Around a hundred friends, fans and past and current players of the Northern Suburbs Rugby Club gathered at Norths Cammeray on 25 September for a special screening of a new documentary celebrating the history of their 1960s "golden era". The film features interviews with several club stalwarts and stars, including all the living Wallabies and Shute Shield captains involved in their three premiership wins of the early 60's.
President Grahame O'Donnell welcomed the audience to the club and introduced former President Russ Tulloch to share the story of the how the film came together. Russ had met film maker Theo Clark during the recording of a documentary about the 1966/7 Wallaby tour and suggested to Norths that they start recording some of their own history with Theo.
With Norths coming up to their 125th anniversary, President O'Donnell and the board decided the time was right to invest in a serious effort at preserving some of the club's living history. After some initial research, the story of the 1960s Golden Era emerged as the obvious first chapter in what has been called the "Northern Suburbs Rugby Heritage Project".
Many laughs, tears and excitement followed as the audience was treated to a Big Screen trip down memory lane, told by some of the greatest stars and stalwarts of the period, along with rare photos and footage from Shute Shield matches and Wallaby tours.
Following the screening, veteran rugby writer Norm Tasker led two panel discussions with Wallabies Sparrow Dowse, Les Austin, Russ Tulloch and Andy Town, along with Waratahs Derry Hill and Greg Moore and Herald rugby writer Jim Webster, who all appeared in the film. Tasker covered the 1960s Shute Shield final as a rookie reporter and teased out some further fascinating insights on the period.
The audience ranged in age from about eight to eighty-eight, including Wallabies from the '60s to the '90s. Andy Town, who played in the Norths juniors back in the 1950s before touring with the 1962 Wallabies said: "We're still hanging out with the people we played football with 50 years ago - it's amazing really", capturing something of the essence of the mateship and fun that lie at the heart of any successful and enduring rugby club. Current Norths junior Henry Pfafflin, age 11, offered the thumbs up with a simple seven word review: "It made me want to play rugby".
Remembering the Golden Era:
In the late 1950s, Norths staged a famous rugby revival to become the leading Sydney rugby union club, led by all time Wallaby greats like Rod Phelps and John Thornett. Interviewed for this documentary to hear how it all unfolded are Wallabies Rod Phelps, Jim Cross, Sparrow Dowse and Les Austin, along with Wallaby tourists Andy Town and Russ Tulloch. Together, these legends of Norths give an entertaining account of the key moments of Wallaby history from 1955 to 1967, explaining how Australia went from easy beats to giant slayers in the world game.
Phelps captained Norths to victory in the 1960s Shute Shield, and success followed again in 1963 with Derry Hill as skipper. The club won again in 1964, and as rugby journo Jim Webster recalls for the documentary, its players were among the best the game has ever produced.
Also interviewed for the film are club stalwarts Greg Moore, Peter Dind, Deidre Phelps and Pam Cross, who tell of happy days of mateship and family centred around North Sydney Oval. The 68 minute documentary is written by Theo Clark and narrated by Gordon Bray.
Enquiries about obtaining a limited edition DVD copy of the film can be made at Norths Rugby Club.