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The best Canterbury Bankstown players who never played representative football


In the same vein as previous articles in this series, I’ve attempted to put together a quality team for each NRL club made up solely of players since 1980 who never went beyond club level. The criteria for selection is:

– No representing at senior level: internationals, State of Origin, Prime Ministers XIII, City vs. Country or All Stars.
– Current players are excluded.
– Players are only eligible for the club they played the most first grade games for.
– For players who straddle the 1970’s and 1980’s, 30 games after since 1980 is generally the cut-off to qualify.

This is the family club, but more accurately this is the Hughes club. There is some great quality in this lot and enough depth to leave out a player who chalked up 100 games for the club.

Fullback

Rod Silva (100 matches) – 1995-2001. 60 wins 39 losses. 56 tries. 12 finals 9 wins.

Hard to believe that this guy never played any rep footy. ‘Rocket’ Rod Silva started at the Roosters and played 92 games for the club between 1988 and 1995. He scored 34 tries and had a couple of very good years in 1993 and 1994 in an average team after losing most of 1992 to a broken jaw. Silva was named Dally M Fullback of the Year in 1993.

Silva took his game to a new level after joining Super League and moving to Canterbury in 1995. Blessed with great footwork and blistering speed, Silva’s try scoring rate went from one every three matches to more than one every two in his time with the Bulldogs. Silva was at fullback and scored a try as the Bulldogs won the 1995 premiership from 6th position. Despite conflicts with the club over continuing to work outside rugby league as a police officer, Silva went on to score a try in six consecutive finals games until finally missing out in the club’s 1998 grand final loss to Brisbane.

After retiring from football in 2001, Silva has continued his police career while also coaching indigenous rugby league teams.

Rod Silva Bulldogs

Rod Silva (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Wings

Steve Gearin (131) – 1976-1985. 71 wins 53 losses. 63 tries 405 goals. 8 finals 6 wins.

The 1980 grand final hero Steve Gearin will be remembered as long as there are highlights reels of grand finals. His running over-the-shoulder take of a Greg Brentnall kick in the 1980 grand final to score in many ways encapsulates the entire “Entertainers” era at the Bulldogs in a single moment. The backdated records presented Gearin with the Clive Churchill medal that day. In addition to THAT try, he also kicked 6 from 6 in the 18 to 4 victory.

Gearin was already an experienced player by this stage, having debuted for the club in 1976 and become a regular first grader by 1978. A prolific goal kicker who could also find his way to the try line, Gearin scored over 200 points for the club in each of their successful 1979 and 1980 seasons, breaking the club’s all-time record in 1979 and scoring a try in the club’s narrow grand final loss to St George. He was the competition’s top points scorer in 1980 and 1984.

Gearin left the Bulldogs in 1983 and spent a couple of successful years at St George, before returning to the club briefly and then finishing with a short stint at Manly.

Gearin was the 14th player to register 1,000 career points and his finishing total of 1,388 ranks 23rd all time.

“I ran after it and it pretty much fell into my arms. It was one of those lucky things”

Glen Nissen (68) – 1988-1991. 39 wins 26 losses. 16 tries. 3 finals 3 wins.

In a packed field where I could have picked any number of similar level players, Glen Nissen grabs a wing spot. The Penrith junior played for Canterbury between 1988 and 1991 and scored a try in the club’s 1988 grand final victory.

Nissen started his senior career with Fullham in England’s second division before spending a couple of seasons on the fringes with the Panthers, winning the 1987 reserve grade title with the club. He joined the Bulldogs in 1988 and have an immediate impact as the club won the premiership, with Nissen scoring the match sealing try in the grand final.

Nissen played a further three seasons with the club before returning to Penrith for a final season in 1992 and then retiring after 15 separate operations during his career and snapping his ankle in a warm up match for the 1994 season.

Nissen was coached in Under 13’s by Phil Gould, who was captaining Penrith at the time.

“I hated coming up against Mal Meninga, he was a man mountain, legs like tree stumps”

Centres

Mark Hughes (176) – 1974-1983. 96 wins 69 losses. 31 tries 21 goals. 12 finals 7 wins.

Hughes number 1. Mark Hughes was a one club man for the Bulldogs between 1974 and 1983. He played in three grand finals for the club, including their premiership in in 1980.

Hughes played mostly lock in his later years, but I have another Hughes there. He also played five eighth in the club’s 1974 grand final loss to Easts, but I also have another Hughes in that position. So Mark slots in at centre where played 57 games for the club.

In 2009 Mark, along with brothers Graeme and Garry, gave back their club life memberships over perceived mistreatment of family members Garry (sacked as football manager in 2004) and Corey (not made a life member in 2009). The memberships were restored in 2018 and Mark Hughes took up a recruitment role with the club.

Steven Hughes (Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images)

Steven Hughes (70) – 1993-2001. 47 wins 23 losses. 28 tries. 4 finals 2 wins.

Hughes number 2. Steven, son of Garry, nephew of Mark and Graeme and brother to Corey and Glen. Phew! Steven Hughes played for the Bulldogs during the 1990’s, highlighted by his appearance in the club’s grand final loss to Canberra in 1994. He suffered a series of injuries which made it difficult to gain any continuity, never managing 20 first grade games in a season. As a result, Hughes spent a fair bit of time in reserve grade, winning a premiership there in 1998.

In 1994 the ‘family club’ fielded a side with three sets of brothers: Steven and Glen Hughes, Ben and Simon Gillies and Darren and Jason Smith.

Five-eighth

Garry Hughes (159) – 1974-1984. 89 wins 64 losses. 14 tries 19 goals. 13 finals 8 wins.

Hughes number 3. Garry Hughes was a long term player for the Bulldogs along with his brother Mark and played five eighth alongside Steve Mortimer in the club’s 1979 and 1980 grand finals.

Not the fastest pivot going around, Hughes had a sweet short pass, decent kick and solid defence allowing his more flamboyant ‘Entertainers’ to thrive. In the 1979 decider he set up two of the Bulldogs’ tries and he was one of their best in the breakthrough 1980 premiership win. Hughes remained the Dogs’ first choice five eighth until the rise of Terry Lamb under Warren Ryan in 1984.

In retirement Hughes was heavily involved in administration at Canterbury and was the club’s football manager during one of its most turbulent periods, with the 2002 salary cap and 2004 Coffs Harbour scandals ending his time there.

In his last 8 seasons at the club Hughes scored a grand total of 6 tries and none after 1980.

Half

Daniel Holdsworth (70) – 2006-2009. 34 wins 36 losses. 13 tries 5 goals 3 FG. 3 finals 2 wins.

Daniel Holdsworth joined Canterbury in 2006 after a couple of seasons on the fringes with St George and made an immediate impact, playing 26 games for the season and scoring a try in each of their Qualifying and Preliminary finals that year.

He was a first choice half at the club until 2009 and the following year left for England where he spent four years with Salford and Hull FC. Holdsworth played in Hull’s 2013 Challenge Cup final loss to Wigan before returning to the NRL for a final year at Cronulla where he played 8 matches and won none of them as the club took the wooden spoon. In retirement Holdsworth has forged a coaching career and is currently an assistant with the Sharks.

Holdsworth grew up in the Western Australia where he represented the state at junior levels.

Lock

Glen Hughes (177) – 1992-2004. 108 wins 64 losses. 20 tries. 12 finals 8 wins.

Hughes number 4. Son of Garry and brother of Steven, Glen Hughes was a mainstay for the Bulldogs, playing a whopping 13 seasons of first grade at the club. Hughes participated in five finals series with the club, including winning the 1995 premiership.

In the grand final, Hughes started from the bench and scored a try early in the second half with his first touch of the ball. It was his first ever try for the club after debuting four years earlier. Hughes also played in the club’s 1998 grand final loss to Brisbane.

All but two of Hughes’ 12 finals appearances were from the bench. A true utility, he split his 177 matches at the club between lock, five eighth, centre, second row and even one game at halfback.

Second Row

Tony Grimaldi (119) – 1996-2006. 80 wins 37 losses. 11 tries. 9 finals 7 wins. 1998 and 2004 grand finals.

Tony ‘Lobster’ Grimaldi was an underrated Bulldogs stalwart who played in two grand finals for the club. After 1 first grade game with St George in 1995, Grimaldi joined Canterbury but took a couple of years to break into first grade. 1998 was his breakout year, playing 20 matches and scoring a try in their grand final loss to Brisbane (his first try in first grade).

Grimaldi then left the club and played 89 games over three seasons in the English Super League for Gateshead and Hull FC, captaining the latter club to a finals series. He then returned to the Bulldogs and played for five successful seasons at the club, locking the scrum as they defeated the Roosters in the 2004 grand final. He then captained the club and scored a try in their world Club Challenge loss to Leeds.

After retiring Grimaldi was a long term conditioning and fitness coach at Canterbury.

Robert Relf (126) – 1992-1999. 77 wins 48 losses. 10 tries. 10 finals 7 wins.

Robert Relf enjoyed a thirteen year career at top level, mainly with the Bulldogs. Relf debuted in 2002 but cemented his place in 2005, playing 24 games and becoming a regular starter. He played in the club’s major semi final win over Brisbane but missed the grand final due to injury.

Relf was a regular when fit over the next four seasons and played in the club’s 1998 grand final loss to Brisbane. In 2000 Relf moved to North Queensland to finish his NRL career. His final season in 2002 produced his most tries in a season: 5.

Relf then finished off with three seasons for Widnes in the England competition (playing every single game in his first two seasons) for a grand total of nearly 250 career games. In retirement Relf coached the Northern Blues from Port Stephens in the Newcastle competition.

Relf’s altercation with Newcastle’s Peter Shiels (who made their version of these squads in an earlier article) during the 1998 finals is an internet favourite.

Props

Geoff Robinson (139) – 1977-1986. 81 wins 56 losses. 6 tries. 12 finals 7 wins.

Two time premiership winner Geoff Robinson represents everything that is great in rugby league. The wild man with wild hair was the rugged underbelly that supported that Entertainers as they electrified the competition in 1979 and 1980.

Robinson exploded onto the scene winning a man of the match award on debut in a 1977 midweek cup match. He was a regular in the side by 1979 as the young side challenged but ultimately fell to St George and was then a key member as they went one better in 1980. Robinson was there as the club won again in 1984 to cement their position as one of the dominant sides of the era, and then signed off with an appearance in the Bulldogs’ 1986 grand final loss to Parramatta. He also found time to win an English championship with Halifax in 1985.

Why does Robinson represent everything that is great in rugby league? He was a one club man including coaching their third grade side to a premiership in 1991, limited but fearless in attack, rugged in defence, not shy to get involved in some rough stuff if required but never a bad word was said about him off the field. And finally, in the last 12 months as he bravely battled cancer, the community spirit of rugby league has shone with fundraisers and support from all over the rugby league family.

And the hair and beard of course. We can never forget those.

Mitch Newton (106) – 1990-1998. 60 wins 43 losses. 3 tries. 5 finals 4 wins.

Mitch Newton played for Canterbury through virtually all of the 1990’s, highlighted by being a part of the club’s 1995 grand final winning team. Newton’s 106 games for the Dogs are split almost 50:50 between the bench and starting in the front row.

Newton also won a reserve grade competition in 1998 and is a life member of the club.

After leaving the Bulldogs, Newton played country football and led the Camden Rams to a Group 6 premiership, before coaching the club while continuing a career in the police force, where he has also coached the NSW Police side. Most recently this year he coached the Macarthur Bulls police rugby league football club to a NSW Police Rugby League premiership.

Hooker

Mark Bugden (63) – 1984-1988. 42 wins 21 losses. 4 tries. 10 finals 8 wins.

Mark Bugden only played 63 games for the Bulldogs, but that included four grand finals: wins in 1984, 1985, and 1988 and a loss in 1986. Budgen’s solo try from dummy half in the 1984 grand final sealed a tight win 6-4 over Parramatta.

Bugden started at Newtown in 1981, scoring two tries on debut. He was the established first grade rake by 1983 before moving to Canterbury the following year. Budgen started out in the reserves but had worked his way into the top side in time for their premiership victory, after an injury to Billy Johnstone. The following year Bugden again played second fiddle and appeared in his only regular season game in round 1 before being suspended for a whopping 14 matches for smashing Steve Rogers’ jaw. His next game was from the bench in the preliminary final and then the grand final victory. So two grand finals wins in just 13 first grade games for the club.

Bugden displaced his rival Johnstone in 1986 and started in the club’s grand final loss to Parramatta, where in the final minutes he was dragged down just short of what would have been a second grand final winning try. Bugden enjoyed a full season as the top rake in 1987 before a final year at the club in 1988, signing off with another grand final victory, this time from the bench behind Joe Thomas. He then spent a final two years at Parramatta before hanging up the boots.

In relation to Bugden’s shot on Steve Rogers in 1985, Rogers actually sued Bugden and Canterbury over the matter and won.

Bench

Steve Reardon (163) – 1991-2003. 97 wins 60 losses. 15 tries. 10 finals 3 wins.

Steve Reardon was a one-club Bulldogs stalwart, playing first grade for 13 seasons at the club. The hard working back rower appeared from the bench in Canterbury’s 1998 grand final loss to Brisbane and played 10 finals in total, signing off with a preliminary final loss to the Roosters in 2003.

Reardon later went home to Temora and captain-coached the Temora Dragons, winning a premiership in 2004. His son still plays for the club.

Reardon may not have been the smartest player to lace a boot, once picking a fight with the Auckland enforcer Monty Betham.

Peter Cassilles (111) – 1974-1982. 61 wins 45 losses. 8 tries. 5 finals 3 wins.

Peter Cassilles was predominately a 1970’s player, but his 30 games in the 80’s just qualifies him. The back rower played for 9 seasons with the club, with his best year being 1979 when he played 22 matches as the club charged to the grand final. The following year Cassilles only played 6 matches, winning them all, but missed out on the grand final through injury.

Cassilles later had a successful business career and served on the Bulldogs’ board. He is a life member of the club.

Adam Perry (134) – 1999-2007. 80 wins 50 losses. 7 tries. 14 finals 6 wins. 2004 grand final.

Adam Perry was the Bulldogs hooker during the 2000’s. He played in six finals series for the club, including their 2004 premiership win over the Roosters and subsequent world club challenge loss to Leeds. He retired after 8 seasons aged just 28 and has since played and coached for a variety of country clubs, including Junee, Wagga and Gundagai. He is now the manager for the NRL’s RISE Development Program for junior rugby league players.

Billy Johnstone (83) – 1983-1986. 59 wins 22 losses. 7 tries. 9 finals 5 wins.

I know I already have two hookers but Cunnamulla boy Billy Johnstone just had to be here. One of the toughest and most colourful players to play the game, Johnstone spent his post playing career terrorising generations of young footballers as a strength and conditioning guru.

After winning a premiership with Souths in Brisbane, Johnstone played four seasons for the Dogs, including a win in the 1985 grand final and being name the Dally M Hooker of the year in 1983. After leaving the club, he spent a season at St George and then joined the Gold Coast in 1988 for their entry into the competition, captaining the club and playing in their first three seasons.

In 1984, Johnstone was the victim when Les Boyd was famously suspended for 15 months for eye gouging, ending his career in Australia.

Johnstone was also a top level boxer with 21 wins from 27 professional bouts and fought for Australian Middleweight title in 1983, the same year that he was anointed the game’s best hooker. Unfortunately he got himself disqualified for a head butt.

From bulldogs.com.au: “I always used to think that if they could get through some of the stuff that we’re doing with me at training, then it made the game fairly easy… the thing that I did know from playing was that if you weren’t fit, you usually lost. It was that simple.”





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