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.
Very well, I will begin.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 …