Written by Stuart McLennan
The jerseys were big and loose and the shorts were minuscule. The local hardware stores sold electrical tape to gnarled rugby league forwards to wrap around their foreheads.
The players worked as teachers, sales representatives, storemen and behind the bar at the leagues club.
Jersey sponsors included Paramount Shirts, Dahdah Uniforms Video Ezy and Philips.
Sydney inner city clubs that had long been confined to the lower grades have been resurrected to the top level in our lounge rooms. The Newtown Jets, North Sydney Bears and Balmain Tigers are back on our screens.
It is 80 minutes of nostalgia and reflection. Locked down and isolated rugby league fans are embracing it in the absence of real time footy.
Fox Sports, clubs and keen individuals have been reliving what many old fans call the glory days of rugby league in the 80s and early 90s under the auspices of the NSW Rugby League. We have been treated to scheduled Fox broadcasts with fresh commentary courtesy of Vossy, Blocker and co. Clubs and individuals are reliving classic games via social media commentary and updates.
Channel 9 commentator and ex player and coach Phil Gould has been holding court on Twitter, waxing lyrical on rugby league in the 80s and providing his insights and memories. Fans are similarly recounting their lives back in simpler times when going to the footy was often a Sunday arvo sitting on a grass hill with a pie and a beer.
We have relived what many (I can’t agree as an old Balmain fan) regard as the greatest ever grand final in 1989 when the brilliant Raiders side came back from being 12-2 down at halftime to win their first premiership in extra time.
We remembered the 1991 Grand Final when the likeable Panthers hooker Royce Simmons scored two tries in his last ever match to secure Penrith’s first title.
This was an era of different on and off field boundaries. Punching, elbows, high shots, facials, all in brawls and off the ball cheap shots were not uncommon in the 80s. Players still lit up a durry in the dressing room after the game.
In this current situation retro rugby league has fed the beast. It has kept the candle burning as we eagerly anticipate the return of the NRL. Hopefully we will be back in business in late May.
Meanwhile what was your favourite match from the 80s or early 90s?