Sunday, 7 August 2011

A True Team Of Champions (2008)

This season our game has celebrated the playing skills and talents of players from the past and present. However, there has not been a team named containing some of the most important men of our game, and more importantly, our nation.

These men served as great players at representative level in Rugby League, but more importantly, as servicemen for our country during the two World Wars.

I present, the Servicemen Team Of The Century.

Fullback: Neville Butler
Neville played in the successful Norths teams in the early 1940’s after he was selected for NSW in 1938. Neville was declared as “missing in action” after an air raid over Europe during World War II.

Wing: Brian Bevan
Although his performances in Australia were limited to just a handful of games, his career in England has been unrivalled. Bevan left Easts to serve in the Navy during World War II before commencing his career in England.

Centre: Len Smith
Len served as a Captain in the Army during the Second World War, seeing action in Egypt, New Guinea, Palestine and Syria. His trivial sacking from the Test team in 1948 has unfortunately overshadowed his great career.

Centre: Doug McRitchie
Doug’s career was just one season old before he left to fight in New Guinea and Bougainville during World War II. Upon his return he quickly made his way into State and National sides.

Wing: Lionel Cooper
Lionel was discovered by fellow serviceman, Ray Stehr, playing AFL in Darwin while waiting to be dispatched. Ray lured Lionel to play for Easts after the war. His two seasons saw him instantly earning state and national selection before he moved to England to see out his career.

Five-Eighth: Keith Holman
‘Yappy’ is the most capped representative player in this team. He played 65 games for NSW and Australia alone. Keith served in the RAAF during World War II, before joining Wests and becoming one the greatest players the game has ever seen.

Halfback: Duncan Thompson
Duncan is the only man in this squad, maybe even the only man in Australian Rugby League, who served in both World Wars. In the First War, he was shot through the back and chest, the shell remaining in his body for the rest of his life, while fighting at Dernacourt in France. His playing career was short but it was exceptional. He played in the Premiership winning Norths teams of 1921 and 1922, before leading Toowoomba to glory the following few years. Up until 1980 he was still regarded as the greatest halfback Australia has ever had.

Lock: Les Cowie
Les ‘put his age up’ so as to gain entry into the Army in 1942. After serving he joined Souths and forged out a successful career as the codes premier back rower during the late 1940’s.

Second Row: Fred De Belin
Fred served with the RAAF in World War II. He played Rugby Union for service teams, as well as being a renowned wrestler. He switched codes to play for Balmain at the end of the war, where he quickly gained selection for NSW and later, Australia.

Second Row: Herb Narvo
Herb was one of the games most talented athletes. He was a cricketer, cyclist and a one time Australian Heavyweight Boxing Champion. He served as a Paratroop instructor for the RAAF during the Second War. He represented Australia and NSW mostly prior to enlisting in the RAAF. In 1945 he made a return to rep football, playing for NSW.

Prop: Ray Stehr
Ray served in the Army for two years toward the end of his career. He was stationed in Darwin prior to attacks by the Japanese. While there he recruited Lionel Cooper to play for Easts. After the war, he returned to Easts and lead them to a Premiership before retiring.

Hooker: Ken Kearney
‘Killer’ served in the RAAF during World War II. Prior to his enlistment, he had played 7 Tests for the Wallabies. When he returned to Australia, he had switched codes, leading St.George to the first 6 of their record 11 straight premierships. He played 25 Tests for Australia between 1952 and 1958.

Prop: Jack Rayner
Jack was actually serving in New Guinea during the Second War when he was spotted playing for the Army team by Eric Lewis. Rayner joined Souths once the war had finished. In that time he became known as one of the greatest captains in the history of the game.

Lest We Forget.

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