As a young Magpie fan in the 1960s a player with my surname played for West’s his name was Colin Lewis. I would see him play week in week out mainly in Third Grade or some times Reserve Grade.
He was not very quick or very big but he could kick a goal and score tries and to me he always played with guts.
Fast forward to the Pratten Park Magpie Reunion 2007 and who should be there but Colin Lewis.
Colin was the captain of the Third Grade premiers in 1967 and he and his team were being honoured.
Col being interview by Don Mosley at the 2007 Pratten Park Reunion
L to R, Dick Pickett, Brian Kowald, HELP, Geoff Henry, Col, Tim Murphy, Kevin Storey, Rod Smith.
I asked Colin if I could interview him for my web site.
He said yes.
He also said that his story would be pretty boring and that he had played no First grade games.
Colin you were wrong about the boring bit and as Greg and I have said from the start. “This site is dedicated to the players who played for West's Rugby League Club between the years of 1966 -1969 not only First grade but Reserve and Third grade as well”
Colin was born and bred in the Glebe area near Wentworth Park dog track. He loved going to the dogs when he was a kid. His year of birth is 1941. That makes Col 66 years of age. He looks a lot younger.
Col played junior football with Glebe Police Boys Club and was lucky enough to have an ex Australian player as his coach. A bloke called Big Jim Armstrong who played for South’s between 1939-1947.
Big Jim also had a sporting history in amateur wrestling winning a bronze medal in the London Olympics in 1948 and a Gold medal in the 1950 Empire games. Big Jim would be well sort after today by many NRL clubs for his wrestling knowledge.
Anyhow back to Col…. Its not until Col turned 14 that he started to play Rugby League for Glebe Police boys. Two players that Col remembers from those days are Laurie Fagan (Balmain 1959-1966, 101 Games and later Penrith 1967-1970, 82 games) and Bobby Mara (Balmain 1959-1967, 146 games and later Penrith 1968-1969, 26 games).
In 1962 Col played Presidents Cup for Balmain and was graded with the Tigers the same year and played along side Kevin Junee (East’s 1964-1973 and 1976,163 games and then Manly 1974-1975,38games) and Frank Mc Garry (Balmain 1962-1963, 9 games). Frank will reappear in Cols life in 1969 …keep reading….
In 1962 Col played half a season with Balmain in third grade. The young Tigers were unfortunately beaten by Souths in the Final.
In 1963 at the ripe old age of 22 with a wife and two kids Col signs up with Quirindi…(it’s a town near Tamworth)
He and three others from the big smoke have signed up to play for Quirindi by ex Balmain player Paddy Hyde (Balmain 1951-1953, 20games and then West’s 1955, 4 games).
Paddy is Captain/coach.
Its not a happy year for Col at Quirindi the team loses a few games and the city boys are dropped mainly because they were being payed (the princely sum of 10 Pounds a game) So its back to Sydney in 1964. Col tried out with his old club but the first grade coach Harry Bath said NO. Harry said the same thing many years later to Steve Edge but that’s another story.
Col was at the Wests v Balmain game were Don Parish was hurt so Col rang West’s and asked Billy Beaver for a run.
Col trailed with West’s Presidents Cup before being graded with West’s Third Grade. The year is 1964.
Col was very happy to get the start at West’s. After all West’s had just made the last 3 Grand Finals and were robbed in ’63. So Col can’t wait to start his career at West’s. He could see himself playing every second week at the SCG. Unfortunately for West’s and Col “ the times they are a changing”
West’s after 1963 were not the team of the past and many players left or had bad injuries.
During this time Col played with the best player he was to play with or against. Peter Dimond. They played together in the centres in reserve grade and Col was truly amazed with Peter’s skill to read a game.
Peter Dimond and his famous running fend.
1967 was Cols best year he was captain of the third grade for 18 of the 24 rounds. Col remembers the great team sprit and friendship from all of his fellow third graders. Players that Col remembers most fondly are Gary Gunton, Kevin Storey, Nev Hornery, Bruce Beer and Dick Pickett. He also rates Don Malone as a good coach. Of course this team went on to win the third grade premiership in 1967. Beating Balmain 7-2.
This is the photo of the team that ran onto the SCG in 1967
Col went around one more year at West’s. It was a frustrating year spent trying to get into first grade. At one time Col due to selection problems refused to go up into reserve grade and played third grade instead. The match payment for reserve grade was double that of third grade.
A whole $20 instead of $10. One must remember that a schooner was only 20cents. That’s 50 extra schooners.
Col played some games as five eight and centre. But a spot in first grade never happened. There were a few different fullbacks picked in front of Col over the years. Tony Ford, John Maxwell, Roy Ferguson, Dick Pickett, Dave Barsley, Don Parish to name some.
Geoff Henry, Rod Smith and Col
Cols last game with West’s was the 1968 third grade first semi final against South Sydney. Col kicked 3 goals but unfortunately West’s were beaten 9-6. That was the end of the road for both West’s and Colin Lewis at Wests.
In 1969 Col did something he said he would never do …play second division. At the age of 28 Col joined one of his old Balmain teammates Frank Mc Garry who was now Captain/ Coach of Ryde Eastwood.
In 1970 Col decided to give it one more try in the Big Time.
During the off-season Col had some help from a sprint coach with his running speed. Col told me that he was possibly the slowest fullback ever and at one training session with Balmain could not catch big front rower George Piper over 100 yards…He almost signed with South’s but at the last moment they said NO.
Col then hung up his footie boots for good.
I asked Col for his best players from other teams he nominated South’s Kevin Longbottom who was surprisingly fast. And Len Stacker from Parramatta. His favourite grounds were the SCG and Pratten Park.
Col was not a fan of Lidcombe Oval. Col also spoke highly of reserve grade coach Billy Owens.
Cols playing stats with West’s
1964 1965 1966 1967 1968
Reserve Grade 2 3 Nil 7 9
Third Grade 11 16 13 18 8
In his 5 seasons and 87 games with West’s Col scored 4 Tries and kicked 85 Goals.
Steve and I had a very pleasant morning with Col chatting about the old days of Rugby League. Thanks Col for your time and your 5 years at West’s you played over 80 games which is great by any standard.
Believe us Col it was far from boring.
Colin in 2008
Noel Kellys Kids, a website by Tony Lewis, Greg Willis and Steve Lothian honouring Rugby League Legend Noel Kelly and the Western Suburbs Magpies from 1966 to 1969. Noel Kelly,Captain Coach of the Western Suburbs Rugby League Club. The site involves statistics, photos, with interviews from West greats.