REMEMBERING THE HIGHLANDERS OF 1976 …
THE 1976 PREMIERSHIPS REUNION
1976 was quite a year. For those of us young enough to remember here’s a few facts about 1976 that you might recall.
• Queen of Australia – Elizabeth II
• Governor General – Sir John Kerr
• Prime Minister – Malcolm Fraser
• Premier of New South Wales -Tom Lewis, then Sir Eric Willis, then Neville Wran
• Premier of South Australia – Don Dunstan
• Premier of Queensland – Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen
• Premier of Tasmania – Bill Neilson
• Premier of Western Australia – Sir Charles Court
• Premier of Victoria – Rupert Hamer
• The Population of Australia was 13,892,995
• The Average Cost of a House in Sydney was $36,800
• The Top Selling Australian Single was Howzat by Sherbet
• The Top Selling Single in Australia was Fernando by ABBA
• Canada hosts the Olympic Games for the first time in Montreal
• Victor Anderson wins the men’s national marathon title, clocking 2:23:28.6 in Sydney.
• Van der Hum wins the Melbourne Cup
• South Australia wins the Sheffield Shield
• Ballyhoo takes line honours and Piccolo wins on handicap in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
• Hawthorn were premiers of the Victorian Football League
• Australia defeats the West Indies 5-1 in the cricket test series
• Geoff Hunt wins the men’s squash World Open
• Manly defeats Parramatta 13-10 to win the New South Wales Rugby League Premiership
• Gordon defeats Eastwood 33-4 to win the New South Wales Rugby Union Premiership
• Gordon defeats Eastern Suburbs 22-6 to win the New South Wales Rugby Union Reserve Grade Premiership
These were the times that Norm Tasker famously wrote “but we were young then and rugby was a game for the sunshine of our lives”. It was a year that was to prove one of the most exciting for Gordon Rugby, and one that is celebrated with great gusto every six months from that famous day at the Sydney Sports Ground in the form of the “Fordo Lunch”, one of the great events bi annually on the Gordon Rugby Calendar.
Last Friday, 23 September, exactly 40 years to the day that Murray Fox and Al Kirkby led their teams to victory, a grand reunion was held at the Greengate Hotel, Killara to celebrate the achievement and remember all those who contributed both on and off the field throughout a great season.
As only Norm can do, he has penned together the following report on a great day.
IT is 40 years ago, but when the troops of 1976 gathered for a special re-union last week, those 40 years rolled away and the spirit of that halcyon year rolled in. The tape of the first grade grand final was playing in the background, but it was hardly necessary. Just about everybody could remember. The season, the tries, the challenge, the success, the details . . . it was all there, and we were all 22 again.
Gordon won the first and reserve grade premierships emphatically in 1976. Each team scored five grand final tries, and only one was registered against us. But that’s not the reason the re-unions have become prolific and the bond has remained so strong. There is a spirit born of that year which is hard to pin down. Some it was the achievement, for sure. Some of it was the planning, and the new challenges that a gathering enlightenment brought to Rugby football generally at that time.
But mostly it was about the people. Nearly 40 of them turned up, all of whom had played either first or second grade that year. Some came from interstate, Glenn Nicholls from as far away as Perth. The captains Murray Fox and Alan Kirkby (propped up by his vice-captain Will Jephcott) spoke movingly of teams that carried the day. Lunch at the Greengate has rarely been so emotive.
Peter Carson, vice-captain of the Norths team that won the title in 1975, was guest speaker, and the only attendees under 60 or thereabouts were the Simkin boys, Alex and Lucas, sons of the late, great Chris Simkin. They were invited in their father’s stead, and were regaled with tales of his silken skills. Lucas was acknowledged, too, along with half a dozen others in the room who had captained Gordon’s first grade side.
The 1976 season ended a first grade premiership drought of 18 seasons. First grade lost just one match that year, reserve grade two – and they were two of the first three. It was a stellar season. The most remarkable thing about the reunion though was the shock of a teetering tradition. Jim McManus actually lost the words to The Drovers’ Cook. Forty years, it seems, does make a difference after all.
Greg Holmes and Bill Lyons; Peter Carson, Don Muirhead and John Taylor; Alex and Lucas Simkin
Warren Quigley and Richard Coneybeare; Bill Lyons, Matt Huntington, Norm Tasker; Greg Lindsay-Owen and Paddy Ryan, Charlie Blunt
Craig Brooking, Peter Bull, John Clark and John Buchanan; Murray Fox and Will Jephcott; Grant Andrews
The 1976 Cast
Grant Andrews, John Bay, Peter Billing, Michael Bird, Charlie Blunt, John Boughton, Craig Brooking, John Buchanan, Peter Bull, Graham Campbell, John Clark, Richard Coneybeare, Ron Crooks, John Dawes, Chris Deane, John Deller, Dennis Ditton, Ross Farquahar, Phil Fletcher, John Fordham, Murray Fox, Rick Harrison, Adrian Holmes, Greg Holmes, Charlie Horder, Matt Huntingdon, Malcolm Jack, Willie Jephcott, Keith Jones, Alan Kirkby, Paul Knight, Bill Lyons, Andrew Maclurcan, David Martz, Tony McElroy, Jim McManus, Steve McRae, Laurie Monaghan, Laurie Musgrave, Don Muirhead, Hugh ‘Snow’ Naughton, Glen Nichols, Greg Owen, Richard Pembroke, Warren Quigley, Michael Reid, Peter Ring, David Rodger, John Ryan, Paddy Ryan, Ken Shelston, Chris Simkin, Richard Spencer, Norman Tasker, John Taylor, Ron Taylor, Bob Thomas, Ken Wolf, Mike Yeomans, Mick Bird
Gordon 33 (Malcolm Jack 2, Laurie Monaghan, Charlie Blunt, Glenn Nichols, tries; Malcolm Jack 3 penalty goals, 2 conversions) defeated Eastwood 4 (Mark Hay try)
Gordon 22 (Matthew Huntingdon 2, Richard Pembroke 2, Alan Kirkby tries; Chris Simkin 1 conversion) defeated Eastern Suburbs 6 (David Stone 2 penalty goals)
Minor Premiers and Premiers 1976
Played 20, Won 19, Lost 1
Points for 532
Points against 192
Minor Premiers and Premiers 1976
Played 20, Won 18, Lost 2
Points for 508
Points against 132
The Final Word
Has to go to Al Kirkby who said “great night had by all, and we haven’t lost it…… we got kicked out of the Greengate”
May the celebrations, camaraderie and memories continue. It is the unbounded Gordon club spirit that separates us from other clubs – Get Fa Ya bah!