This is the 16th article in the series that looks at some of the forgotten players from your favourite club.
For those of us keen on the NRL to expand, and to add a second Brisbane-based team in the process, please note that it’s been done before. Do you remember the Crushers?
The Lang Park-based team joined the competition in 1995 with a lot of optimism, but soon after dwindling home crowds, a recruitment policy apparently based solely on hope, and increasing debt had them fold at the end of the 1997 season.
They won back-to-back wooden spoons in 1996 and 1997 and were under-21 premiers in 1996.
Some interesting facts about the Crushers:
- Their inaugural coach, the unknown Bill Gardner, lost his job even before the first tackle was made in the 1995 season and was replaced by Bob Lindner. Mario Fenech was recruited to captain the side but lost his job part way through the 1995 season after a disagreement with coach Lindner. I guess no-one saw that coming. Craig Teevan played he most games for the club, with 58 matches. Their longest winning streak was just two games. Clinton Schifcofske has scored the most points for the club, with 108 points. They won a total of 13 of 65 games played in three seasons. A total of 74 players turned out for the club during its brief lifespan.
The Crushers weren’t around long enough to claim any players with legend status, but you’ll probably recognise most of the following Crushers: Scott Sattler, Trevor Gillmeister, Wayne Collins, Dale Shearer and Danny Nutley.
But here’s a team of Crushers players you may have forgotten.
1. Anthony Herbert Herbert was a fringe Wallabies Test player and a member of their victorious World Cup campaign in 1991. He switched to league with the Crushers in 1995 but played only two games.
2. St John Ellis A Great Britain representative player, Ellis played nearly 350 games in his career an scored 159 tries. His only appearances in Australia were the nine games he had for the Crushers in their inaugural season.
3. Aaron Moule Moule was a very good centre who got his first-grade start at the Crushers in 1997, playing nine games for the club that season. He then headed to the Storm for six very successful seasons before finishing his career in England.
4. Mat Toshack A very good player, Toshack racked up 229 first-grade games in his 13-year career in both Australia and England. After five years with North Sydney he came to the Crushers in 1997, playing 19 games for the club that year before heading to England.
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5. Fili Seru Seru came from Fiji rugby union to join the Crushers and could certainly run the ball. He played nine games for the Crushers in 1995 before heading to Illawarra and later the UK. He was a dual international for Fiji.
6. Craig Bowen Bowen was a Cook Islands international who has the distinction of playing for three now defunct clubs. He made his first-grade debut with the Crushers in 1996, playing four games for the club before moving on to the Gold Coast Chargers and then the Adelaide Rams.
7. Mike Ford Englishman Mike Ford’s career spanned an incredible 20 years during which he played 469 first-grade games and three Test matches. His only top-level games outside of the UK were the 15 games he played for the Crushers in 1995.
8. Tony Hearn Hearn was a very good forward who notched up 72 first-grade games in his seven-year career together with seven Origin appearances for Queensland. He came from North Sydney to join the Crushers in 1996 and played a total of ten games for the club. He was a frequent guest of the judiciary.
9. Ray Herring Famous for throwing the pass at Mario Fenech that led to the now popular term ‘falcon’, Herring was a useful hooker who played his entire career in the Sunshine State. Playing firstly for the Broncos and then Gold Coast, he joined the Crushers in 1995 and had six games for the club that year.
10. Mark Tookey There was no more intimidating sight for a defender than seeing Tookey on the burst. A giant forward, Tookey made his first-grade debut for the Crushers in 1996 and had 18 games for the club across the 1996 and 1997 seasons. He then headed to Parramatta, where he really hit top form and became a crowd favourite.
11. Steele Retchless A very good forward, a powerful ball runner and a non-stop tackler, Retchless played over 230 top-grade games in his ten-year career, primarily in England. He came to the Crushers in 1997 after two seasons with the Broncos and played 22 games for the club that year. He then headed to England for the rest of his career. He has also represented the USA.
12. Matt Bickerstaff A big back-rower, Bickerstaff’s ten-year career began with the Crushers in 1996, He played 17 games for the club in the 1996 and 1997 seasons, picking up two wooden spoons along the way. He then had stints with the Sharks, Dragons and Raiders before retiring at the end of the 2007 season.
13. Nigel Gaffey A big, mobile back-rower, Gaffey was quite a player, as his 177 games in the top grade over a 12-year career will attest. He joined several fellow Roosters players who headed to the Crushers in 1996 and played 20 games for the club that year. He was worthy of representative honours but had Brad Clyde in his way.
14. Phillip Lee A clever utility forward who got his start in first grade at the Crushers in 1996, going on to play 19 games for the club that year. He played the rest of his career with the Broncos.
15. Garrick Morgan The son of Manly stalwart John ‘Pogo’ Morgan, Garrick Morgan was an intimidating giant at over two metres and 120 kilograms. He had a long and distinguished career in rugby before making an ill-considered switch to league with the Crushers in 1995, where he ended up playing just two games. He quickly returned to rugby and got back into the Wallabies side.
16. Clint O’Brien A top-quality front-rower, O’Brien played 134 first-grade games in his career as well as two Origin matches for Queensland. He played 30 games for the Crushers across the 1996 and 1997 seasons.
17. Tony Kemp A legendary Kiwi international, Tony Kemp had a long and successful career but made only a brief cameo with the Crushers during the 1995 UK off-season. Overall, Kemp played over 250 first-grade games in his career together with 25 Tests for New Zealand.