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The best players who never played representative football – ‘ARL/Superleague’ legacy clubs


As for previous articles in this series, I will attempt 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 are:

– 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.

In this final article, I will combine players from the Western Reds, South QLD Crushers, Adelaide Rams, and Hunter Mariners. I admit this was a struggle. Most players for these doomed clubs were either ex-rep players or had played more matches with other clubs. As a result, there is no bench for this team.

Fullback:

Greg Fleming (Western Reds) (55) 1995-1997. 21 wins 33 losses. 16 tries.

Greg Fleming played three seasons for the Reds as a solid fullback, wing or centre. After the demise of the club, he spent a season with Canterbury and then headed to England where he spent three seasons with the London Broncos. For London, Fleming scored a try in their 1999 Challenge Cup final defeat to Leeds.

In the 1997 Super League year, Fleming started his season with 2 tries in each of the first 2 rounds.

Wings:

Chris Ryan (Western Reds) (58) 1995-1997. 23 wins 34 losses. 21 tries 63 goals.

Chris Ryan spent three seasons with Manly before joining the Reds in 1995. He was arguably the club’s most reliable player. Ryan’s 24 tries, 70 goals, and 236 points across all competitions are records for the Western Reds. He also set the record for points in a season in 1995 with 136.

After leaving the Reds, Ryan joined Fleming at the London Broncos for two years, also appearing in the 1999 Challenge Cup final.
While at Manly, Ryan appeared in the two finals losses, both to the Broncos, in 1993 and 1994. However, Ryan did his part scoring a try in both matches.

Jason Hudson (SQ Crushers) (39) 1996-1997. 5 wins 34 losses. 11 tries 3 goals.

The first of our South QLD Crushers players is Jason Hudson. Hudson started his career with Cronulla in 1993 before spending his next two seasons with the Roosters. He was signed by the Crushers in 1996 and played two seasons with the club. After the Crushers were, well, crushed, Hudson spent a season with the Gold Coast. He then moved to Balmain and stayed when they became the Wests Tigers, although he did not play first grade for either club. Hudson finished with 98 first-grade games across six clubs – a true journeyman.

Hudson’s 11 tries are a record for the Crushers and he ranks third for most appearances for the club. He holds a neat place in history by playing in the last ever matches for both the Crushers and the Gold Coast Chargers.

Centres:

David Krause (SQ Crushers) (23) 1995-1996. 6 wins 16 losses. 10 tries.

David Krause played 21 games for the Crushers in 1995, scoring 9 tries, but only appeared twice in 1996. Like many in this team, Krause headed to England and played a couple of years for the London Broncos.

In retirement, Krause coached Marist Brothers Rams in Lismore and has coached in Brisbane for Easts Tigers.

Chris Dever (Western Reds) (24) 1995-1997. 11 wins 12 losses. 1 try.

Returning to the Reds, we have Chris Dever, who appeared in all three seasons for the club after moving from the lower grades in Newcastle. Despite being a winger or centre, Dever only crossed once for the Reds in his career.

Dever made no more appearances in first grade after the Reds were removed from the NRL, but he stayed in Western Australia and has been an important coach, administrator, and advocate for WA rugby league. He is the President of the North Beach Sea Eagles club, which has been a part of Perth rugby league since 1951. Dever has also been very involved in trying to re-enter a WA club in the NRL, including coaching a resurrected Reds in the Jim Beam cup in the 2000’s.

Five-eighth:

Tim Horan (Western Reds) (29) 1995-1997. 13 wins 16 losses. 7 tries 1 FG.

Continuing the Western Reds’ dominance of this team we have Tim Horan – the less famous one. Horan played 17 matches across three seasons for South Sydney without establishing himself in the top side. He then left for the Reds and enjoyed a successful year in 1995, including scoring a try in their first ever match. After 19 games that year, Horan never reach 10 in a season again.

After the Reds folded Horan played a season for Illawarra, but only appeared in a handful of first grade games and was not invited to be a part of the merged club in 1999.

Half:

Matthew Rodwell (Western Reds) (57) 1995-1997. 22 wins 34 losses. 14 tries.

Newcastle’s Matthew Rodwell was a quality player, winning the competition’s Rookie of the Year prize in 1992 and playing in the club’s first ever finals series. He played nearly 50 games for the Knights before spending a season in reserve grade in 1994 after the emergence of the Johns boys.

Rodwell joined the Reds and steered the club around in a solid manner for three seasons. After the club folded, Rodwell spent two seasons each at St George and Penrith, where he guided both to a finals series.

Rodwell went to spend a final season in England captaining Warrington, hated it, and came home. He has since held senior administrative roles in rugby league, including heading the Rugby League Players Association.

Rodwell was also honoured with the title of Cleo Bachelor of the Year in 1993.

Lock:

Darrien Doherty (Hunter Mariners / Adelaide Rams) (30) 1997-1998. 10 wins 20 losses. 1 try.

Darien Doherty is a true rugby league traveller, having played for a record seven clubs: Penrith, Wests, Canterbury, Illawarra, the Hunter Mariners, Adelaide Rams and North QLD.

Doherty’s most productive years in terms of matches played were between 1996 and 1998 when he appeared in 50 matches for Illawarra, Hunter, and Adelaide. This included an appearance in the grand final of the ill-fated Super League World Club Challenge in 1997, lost by the Mariners to Brisbane.

Second Row:

Jon Grieve (Western Reds) (30) 1995-1997. 17 wins 12 losses. 4 tries

Back to the Reds, who dominate this team for two reasons: firstly they played an additional season compared to the others, and secondly they had more average players who never went anywhere, whereas the other doomed squads either filled up with decorated veterans past their use by date, or promising youngsters who went on to better things elsewhere.

Jon Grieve played three seasons on the fringes of first grade for Manly, then joined the Reds in 1995 and did the same there. In between Grieve went to England and played for Widnes in the 1993/94 Championship.

Grieve was actually a Western Australian junior, having learned his rugby league with the South Perth Lions, a club that also produced Bryson, Bronx and Luke Goodwin, and Cory Paterson, among others.

Dammit! Steele Retchless the legend of English Super League played four tests for the USA. So I have to turn to:

Jeff Wittenberg (SQ Crushers) (19) 1995-1996. 3 wins 16 losses. 1 try.

The son of famous international player John Wittenberg, Jeff played for Wynnum Manly in Brisbane and then appeared once for St George, before joining the Crushers in 1995. He played nearly 20 games across two seasons. After the Crushers he moved to England and enjoyed a solid career, turning out for Bradford, Huddersfield, Sheffield, and Batley in both Super League and the 2nd Division. In retirement, he stayed in England and married a local girl.

Wittenberg played in the Crushers’ first ever game, against Canberra, where he copped a forearm to the head from Ricky Stuart as a welcome to first grade.

Props:

Anthony Bella (SQ Crushers) (25) 1995-1997. 5 wins 19 losses. 1 try.

Anthony Bella, brother of Martin, played in the Crushers’ first and last ever games after coming down from Mackay. Bella never really cemented a first grade spot and played 25 matches over three seasons, mostly from the bench.

The Bella’s know football, with his other brother Robert, also playing top grade league, while his daughter Lauren was drafted by the Gold Coast Suns AFLW side and his nephew has played for the Ipswich Jets in the QCup.

Brett Goldspink (Western Reds) (26) 1995-1996. 10 wins 16 losses.

Brett Goldspink spent the 1992 and 1993 seasons on the fringes of first grade with the Illawarra Steelers. He joined South Sydney in 1994 and had a good season, playing 20 games. That led to Goldspink being picked up by the Western Reds and he played 26 matches over the next two seasons.

Goldspink then left for England and enjoyed a much more notable career, playing 6 seasons in the Super League for Oldham, St Helens, Wigan, and Halifax. He then returned to the bush and led Tumut to a Group Nine premiership in 2003. As late as 2012 Goldspink was noted as traveling regularly to return to the field for Tumbarumba, despite living in Perth.

Hooker:

Matthew Fuller (Western Reds) (59) 1995-1997. 24 wins 34 losses. 14 tries 1 FG.

Matt ‘Sheep’ Fuller rose from living by himself as a 14-year-old in a caravan in Western Sydney to play over 100 NRL games during the 1990s across five different clubs. Fuller has a heartwarming story of how he was discovered by the late Peter Mullholland, his eventual coach at the Reds, who got him out of that caravan, set him up with a school scholarship, and welcomed Fuller into his own home for two years.

Fuller started his first grade career with half a dozen appearances off the bench for Canterbury across 1989-1990, followed by a year at St George in 1992 but again only a couple of appearances from the bench. On his debut for Canterbury, he actually played all three grades on the day (imagine a player doing that now) and got a parking ticket for his troubles. In 1993 Fuller joined his brother Paul at Souths, although they only played one match together in first grade. Fuller’s 15 appearances were enough for him to start getting noticed and he was lured to England for a season with Wakefield Trinity.

He was then picked up by his mentor Mullholland for the Western Reds in 1995 and he headed over for a successful three-year stint, playing 59 matches mostly as the starting hooker and being one of the club’s best players. His 65 matches including the World Club Challenge are a record for the club.

After the demise of the Reds, Fuller returned to Wakefield Trinity, this time as captain of the club, and helped win the Premiership Grand Final and earn promotion to the Super League. Fuller then popped up again in 1999 with Western Suburbs, where he played 21 matches, mainly in the second row, and appeared in the club’s final stand-alone fixture.

In retirement, Fuller returned to Western Australia and built a fitness business, and is on Perth radio as a commentator whenever the rugby league comes to town. He must have enjoyed his time in England as he named his daughter Trinity. Each year Fuller engages in a 24-hour fitness challenge to raise money for Telethon Perth, and has raised over $1 million.

Next time I will review all of these teams to produce a Best of Non-Representative Players. They will finally get the rep jersey they deserve, if only from The Roar. I will also have a stab at deciding which club produced the strongest set of non-representative players.





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