The forgotten players: Sydney Roosters

The forgotten players: Sydney Roosters

This is the 13th article in the series that looks at some of the forgotten players from your favourite club.

The Roosters have been with us from the very beginning, in one guise or another, and have had nearly 1200 players pass through their ranks since day one. They have a seemingly endless list of club legends, including Dave Brown, Dally Messenger, Jack Gibson, Barry Reilly, Arthur Beetson, Kevin Hastings, Mitch Aubusson, Anthony Minichiello, Brad Fittler, Craig Fitzgibbon, and so it goes on and on.

But not every player reached this legend status.

Here’s a team made up of some of the mere mortals who have turned out in the red, white and blue since the mid ’60s. How many do you remember?

1. Darren Junee Junee, who gets a chance to team up with his father below, began his career in union, playing for Eastwood, Randwick and NSW, as well as being selected in four Tests for Australia. He had four years with the Roosters from 1995 to 1998, playing over 50 games at the top level at either wing or fullback, before returning to rugby.

2. Shane Whereat Whereat was a real speedster and came to the Roosters in 1993 following a union background. He played 35 games in four years at the Roosters, scoring 12 tries. He then moved to the Eels in 1997 where he had more success, scoring double the number of tries in 30-odd games.

3. Harry Cameron Cameron was my kind of centre – no nonsense, ran the ball hard, great defender, and looked after his wingers. He played 55 games for the Roosters in the early ’70s and then headed to the Brisbane competition from where he was selected to play five games for Queensland.

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4. Ron Giteau Another very good centre and a prolific goal kicker, Giteau played over 220 first grade games in a 13-year career. After a successful seven-year stint with Wests he moved to Easts in 1981 and played 46 games in the red, white and blue over the next two years. He then headed to Canberra in 1983 and went on to captain the club. Giteau is the father of rugby great Matt Giteau.

5. Bruce Pickett Bruce Pickett could really motor and knew the shortest way to the try line. He followed Jack Gibson from Newtown to the Roosters in 1974 and played 40 first grade games for the club over the next four years before returning to the Jets in 1978.

6. Robert Laurie Rocky Laurie was a tough and clever player who came from the country to join the Roosters in 1976, playing 25 games in the next two seasons. He then had three years with Souths, during which time he won the 1980 Dally M Medal, before rejoining the Roosters in 1981, where he played another 30-odd games over the 1981 and 1982 seasons. He also played one match for NSW in 1981.

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7. Kevin Junee He was one of the great halfbacks and is unfairly rated behind Kevin Hastings as the Roosters’ greatest ever halfback. Junee was an exciting player with the ball, blessed with great pace and unequalled acceleration, and was as tough as they come. Some of his ongoing battles with Graeme Langlands would make the current judiciary choke on their chicken and avocado wraps.

Junee played 165 games for the Roosters in a ten-year career which kicked off in 1964, before heading to Manly in 1974 and 1975, and thus missing two Roosters premiership medals, and then returned to Easts in 1976 where he played just one more first grade game. He was the season’s top try scorer, from halfback, in 1974. Junee played five games for NSW and was selected on the 1967 Kangaroo Tour to England and France, no mean feat when considering how poorly the Roosters were going at that time.

8. Louis Neumann A very tough defender and clever ball player, Neumann began his career in South African rugby union before taking up the professional game with Leeds in 1961. He arrived at the Roosters in 1967 and played more than 80 games in the top grade over the next five years before taking up a captain-coach role in the country. His time at Easts included a season as captain-coach in the 1969 season.

9. Mal Connor Connor was a clever hooker and played 34 first grade games for the Roosters over the 1976 to 1980 seasons. His most successful year was 1977 when he played nearly every first grade game.

10. Ian Mackay A Souths junior, Mackay’s first grade career took off in 1973 at the age of 21 when he made first grade for the Roosters. Big and tough with a high work rate, Mackay racked up 70 games in the top grade for the Roosters over the next four years, and won premierships with the club in 1974 and 1975. He played three World Cup games for Australia in 1975, moved to Souths for the 1976 season, and then retired at the end of that year at the ripe old age of 26.

11. Des O’Reilly An Easts junior, O’Reilly was a strapping player and a tough defender, who won a premiership with the Roosters in his debut year. In all, he played 127 first grade games with the Roosters in his eight years with the club between 1975 and 1982, before having three years with Cronulla. He played one game for NSW.

12. Peter Fitzgerald Fitzgerald was about 80 kilograms dripping wet but was one of the game’s best defenders and never off the ball in attack. After seven years with the Dragons he came to Easts in 1976 and played ten games for the club before heading to the Wollongong competition.

13. John Quayle The former innovative ARL supremo was quite a handy player before he turned his hand to administration. He played 51 games for the Roosters over the 1968 to 1972 seasons before heading to greener pastures at Parramatta in 1973. He also played two games for NSW and three for Australia.

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14. Brian Smith Not to be confused with the enigmatic and largely unsuccessful coach of the same name, Smith began his career in union, playing for Queensland, Australia and Ireland before switching to league with Balmain to be coached by his mentor Alan Jones in 1991. A talented half or five-eighth, he joined the Roosters in 1994 and played just six first grade games. Since retirement he has forged a career as a very successful union coach.

15. Grant Hedger There was nothing fancy about Grant Hedger, just hard work and 80 minutes of commitment each week. He came through the Roosters’ lower grades to win a premiership in his debut year of 1975 and played around 40 games for the club over the next four years.

16. John Harvey It seems that Harvey didn’t like the opposition, and his hard-hitting tackling style and shoulder charges weren’t always appreciated. After four years with Manly, the fiery prop forward came to the Roosters in 1979 and played 61 games at the top level over the next four years before eventually returning to Manly. He was famously selected to play a Test against NZ in 1978 but was left on the bench for the whole match by his Australian and club coach Frank Stanton.

17. Terry Regan A back rower, Regan came out of the Newcastle competition to make his top grade debut with Balmain in 1982. To describe Regan as a devastating front-on defender doesn’t really do him justice. He was an absolute weapon, fearless and ruthless. He came to the Roosters in 1983 and played 31 games over the next two years. He no doubt would have played a few more, but three suspensions got in the way. He moved to Canberra in 1985 and eventually finished his career in England.

Some other notable Roosters you may have forgotten are rugby convert Alan Cardy, broadcaster Jimmy Smith, speedsters Bruce Stewart, and renowned meat pie exponent George Rose.