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What a ‘cancelled’ book can tell you about the history of rugby league clubs

I sometimes wonder if the Gold Coast actually deserves to have an NRL team.

On my last visit there I called in at the Southport library and noticed a table of “cancelled” books.

I had a quick browse through, hoping to find something a little bit fruity or politically incorrect that the censors had just stumbled upon.

At the bottom of the heap however was a hefty volume entitled, “The History of Rugby League Clubs”. You can imagine my horror.

This beautiful and elaborate record of the greatest game had obviously through some clerical error been cancelled.

I took the book to the counter and was even more shocked when the nice lady said there was no mistake. She informed me no one had ever borrowed the book, and I could purchase it for one dollar, or it would be recycled.

I’m not sure what all those thousands and thousands of people who visit the Gold Coast each year are doing. Sadly reading books on the history of rugby league clearly isn’t high on their holiday bucket list.

On the bright side, that marvellous book is now the centerpiece of my home rugby league library. I occasionally leaf through it, and take great pleasure in stumbling across morsels like the following.

Supercoach Ben Walker scored 18 tries for the Northern Eagles in 2001, although it is not recorded how many were from short restarts.

Foundation club Glebe (1908-1929) were actually called the Dirty Reds, and not the Fruiterers as Roy and HG had always led me to believe.

University (1920-1937) in 1933 defeated St George 42-8, but then ironically strung together 42 successive losses over the following three seasons.

In 1996 the SQ Crushers beat Parramatta to win the U21 premiership.

Michael Maguire played fullback for the Adelaide Rams in their first premiership match.

In 1997 the Hunter Mariners won their first seven home games.

Newtown won their first title in 1910 in a controversial grand final against Souths. Boxer Russel kicked a goal to tie the match 4-4 after a mark was taken late in the game near half way. (In the good old days if you called and took a clean catch you earned a free kick.)

There was no golden point or extra time and minor premiers Newton were awarded the title.

North Sydney won premierships in 1921 and 1922. After that they had a lot of chances but always found ways to miss out until they were shown the door in 1999.

There was a lot of speculation the Western Reds (1995-1997) would be called the Perth Pumas, but thankfully they decided on a more Australian name, honouring the Western Red kangaroo.

The name had to be shortened because I think Kangaroos had already been taken. Don’t get me started on expansion teams being shamelessly given American names such as Broncos, Steelers, Cowboys, Raiders or Rams.

Cumberland only played the initial season of 1908. Sadly they weren’t around long enough to think up a logo. The club try scoring record (two tries in a season) is held by Ted Bellamy, who I’m sure must somehow be related to Craig.

All these defunct teams live on now only in our memories and rugby league libraries. There is little we can do but speculate which current Sydney (or Gold Coast) club will be the next to join them.

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