apart from a short stint in the UK on a working holiday in the mid 2000's Gavin has never played for any other club. He was the target of numerous offers from other clubs over the years but remained a die-hard Tiger. Gavin was a talented player and is an exceptional club man.
At NRL level, after fiddling around the edges of elite age based competitions for years the National Youth Competition (Toyota Cup) was launched and all NRL sides fielded teams which would travel away with the NRL squad and mirror their draw. The prominence given to this competition really pushed the open age NSW Cup aside to some degree upsetting many of the traditional league supporters who had been brought up on Saturday afternoons watching third grade, reserve grade and first grade all playing for their club at the same venue. Many NSW Cup games were now relegated to stand alone games before small crowds at suburban grounds. Game day at the bigger venues consisted of the NYC game followed by NRL.
One of the major aims of the club's top side in 2008 was hammered home by coaches Gavin and Jamy from the word go. That was that the level of commitment and intensity previously shown at JBC level not diminish and that winning would not be taken for granted. Existing divisional clubs had built up in strength and were very competitive. A core of JBC players remained and they were partnered with a number of locals, very good players like Ryan Kelly, Luke Gornalle, Steven Stringer, Ben O'Connell, Otene Tutaki, Dane Allen and Grant Condon, some who in past seasons had had some JBC experience without being able to cement a permanent spot. Consistently playing in first grade had established them as experienced senior players at this level and they were able to help ease into the side a number of promising juniors coming through the ranks. Tony Gleeson had left the den to take up a Head Coach role at Berleley Vale. Ryan Wheele, Jason Cook, Kirk Thompson, Nathan Ward, Matt Gibson, Grant Condon, and Dane Lear made the Central Coast Rep side alongside Tigers' regular rep team trainers Lyle Toms and Denis (100%) O'Loughlin.
Ourimbah looked to be the main danger having recruited well and Umina and Northlakes had put together strong squads. Fortunately the CRL and NSWRL allowed us to dual register players who were with the Storm and when not required for NSW Cup duties they could play for the Tigers. With his direct coaching responsibilities somewhat diminished Forbesy gained the committee's permission to play again and dutifully dusted off the boots to assist Rick Treloar's reserves where he was joined by other senior citizens from the 2000 premiership squad Matt (Sarge) Siedlecki and Paul Dawson. Forbesy would complete his reserve grade responsibilities and then assist Gavin with the first grade. Gav was having a great start to the season leading the best and fairest points and enjoying the coaching role. Corey Kinsela was finally injury free and was showing just what a good player he could be when fully fit .By August we were level pegging with Ourimbah and both sides to that point had not tasted defeat. We finally came up against our danger team in a wet weather catch up round on 10th August at their home ground. We were level on top with 34 points with Umina next but ten points adrift. A crowd of 3000 turned up at Sohier Park to witness the clash and weren't disappointed. The Tigers were victorious 36-22 but Ourimbah showed enough to keep us on our toes. As the draw panned out we only met Ourimbah once in the preliminary rounds but in the space of a few weeks we were up against them in the major semi. Umina, Northlakes and Berkeley Vale made up the five. The major was a rugged tussle and the scores were locked 20 all at full time. Two Tigers' tries in extra time did the trick and we prevailed 30-20. All was set for a blockbuster at the stadium if the Magpies could only dispose of Northlakes who had snuck in by a point against Umina in the minor semi. They made no mistake winning the preliminary 38-28 and it was game on. Sadly Gav succumbed to injury and missed the GF although everyone in the squad was in such good form that he had joked during the week that he might have to drop himself to avoid a real selection headache. We warmed up on the Leagues Club Park and could hear the huge crowd cheering the reserve grade clash between our boys and Northlakes without knowing the score. Then word came through that our fullback Gary Osborne had sustained a suspected spinal injury and the game was delayed by 20 minutes. We were all relieved to hear later that Gary had been cleared of spinal damage and he was able to join the celebrations that night. With an experienced squad we relaxed under the shade of the palms, quietly went through our game plan and waited for the reserve grade game to restart before we resumed our warm up. Unfortunately our reserves, minor premiers that year, were pipped at the post 33-22 with a field goal the difference. Northlakes seconds were coached by Justin Biddle, a member of our 1995 premiership side and it was their first senior premiership since joining first division in the late 80's so Bids was the Mayor of Munmorah that night. The Magpies, with former Tigers Adam McEwen and Clayton Whitton on board, took the field to a rousing reception and were undoubtedly sentimental favourites looking for their first top grade title in almost 50 years after ruling the roost in Central Coast league in the 50's and 60's. The game featured tough clashes and Nathan Ward was forced off five minutes in with a massive cut after a head clash with Magpies' Mark Littlefied who was also replaced. Magpies centre Jason Thorne, another ex-Tiger, copped a high shot and had to leave the field for treatment, returning later in the game. In the football department the Tigers were controlled with the ball, defended grimly and were just too professional. Make no mistake, this was a quality opposition featuring size, speed and plenty of experience. They had been undefeated except for clashes with us and the major semi had been a nail biter. We needed to play well to get on top and that is exactly what we did. We took a 22-0 lead to the break and went on with it after half-time. A final score of 50-4 (a record for the division) underlined the Tigers' dominance and Dane Lear was named man-of-the -match. Try scorers were Jamen McLeod (2), Kirk Thompson (2), Jason Cook, Ryan Kelly, Ben O'Connell, Dane Allen and Brian Tritton. Steven Stringer kicked six goals and McLeod one. The only down side was the dismissal of Otene Tutaki just before the final whistle for an alleged high tackle. It was a great day out for the club. We had four teams in the decider and the 19's under young coach Kyle Whiteford also took home the chocolates. Ben Fitzsimmons was man-of-the-match in this game. In addition to this we won the Club Championship by more than 100 points and later in the year received the prestigious Clayton Cup, a much sought after trophy awarded annually since 1937 to the first grade side considered to be the best in NSW Country competitions. Being undefeated minor and major premiers with 840 points scored for and only 180 against as well as the record score in the decider made us favourites for this award which was presented prior to a World Cup clash between Scotland and Fiji at the stadium later in the year. Nathan Ward was awarded the Central Coast Medal and also had over a dozen stitches in his head to remind him of his grand final outing. Jamy Forbes was Best and Fairest in reserves, we were the top tryscoring club with 535 and Mitch Milos was the top point scorer in reserves.
Meanwhile in the JBC, new teams Chester Hill Rhinos, Southern Sharks (Cronulla), Western Australia Reds and Campbelltown Eagles had joined but our old traditional foes Windsor and Sydney Bulls topped the table. The Central Coast Storm had had a moderately successful year in NSW Cup and Junior reps.
The whole club began 2009 on a high. Jamy Took control of the first grade, Rick continued with the reserves, Laurie Taylor took over the 20's and Graeme Baldry was in charge of the 18's. These two new divisions replaced the 19's and 17's of previous years. Gavin Westwood continued as a player with a First Grade Premiership and Clayton Cup securely under his coaching belt. Shane Wooden joined the club from Erina, Jacob Martin and Nigel Townsend returned to the fold, Coedi Towney was on deck, Jay Heming came back from Parramatta and Alex "Helmet" Moore returned from a season with The Storm. Justin McGuire, Ben Fitzsimmons, Matt Nelson, Jeremy Monden and James English stepped up from 19's. Jamen McLeod was signed by Cronulla and Jason Cook retired but nearly all of last year's squad remained. Otene was forced to cool his heels for a few weeks having been suspended for the grand final incident. All clubs were steadily building strength and it looked set for an even competition. On the representative scene the Central Coast Division and Group 21 had combined to form a Central Hunter Power Division and the Tigers were represented here by Gavin Westwood, Vita Hemmings, Nathan Ward, Jacob Martin, Jay Heming, Shane Wooden and Dane Lear. Former Tigers Jason Thorne and Adam McEwen, now with Ourimbah, were also selected. Prominent Tigers player from the 90's Jason Carpenter was the coach, Jamy Forbes was his assistant and long term Tigers' and representative trainer Lyle Toms was a member of the support staff. As was often the case they came up against the powerful Newcastle outfit (featuring two other former Tigers, James McCabe from Nelson Bay and Jamie Davis from Wyong) in the first round and were knocked out of contention. Chris Burke, Nathan Weir, James Baldry and Josh Thew were part of the Central Hunter Power U18's which won the Country Championship. Even with seven senior players away with the rep side and another two out injured we defeated Terrigal 56-8 in round six and were emulating the results of 2008 in terms of for and against points. Wet weather was playing havoc with the draw and by round 10 we were undefeated on top with two deferred games in hand. Our main rivals appeared to be Erina, Northern Lakes, Ourimbah and Umina with Kincumber, Berkeley Vale and Woy Woy hot on their tails. Mitch Milos was streeting the opposition in point scoring in reserve grade. By round 14 we were well ahead in the Club Championship and were ahead in all grades except 20's where we were second. Jamie Lane had edged ahead in the reserve grade best and fairest. We took an eight point lead when we defeated second placed Erina 29-16 and Matt Nelson was closing on Ourimbah's Jason Thorne in the point scoring stakes. Against Toukley a young player called Jake Fitzpatrick caught the eye and went into Forbesy's little black book. Everything in the garden was rosey and another undefeated season was on the cards when we came up against Ourimbah at Ourimbah in round 16. After a tough encounter we looked to have the game in hand holding a 22-20 lead and the clock was ticking down. We made a good break, put a kick in, regained and the winning try looked certain but the final pass went astray, right on Ourimbah's line. Their fullback retrieved the ball, passed off to speedy centre Jason Thorne, he kicked ahead and they won the chase for a converted try with time gone giving the Magpies a 26-22 victory. The bubble had burst but poor Umina paid the price in the next round copping an 84-6 flogging from a team which had received its wake-up call for the year. We marched into the semis as minor premiers in firsts, 20's and 18's while reserves were second. Jamie Lane was just pipped in the reserves best and fairest but with the big win against Umina Matt Nelson overhauled Thornie as leading pointscorer in firsts. The Warriors knocked out Umina in the elimination semi and Ourimbah were already talking about what they were going to do to us in the GF when they held a good lead over Erina in the qualifier. However Erina made a late charge and pipped the Magpies much to the surprise of the crowd. We disposed of Erina in the major and again surprisingly Northlakes staged an almighty comeback late in their semi knocking Ourimbah out of the finals in straight sets. All supporters were shocked to see Ourimbah make an early exit as they had been very consistent all year but were probably guilty of looking too far ahead in the finals rather than putting all of their focus onto the game at hand. They had some consolation when David Lowe won the Central Coast Medal. Erina went into the preliminary final as firm favourites but again Northern Lakes, riding on a huge surge of enthusiasm and support, staged another comeback and rolled them 34-24. The Warriors' supporters were amazing and watching from the rise at Kincumber they looked like a green mass surging along the sidelines as their team, under Justin Biddle, made the big one from fourth spot with quality football. The GF was played away from the stadium for the first time since it had been built. This was a real pity as games with this prestige deserve a top quality venue but finance and the demands of the round ball game were cited as major factors in the decision. The game was set for Wyong's Morrie Breen Field, a great complex but without the aura and facilities of the stadium. The Warriors' crowd was out in force and it seemed that everyone at the ground apart from the Tigers' faithful were hoping to see the black and gold sides trounced in all games, the club having all grades in the decider for the second year running. The day began well with a 16-10 victory in the 18's over Terrigal-Wamberal, the 20's went down narrowly to Erina, the reserves did the job 42-16 against the Warriors and the stage was set. Alex Moore, brilliant footballer that he was, was sometimes guilty of taking his foot off the pedal in easier games and copped heaps from team mates about playing in his dinner suit. He had been criticised for some less than stellar performances leading up to the finals but in this game he was "on". The Warriors' crowd was giving him an enormous serve all game but Helmet gave them back as much again counting out his tries to them as he absolutely carved them up, crossing five times. The final score of 54-14 was indicative of the difference between the teams. It was another great year for the Tigers winning the Club Championship again in a canter and adding three minor and major premierships. We were also the top try scoring club with 471 overall. The first grade were closely monitoring other country divisions for results as only an undefeated season by another club would deny us a second Clayton Cup. However, our stumble against Ourimbah proved costly and the cup headed to Yenda in the Riverina. With four premierships in seven years and numerous other finals appearances Rick Treloar had established himself as the most successful lower grade coach in the club's history, Jamy had another premiership trophy for the shelf and Greig Buscombe, who took over the 18's when Graeme Baldry had to step-down earlier in the season, added another victory to an impressive junior and schoolboy coaching record.
Wyong won the Newcastle Tooheys' Cup for the first time but it was a bit galling for Tigers' supporters to see six former Tigers in their side, four of them local juniors. Wyong had always been renowned for their strong local juniors and they formed the basis of their successful sides in the 1990's and early 2000's but since their entry to the Newcastle comp they had begun to recruit heavily from other local clubs which found their offers hard to match financially. In 2009 the Central Coast had no representation in the JBC, Erina having withdrawn at the end of 2008. Although the Central Coast Storm had improved considerably and were well up the NSW Cup ladder Melbourne decided to pull the plug on the Central Coast. That was to prove the least of Melbourne's worries as the salary cap scandal broke resulting in them being stripped of premierships won in 2009 and 2007.
On the home front good news awaited as the club's trading position had improved considerably and the football committee's lobbying to rejoin the JBC (now rebadged as the Bundaberg Red Cup) for 2010 was approved by the board.
Because of our outstanding success over the past two seasons many expected that re-entry to the Bundy Cup would be seamless. However those with a more detailed knowledge of this competition knew that we had lost some momentum and need some recruiting and a spot on pre-season to have any chance of regaining our spot as a Bundy Cup contender. James King and Kurt Gudgeon joined from North Nelson Bay, Beau Woodley came across from Kincumber to have a shot at Bundy as did Jake Fitzpatrick from Toukley. WA Reds JBC team had folded so Kiwi Savi Hafoka was recruited from them and Grant Nelson returned from Easts. We were expecting that Jake would play first grade and be used occasionally in Bundy to give him some experience but even the best laid plans can go astray. Our season began in the worst possible way when top five-eighth Nathan Ward broke his arm and ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in a trial putting him out for the season. Jake was going to get more than just a taste of Bundy experience! Our first game pitted us against 2009 Premiers Wentworthville, a side bristling with NSW Cup experience. We won 38-12 and backed it up with a 34-28 win against Penrith Brothers and a 22 all draw with the strong Cabramatta team. A big win against Campbelltown Eagles put us on top of the comp and the side was beginning to gel. Then three comprehensive losses to Windsor, Mounties and, surprisingly, Brothers saw us slip to fourth. Young recruit Ben Tonks from Berowra was beginning to run into form. Although we had dropped some games one positive aspect was the good from of local players like Ryan"Skip" Kelly, Rob Fuller, Brent Munro, Ben Fitzsimmons, Jeremy Monden and James English. These boys had had limited Bundy experience but had become regular first graders over the past few seasons and stepped up to the plate in 2010. Unfortunately Sumo Monden was permanently side-lined with a back injury and James English tore a groin, putting his season to rest. Successive victories against Windsor, Bankstown City Bulls (previously Sydney Bulls), Wenty and Cabramatta put us back on top with a postponed game in hand. Dylan Hartin joined the club from Kincumber. Dylan had already been signed by the Titans for their NYC 20's in 2011 and was a NSW Schoolboys rep who wanted to play at as high a level as possible before joining the Titans. Then the injuries came in a rush. Hartin missed a few weeks with concussion, Gudgeon broke his arm and was out for the season. A severely weakened side was beaten by the Bulls in round 14. Some discipline issues arose at this point which didn't help our cause. On a positive note young forward Chris O'Reilly from Cronulla who had been patiently toiling away in first grade got his chance and Tim Nawaqatabu made his Bundy debut. Troy Woodley had also returned. Because the Bundy competition was only an eight team competition in 2010 we had to play each team three times. The NSWRL didn't do us any favours with the draw as we had to play four of the previous year's top five away twice - a tough assignment. Grant Nelson was the top try scorer and brother Matt wasn't far off the lead in point scoring. Since our defeat of Wenty in our second meeting they had hit a purple patch and went for twelve weeks without a loss including reversing their two losses to us defeating us 38-12 (exact reversal of the first round score) at Ringrose Park. The Bulls then added insult to injury downing us at Bankstown. By this stage James King had left the club and Ben Tonks stepped up to a starting front row spot. He and the experienced Nigel Townsend formed a good partnership with Brent Munro and Shannon Jaques as back up. Ryan Wheele and Gavin Westwood made late season comebacks and added some experience and positive team spirit. A big loss to second last placed Cabramatta didn't raise our hopes for a successful finals campaign. Despite their lowly position on the table, on paper Cabra had a hot side and it was a mystery to all other clubs that they had enjoyed so little success. Unfortunately they picked our clash to demonstrate their true potential and other teams in the five probably breathed a sigh of relief that they weren't there. The Bulls ended the preliminary rounds on top with 29 points, followed by a fast finishing Wenty on 26, Mounties on 24 and us on 23. Windsor made up the five. Brett Cook's Wenty side had come from second last to second in twelve weeks and were showing that they were not 2009 premiers for no reason. They looked the team to beat. We disposed of Windsor 42-10 in the elimination semi and set up a meeting with Mounties who had been blown away 52-12 by Wenty. We had a scrambling 28-18 win over Steve Ghosn's Mounties side. Alex Moore and Troy Woodley scored doubles, Gav Westwood scored one and Fitzy kicked four goals. We were looking nervous at 22-18 with Mounties on the attack before Alex, as he so often did, pulled out a big play to seal the win. Injuries are an occupational hazard for all footy teams but it is often when they occur and who is injured that makes the difference. We had more than our fair share going into these finals with Ryan Kelly, Matt Nelson, Shane Wooden, Jay Heming, Rob Fuller, Justin McGuire and Nigel Townsend all looking on. Wardy and Sumo were already gone so our stocks were severely depleted. In our last encounter, the preliminary final against the Bulls, we tried hard but couldn't match them. They had bolstered their side with a couple of Bulldogs NSW Cup players whose form we hadn't analysed and these players caused our defence some headaches. It is always heart breaking to come to a point only one step off the decider but realistically we would have had difficulty matching Wenty if we had been there, not only because we were short staffed but because they were in such top form with their all of their gun players available. The Magpies were too good for the Bulls in the GF notching up their second title in a row .Matt Nelson was third in the point scorers' list while Grant Nelson and Coedi Towney topped the try scorers with 20 apiece. Will-of-the wisp fullback Towney was runner up to Mounties' Pat Galea in the Player of the Year and had done enough to earn a Penrith contract for 2011. It was disappointing not to have made the decider but there were many positives. The form of our local boys was sensational and players like Brent Munro, Jake Fitzpatrick, Ben Fitzsimmons and Rob Fuller established themselves as quality Bundy performers. Before their injuries Ryan Kelly and Jay Heming had been great.
First grade also had bad luck with injuries none more so than when coach Rick Treloar broke his pelvis in a surfing accident and Gav Westwood had to take over the reins at short notice. With the need for players to step up to Bundy a regular disruption and an horrendous injury toll themselves the firsts narrowly missed the semis. At one stage they lost three games by a total of only six points and were competitive against all of the top sides. Once again the positive was the number of opportunities for younger players to step up. Laurie Taylor's reserves missed the semis only on for and against after finishing equal fifth. Justin Brolly's Open age team really lacked size and, more importantly, experience but never shirked their work. With Greg Walsh in charge the 19's were Minor Premiers and won the big one after reversing a second round loss to Terrigal (the junior Tigers' only loss for the year) beating them 18-8 in the game that mattered. Billy O'Neill was the division's Best and Fairest in U19's and also that grade's top pointscorer. Some of these players will form the basis of our senior sides in years to come. Josh Thew and Brendan Hickey represented NSW Country U 18's on a tour of Queensland as well as being joint winners of the division's U18 Representative Player of the Year award and local U16 Jake Mamo made the Country U16 team. The 17's were lucky to have the experienced John Strange as their coach and although they didn't come away with many wins they stuck at it all year and with Strangey's positive attitude keeping them on track they gained valuable experience. Former Tiger's coach Tony Gleeson was named Coach of the Year and former club captain Adam McEwen was co-coach of Ourimbah which annexed it's first top grade premiership in 50 years.
On a very bright note for 2010 the mighty St George Dragons went back to their rightful place at the top of the NRL tree demolishing the Roosters 32-8 in the big one.
With the retention of most of last year's good performers Bundy welcomed back Jamen McLeod and Alan Munro from Cronulla, and Bodie O'Connell and Scott Hutchinson from Wyong. Bodie had represented Newcastle Division and NSW Country from Wyong and came back to the fold a much bigger, stronger and more experienced competitor. He had been named Newcastle's Representative Player of the Year in 2010. Dale Langford from Melbourne signed on as did Scott Peachy from Berkeley Vale. There were a couple of key signings in Brad Baldry from QLD Cup and Ryan Dalziel from Balmain Ryde NSW Cup, and a Group 16 representative centre from Eden, Brad Chatfield, who had been recommended to the club by former Tiger Todd Bolton. Matt Croker and Daniel Phillips from Newcastle NSW Cup also arrived although Phillips returned to Newcastle early in the season. Jake Fitzpatrick had shown enough the previous year to attract interest from the Bulldogs U20's. He began the year with us but soon proved his utility value in the NYC. Wardy had recovered from his knee injury and slotted nicely back into five eighth and Kirk Thompson added his name to the roster. With Alex Moore once again at the helm it was shaping up to be a very strong Bundy outfit. As had happened in 2010 the draw didn't do us any favours having to play each of the other top five sides from the previous season away twice. We had always been at something of a disadvantage compared with the Sydney sides having to travel away by bus at least once every two weeks and having to play all of the finals matches in Sydney, sometimes at our opponent's home ground. In comparison our opponents were all situated close to each other and only needed to make one trip away to the coast each season. Forbesy continued the tradition of making this a positive, establishing set routines with our trips away as a big part of the team's culture and adopting a siege mentality when finals came around. This was our lot and we made our own luck. A highlight of our pre-season was a trip to Orange to play the Group 10 Premiers, Orange CYMS and the Bulldogs 20's in a triangular trial. We won both well. As luck would have it our hotel had a large bistro for an after game meal and then turned this space into a night-club at 9.30 pm so the boys didn't have to look far for entertainment. On the trip home Troy (The Messiah) Woodley confirmed his reputation as a serial pest, almost driving the young Catfish Fitzpatrick to the brink of insanity on the bus. To top it off the airconditioning on the bus failed and the weather was stinking hot. The troops were rather dusty and the trip home was not a highlight!
We put a particularly strong side on the paddock for our first game against Windsor at Windsor and came up with a comprehensive 46-6 victory but fell to Cabra at Mingara 12-16 the next week and to Mounties 12-28 the following week. The next five games saw us pile on 225 points for to 54 against but we could still only manage third spot which is where we eventually finished the season. After running into financial difficulties the Bulls folded and the competition points for round one had to be adjusted. We had enjoyed a big win over them so this didn't help our cause. Their coaching and playing staff were offered a lifeline by the St John's club based at Lakemba and they emerged rebadged for rounds two and three. After losing a close one to Cabra at Cabra we went on a six match winning run which included victories over big guns Wenty, Windsor and Mounties. We then lost to Wenty at Ringrose Park before finally getting a positive result over Cabra at EDSACC. Despite the disadvantage of the frequent away games the side proved itself capable of beating all of the leading contenders. Chatfield was proving a find in the centres and with big hitters like Beau Woodley, Heming, Baldry, Dalziel, O'Connell and Munro in the pack we were getting a reputation as a team best to be avoided. Grant Nelson was having another good year on the wing and Kirk Thompson was amongst the leading try scorers. Cabra and Mounties were really looking the goods with Alan Dallalana and Luke Branigan respectively able to consistently pull out a big play to win tight games. Jake Fowler was making an impression at Bundy level from the bench for the Tigers and Scott Hutchinson's running game was consistently troubling the defence. Scott was also strength and conditioning coach for the club and was doing a great job in this regard. Troy Woodley broke a finger and missed a number of weeks but Ben Fitzsimmons and Jake Fowler covered his spot well.
Matt Nelson who was well up the point scoring list broke his hand. Then Ben Tonks fell to an ankle injury, Jamen McLeod to a groin tear and Ryan Dalziel to a quad strain. Shane Wooden's return after his broken leg was welcome and he really tightened up the defence in the middle. At the end of twenty one rounds Cabra and Mounties finished on 36 points, folllowed by the Tigers on 32, Wenty on 22 and Windsor on 18. Alex Moore had been hitting form at the right time in the try scoring department topping the club's ladder with 20 but Cabra's full back Don Thompson was the competition's standout with 30 tries. We met Mounties in the qualifying semi at Ringrose Park and lost a nail-biter 20-18 with Branigan pulling off another trick shot in the second half. Windsor had earlier easily disposed of Wentworthville 24-6. Our next match was a tense encounter against Windsor at Cabramatta with Alex pulling off a little trick shot of his own to tie up the score and Benny Fitzsimmons casually potted a last minute field goal to give us a 25-24 win. Meanwhile Mounties had defeated minor premiers Cabra 23-22 so our prelimimary final game was against the Two Blues. Unfortunately we fell again at the final hurdle courtesy of an intercept try, exiting the competition via a preliminary final loss for the second year in a row. Both sides had scored four tries but goal kicking proved the difference. This one was probably a bit harder to swallow. In 2010 we were up against it with injuries and the two top sides probably had our measure but in 2011, despite having a few players missing, we felt that we had sufficient depth for the side to go all the way. It wasn't to be and Cabra celebrated their first premiership at this level the next week by reversing the major semi loss to Mounties. Coach Jamy Forbes with the assistance of Bruce Cameron and Shannon Woodley had done a fine job with the team and had kept us near the top of the tree in Bundy Cup. It was interesting to note that our squad of 30 comprised 14 local juniors and ten others who were originally Central Coast juniors with other clubs. A pattern of support with player depth was emerging for our opposition clubs. Many of the Sydney based clubs had established formal links with NRL clubs. Windsor provided the base for Penrith's NSW Cup team and also had access to surplus players from the Panthers' NYC squad on a weekly basis, Wentwothville had a similar set up with Parramatta, Mounties were moving towards a similar link with Canberra Raiders in 2012, Cabramatta had links to the Roosters through their feeder club Newtown Jets, St John's and Bankstown Sports had links with the Bulldogs and Kingsgrove Colts had access to Easts U 20's. In addition to this a new competition had been set up in Sydney for clubs with top shelf A Grade Junior League sides which crossed district boundaries. It was called the Sydney Shield and most teams had links with Bundy Cup clubs. These clubs were often able to park fringe players for Bundy in their Sydney Shield feeder team giving them access to a bigger pool of players playing at an enhanced level of competition. These links provided the clubs with a huge pool of players. At the same time our club did not have the facility for such a link to work effectively. We did not have our own NRL club based on the Central Coast and any link with a club outside of the coast's geographical boundaries presented logistical problems. In addition to this we had come to another re-building phase in our club's development. Many players who had provided the basis for the success of the club over the past decade and who had come through our junior program at the same time decided it was time to hang up the boots. Employment prospects on the coast weren't great and the lure of well paid jobs, particularly in mining centres, proved hard to ignore for others. Some moved away to pursue further education. Other CC Division clubs were steadily building and talented players from the Tigers were prime targets for their marquee player positions. NSW Cup teams in particular were picking the best from our ranks. This would prove to be a major area of concern for club administrators planning for the continued success of the Tigers. Former Tigers' lower grade coach Tony Gleeson guided the Berkeley Vale Panthers to their initial first grade premiership.
A spanner was thrown in the planning and recruitment works for 2012 when Shannon Woodley, assistant coach of the Bundy Cup team in 2011, received a late offer to take over the position of head coach at Kincumber. Shannon had verbally agreed to stay on at the Tigers for 2012 .He had been a valuable member of the coaching staff in 2011 and we were looking forward to working with him again. However there was always an understanding that if a head coach position came up elsewhere he would go with the club's best wishes. Unfortunately for our club his three sons Beau, Jake and Troy who had been with the Tigers ( Beau for two years, Jae for one year and Troy since 2007 ) wanted to support their dad and went with him. Brad Baldry, who was an employee of Shannon, also decided to transfer across and he was joined by Matt Croker, a Kincumber junior, and the two Nelson boys Grant and Matt. Apart from Jake who had played 17's the others were all seasoned Bundy Cup players. The two Nelsons had great point scoring ability, Matt courtesy of the boot and Grant as a leading tryscorer in Bundy Cup. Baldry and the other two Woodley boys were huge losses as they were not only at the top of the tree in their respective positions at the Tigers but were arguably at the top of the tree in the entire Bundy competition. Matt Croker had not had a great 2011 but he was a big and experienced forward was nevertheless a loss. Kincumber subsequently won its first ever top grade premiership under Shannon in 2012. Key player and captain Alex Moore was offered an employment opportunity at Wyong Roos on condition that he signed with them and his talented brother-in-law and Tigers Bundy Cup utility, Ben Fitzsimmons also joined him at Wyong along with Dale Langford, another member of the 2011 side. Ben Tonks returned to Berowra and Nathan Ward, Kirk Thompson, Scott Hutchinson and Ryan Kelly retired. Jay Heming went interstate to work as did Rob Fuller. Some of these losses weren't just good players, they were the cream of the crop and the season was quickly approaching. The club had been a little slow off the mark in making a decision about continuing in the Bundy Cup and this had held up the appointment of coaches so we were behind the eight ball to some extent. We had lost almost an entire side. To the credit of coach Forbes and the retention committee headed by Fred Hartup we put out the feelers and managed to attract some quality replacements. Jake Fitzpatrick returned from the Bulldogs, top Wenty forward Troy Adams joined the club and we signed two key players from Newtown, fullback Rhys Pritchard and hooker Scott Jones. Mark Falaniko from the NYC joined up and Rob Daniels, a former Cowboys NYC player, also came over from Erina . Big forward Jack Bourke signed from Queensland. Coedi Towney was back from the Panthers. Jye Newton, a promising young hooker from Toukley, signed on and we retained good performers from 2011 such as Jamen McLeod, Scott Peachy, Brad Chatfield, Ryan Dalziel, Shane Wooden and Alan and Brent Munro. Anthony Cutrupi, a whole hearted utility forward was appointed as strength and conditioning coach and indicated his intention to play and Mark Jurd was back in the picture. Assistant coach Bruce Cameron also moved away with his work. A few of the juniors and lower grade players from 2011 were also looking promising but it was obvious that depth would be a problem. The season started well with some success in a number of 7's and 9's competitions and these days helped to get the new boys together. Because of cricket commitments we were used to not having our fields available for use in the pre-season but this situation was exacerbated in 2012 when the schedule for installing new drainage on our grounds meant that we would have no home games until round two. For the Bundy boys who started a bit later than the local comp this would mean the first nine games in a row would be played away. A daunting prospect in such a tough competition. Early season injuries to exciting local prospects Jake Fowler and Michael Ferrington ended their year and this was a big blow to the club. This was mirrored by season ending injuries to good club men in the lower grades like Ned Milos. Brett Kenny had been appointed first grade coach but he had a very young, relatively small and fairly inexperienced squad to work with. The loss of so many Bundy level players had been compounded by injuries and it all pointed to 2012 being an uphill battle for them. Greg Walsh had charge of the reserves and Matt Hunter took over the 18's who looked to have a promising squad. An 18 twos was also formed and Shane Wooden lent his experience as coach of these boys. Third grade were mentored by ex Penrith Panthers half Mick Kelly. With Alex Moore gone we needed a new captain and Jamy had no hesitation in appointing Alan Munro. Al himself would admit that he had had a chequered career discipline wise but it proved to be a master stroke as he took to the job like a duck to water and proved an outstanding captain without letting the responsibility effect his stellar form.
Bundy began with a loss to St John's 18-16. We were bitterly disappointed as we were keen to pick up as many points as possible in our early away games and we really let this one slip when we looked to have it won. We then bounced back with a strong win over Cabra at Cabra. Against Wenty in the next game we led at half time by a comfortable margin only to fall away in the second half and lose. We needed to lift our act as a weekly win- lose roundabout would not secure a semi position. Five wins on the trot got us back on track and up into second spot on the ladder. In the last game of the first round we met Mounties at Mt Pritchard on a miserable day and had an absolute slug-fest in the mud. They rolled us 10-6 and the boys said afterwards that it was the most physical game of the season to that point. Brad Chatfield and Alan Munro clashed heads with Al coming off second best suffering a gaping wound that took more than a dozen stitches to close. Scott Jones also came off injured so it was a good effort for no reward. Some puzzling refereeing decisions had preceded Mounties' second try which had followed five consecutive sets on our line so we took the unusual step of contacting the referees' administrator asking for clarification. The reply that came back justified our concerns when a review determined that two blatant refereeing errors had been made in that period and a penalty against us was considered "very harsh". Full credit to the refs for admitting the errors but it didn't restore the valuable points. Points were really at a premium as only one point on the table separated first and sixth spot for most of the second round so every game, even those against teams behind us on the ladder, was crucial. We were pleased to have finished our string of away games sitting in third spot with the second best for and against record. Our first home game against Wenty was a 10-20 loss but then we won eight in a row to finish the season on top of the table as Minor Premiers. With two games to go two wins would have given us the minor premiership and two losses would have seen us miss the semis, so close were the top teams. First spot was also crucial to give us the week off allowing key players to get over injuries suffered in tough end of season games. Once again we boasted the best defensive record of all sides. A broken arm to Coedi Towney and long term injuries to Scott Jones, Anthony Cutrupi, Ryan Dalziel, Bodie O'Connell, Brent Munro, Rob Daniels , Troy Adams and Jamen McLeod could have killed our chances but their replacements really stepped up while they were forced to watch on for some really tight games. We gained the services of big ex-Melbourne prop Sinbad Kali part of the way through the year and he made a real impact immediately. Tim Nawaqabatu, who had been on the fringe of Bundy selection for two seasons, got his opportunity and quickly established himself against much more experienced opponents. Jye Newton and Matt Killick got their chances and relished the step up. Mark Jurd had been filling in capably out of position on the wing but injuries forced him back into the pack where his defence was a stand out. Under 18's representative player Jake Mamo was called up and made every post a winner. He held his spot in the side for the remainder of the year while still turning out for the 18's. St John's were the first to exit the semis courtesy of Cabramatta while Wenty defeated Windsor to advance to the major semi. Cabra rolled Windsor out the door and we won a gripping major semi against Wenty 16-14 to book a grand final berth. Once again the week off was very important injury wise and allowed pivot Jamen McLeod enough time to recover from and ankle injury suffered in the last round match. After trailing Cabra 4-18 with only thirty five minutes remaining Wenty came home with a wet sail and won the preliminary final 28-18. The stage was set for a grand final showdown between the competition's top two sides. We had a good preparation and, while holding the utmost respect for an opposition bristling with size and experience, we were quietly confident that we could do the job. The game was played in perfect conditions at St Mary's Leagues Stadium with a very healthy crowd in attendance. The Tigers began well and went to the sheds up 8-0 having dominated the first half with outstanding defence and a barging try from big Tim. One of the Wentworthville players was placed on report for a dangerous throw and Troy Adams, who was having a great game, was seriously inconvenienced by a neck injury for the remainder of the afternoon. At eight six up and still half an hour of time left the crowd were kept on the edge of their seats as play see-sawed from one end to the other. Then a couple of successive penalties marched the Magpies into perfect field position and to really put us under the pump hooker Scott Jones was sin-binned for ten minutes for what looked to be a really innocuous infringement. Not long after this weight of possession told and Wenty finally crossed for a converted try while he was in the bin. Wenty were again able to take advantage of our being a man down and crossed wide out to take a 12-8 lead. Things were looking grim as an already reshuffled side suffered a succession of injuries which stopped play. Sinbad Kali had absolutely gapped the defence in a storming run but was held up by the defence and then had his legs belted in a cannon-ball tackle which resulted in another Wenty forward being placed on report. Sinbad had to leave the field for attention forcing a further reshuffle and Alan Munro was also eventually forced from the field with a recurrence of a calf strain. We were holding on by our fingernails as Wenty enjoyed plenty of ball and field position. However, with less than ten minutes remaining Mark Falaniko crossed for a converted try after a silky Matt Killick pass had put Rhys Pritchard into a gap to regain a 14-12 lead. With only a few minutes remaining it felt as if we had one hand on the cup. Unfortunately we lost the ball from the kick-off and were back on defence. We defended our line grimly and appeared to have shut down play until a rushed cross-kick, seemingly headed for the dead ball line, took a wicked bounce and popped up perfectly for Wenty to touch down and regain the lead 16-14. With our wounded troops almost out on their feet a last ditch effort just failed when their fullback managed to ground a rolling ball in the in-goal just before our chasers. The hooter sounded moments later and our dreams had gone up in smoke. It was cruel way to lose given that unbiased judges felt that we had shaded them over the majority of the match. Considering the loss of personnel early in the season and the lack of depth in the lower grades Jamy had done terrific job in quickly moulding a new side into an outfit which went within a whisker of lifting the trophy and firmly established his credentials as a quality coach. The match high- lighted the controversial issue of a system where players are " placed on report" for serious foul play which results in an injury to opposition players. Apart from the benefit of a penalty the team loses a key player and if the alleged offender is subsequently suspended the only ones to benefit will be the teams they are scheduled to play while their player is suspended. In contrast to this a player can be sin-binned for a relatively minor offence leaving his team one man short for ten minutes. There is a contradiction here somewhere.
The first grade lacked some size and experience and although competitive had a difficult year. Walshy's reserves were desperately unlucky to miss the semis losing a number of games by the barest of margins. Mick Kelly's thirds also struggled despite a few cameo appearances by Forbesy, Crusher and Mick himself. Shane Wooden's 18 twos were knocked out in the semis and Matt Hunter's 18's brushed aside all challenges to comfortably defeat Toukley in the grand final and keep the Tigers on the map in the local competition. We were so short of senior players at some stages this year that many good club men played their lower grade game and then backed up again in a higher grade. This had been a rare occurrence at the Tigers.
In the five years from 2007 to 2012 the club has lost over 35 top grade players to retirement, career ending injury or employment relocation and another 37 to other clubs both inside and outside the Central Coast. A few have moved up to NYC, NSW Cup or NRL teams. NRL clubs have developed a worrying trend of recruiting top class young local players, playing them in their U18 team in the competition which finishes in early may but then retaining them on the promise of being selected for their NYC side. This doesn't always come to fruition and often these players spend the rest of the season travelling away to train but not playing when they could be back with their home club playing U18's or at a higher level. The NRL clubs often seem to be retraining them just as a form of insurance. We are well placed to continue to be a threat in Bundy Cup but our depth needs to be rebuilt quickly. this is our challenge for the future.
Support for the Tigers
The players at the Tigers have always had the good fortune to be surrounded by a groundswell of support. This has extended from the board and committee to canteen staff, licensed club staff, regular spectators (Ray and Mum Aitkin come to mind), sponsors, family and friends and, most importantly by the men and women who form the direct support staff for the various teams. This includes managers, strappers, runners, fitness trainers, doctors, assistant coaches, gear stewards and water boys. Sometimes these people are so busy on game day that they don't see much of the football and many give up free time to regularly attend training sessions. Over the years the Tigers have been blessed in this regard, not only having the support of keen, hard workers, but of people with extensive expertise in rugby league and some in specific aspects of fitness training. Inky Rice and company filled these roles in the early 90's followed by personalities like Kiwi Gavin Howard, Adrian Jones, Stuart Lofts, and Anthony Cutrupi. There are too many to mention them all but a few really stand out. Col Thurston has given wonderful service to the club over many years as a player, strapper, runner, manager, resident electrician, committee member, drinking partner and in any capacity where he has been asked to help. We would be lost without Crusher around and if there was an award for clubman of the last 25 years Crush would have to go close to winning it. Peter Ward is another trainer who was virtually considered a member of the team by the boys. He knew the game, was good at his job and nothing was too much trouble for him. The athletic expertise that blokes like Steven Munnery, Brice Johnson, Glen Ritchie and company brought to the teams was outstanding, all of them elite athletes in their own right. Former players like Lofty were not only trained in the fitness industry but were steeped in rugby league. People like John Beattie spend all day on game day preparing and treating the boys' injuries, Lyle Toms is one of the most experienced trainers on the coast having looked after numerous Country sides and has been a fixture at the Tigers for many years as has Denis (100%) O'Loughlin. Dan McCool was with us for the JBC kick off and doctors like Jon King and Andrew Webster were long term members of the team.
The success of the club has been built on stability with only five top grade coaches in the last twenty years and only two Presidents in the same time, Mick Bates and Phil Andrews. They were ably supported by some of the volunteers mentioned earlier who kicked off the licensed club and in recent years good clubmen such as Ray Lewis, Fred Hartup, Gary Launt, Ian Cameron and the recent crop of committee men have kept the place running.
The first senior coach I had was a player/coach who had played for Country and NSW. He was pencilled in for the 1967 Kangaroo tour but had his hopes ruined by a broken shoulder suffered the day before the team was announced. His philosophies on footy were very simple but effective and he was a multiple premiership winner. He always maintained that the strength of a club should be judged, not on the ability of its few star players but on the ability of the last bloke sitting on the bench for reserve grade. He said that if these blokes were good footballers then you knew that the club was in good shape. The Tigers have had good fortune in this regard with many of our reserve and third graders of such quality over the years that they could have played firsts (and sometimes had in other years or at other clubs) but for the talent in front of them. When players were called up a grade they didn't disappoint with their performances and much of the credit for this could be given to their coaches. Over the years the Tigers have had terrific lower grade coaches, some of them former representative stars or Sterland Medal winners and others who didn't have distinguished playing careers but who knew how to coach and manage rugby league players. Names such as Paul Mc Phail, Laurie Weir, Kyle Whitford, Jon Thompson, Paul Dixon, Tony Gleeson, Warwick Wright, Paul Melross and Brian Fitzpatrick come to mind. Many have, when they left our club, taken up head coach and representative coaching roles elsewhere with some success. One deserving special mention is Rick Treloar who would surely hold the record as our most successful lower grade coach ever. Rick coached reserve grade and also first grade in CC Division when the club joined the JBC. He has won five premierships and coached teams to three grand finals in addition to this. He was also named Coach of the Year, an award decided by votes from his peers. With coaches like him in charge we can be confident that players who move up a grade will have the skills and attitude to succeed at a higher level.