IT WAS fitting Greater Northern’s Under 16 and 18 sides won AAMI Country Championship finals at Scully Park, Tamworth on Saturday.
Standing in the wings outside the Blazes section of the West Tamworth League Club were members of the 1988 Northern Division side that beat Great Britain 32-16.
It was one of Northern Division’s greatest wins and was followed by a Country Championship a year later with the nucleus of that side at Dubbo.
Both teams were coached by Frank Fish, the Narrabri coach and later to be long-running Northern Division and Group 4 chairman.
He remembers the 1989 Country Championship final well at Dubbo.
“It nearly got me sacked,” he said.
“I made some late changes to the side and was told I’d never coach again.”
His changes were major reasons why the side won 42-8 after Moree’s Mark Ryan scored four tries and Ewen McGrady scored one of the most brilliant individual tries you would ever see.
Frank Fish still marvels at the simple fashion McGrady dribbled the grubber through the WD defence, regathered and scored without a hand being laid on him.
That Fish had kept his star halfback off the field for the first 20 to 25 minutes was a master stroke.
“They were going to bash him,” Fish recalled.
Ewan later went to Sydney to star with Canterbury and win a Dally M.
That stardom had been well charted in 1988 when the Englishmen were also left clutching at shadows when the Moree halfback scooted across for two tries.
Rocky Laurie, who had left Sydney where he had also won various awards with South Sydney to link with Inverell Hawks, remembers a grey day under overcast skies.
“We gave them a good touch up,” Laurie said.
“And we found a superstar in Ewan. He terrorised them, it was like catching fresh air.”
Frank Fish reckoned David McCann’s busting run through the middle of the English forwards set up a crucial try that sparked the home side to a memorable win.
(team that played and beat Great Britain 32-16 at Scully Park on Sunday, June 5): 1 Michael Spinks, 2 Robert French, 3 Mark Ryan, 4 Garry Gardner, 5 Peter Platter, 6 Rocky Laurie, 7 Ewan McGrady, 8 David McCann, 9 Phil Masters, 10 Mark Cotter, 11 Chris Cumming, 12 Garry Lavennder, 13 Mark Maynes, 14 Greg McCormack, 15 Bernie Briggs. Coach - Frank Fish.