Saturday, 27 October 2012

I Won (2012)

Hello everyone and welcome to this museum showcasing the greats of Rugby League. My name is Tom and I will be your guide today.

Today I shall take you on a tour of the professional career and the life of the great Australian Rugby League player, Harry Robbins, whom I sure you have all heard of.

So, are we foregathered?

Very well, I will begin.


Harold Arthur John Robbins.

Robbins is a Rugby League player with whom I have always felt a special bond. Ever since our early schooling days, aged just eight, when we both took an interest in the game Rugby League. He, a burly centre who looked as big as the children three years his senior, and me, a human who resembled an anorexic pencil with the athletic ability of an old cabbage.

In those young days, Robbins was a popular figure, even at such a young age, often informing those with lesser ability, myself included, just how superior he was, physically and verbally.

Alas, we both persisted with the great game for a many number of years. Finally, aged just seventeen, I won a ‘best on field’ award. At the same age, Robbins was on his way to Sydney, about set to make his name in the toughest competition in the country. Robbins was almost lost to the world or Rugby League when his father demanded he join the family business, just as my father, despite my insistence demanded I take a job in a post office.

Robbins defied his father.

And so it was that by the age of twenty three he had played one hundred first grade games for his club, including his first appearance for his state and was in strong contention towards earning his first test jumper, whereas I at the age of twenty three had played no Rugby League at all and was working in a post office.

For both Robbins and myself our twenty seventh year was a decisive one. For him it was the year that he became captain of the Kangaroos thus earning him the glory of being the youngest ever Test captain at the time. For me it was the year that my post office was unexpectedly burnt to the ground in a brazen attack by disgruntled customers. The post office was rebuilt however many colleagues positions were made redundant.

But not mine.

I continued working in a post office.

In his thirties, Robbins was beginning to be considered as the most prominent Australian Rugby League player of his era. In my thirties, I was beginning to be recognised by some of the more regular customers at the post office.

In this photograph, the famous test match at Leeds known as the ‘Zulu War’, the beautiful vignette in the group on the left is thought to be Robbins’ mistress of the time, Jane Harrison, one of a string of mistresses Robbins enjoyed over the course of his life.

I am married to Dawn. She is not one of a string of wives I have enjoyed; she is the wife I have … had.

At the age of forty seven, Robbins had long since retired as a player and coach as well as failing to contribute any commentary on the great game for the past six years. In this at least we were precisely similar.

Walking home from a pub late one night in Surrey Hills, it began to rain heavily. In his dishevelled and inebriated state, stumbled into a lamp post, passed out and lay in the unrelenting downpour. His life of heavy drinking and smoking coupled with the night in the rain saw Robbins quickly suffer from pneumonia. Just two weeks prior to his forty eighth birthday, he died.

And now the tables begin to turn.

At the age of forty eight, I was working in a post office. Robbins was buried!

At fifty eight I was working in a post office. Robbins was a skeleton!

Today I am sixty five years old, I have severe arthritis in my hip, I have retired from the post office and I do volunteer work every second weekend in this sports museum telling people about all of Robbins magnificent career feats as a rugby league player.

But I am at least still here.

When Robbins was my age the bugger wasn’t even breathing.

So in the long run I’d like to think …

I won!

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