Club extinction was on the cards as the decades dawn began, but Herman wouldnt let it go and announced that “yes I can”.
Then from years gone by came renewed hope to give a family feel, Again just like the Club began, strong hands were on the wheel.
As the new millennium started, the Uni club was about to finish. The nucleus of the incumbent committee had been around for well over a decade and felt like they d run a dozen marathons, on their hands.
Blokes like Rolando Taviani, Mario La Fauci, Peter Worth, Russ Cook, Brian Letizia, Joe Jones, Doug Vetter, just to name a few, had carried the Club right through the 1990s and were more worn out than a hair removal therapist at a beauty pageant.
Who stood up to save the day? You guessed it. The omnipresent life member, Jeff HERMAN Walton. I ve got nothing better to do was how he looked at it, and he was right. Apart from having to clean the gravy stains off the front of all his shirts he had no other urgent pressing responsibilities until then.
So, Viva El Presidente Herman and of course Viva was the important word here, because he very nearly never did that. A significant heartscare was not enough to stop Herman and after he woke up from the surgery and looked down at his chest, all he could say was, bloody hell, another gravy stain! and proceeded to annoy the hell out of all the nurses until the day they finally let him out, which we now understand is celebrated every year by the hospital staff as Liberation Day .
Herman got a lot of help because he needed it.
Jon Larrazabal, the Basque architect helped design a new committee which could work together and enjoy themselves. Chris Murray climbed out from under one of his rocks for long enough to give a helping hand and he and Laz also coached one of the younger grades. Coaching isn t necessarily an accurate description, as a victory was simply getting everyone to just show up for the game.
That s what the Under 19s grade was like by the time the new millennium came around. Beer, booze and back seats, took priority over footy, as Mario La Fauci found out when he took on the coaching job of the younger grade. He and his manager, Tav, tried to instill a good work ethic into the team, which they unfortunately only applied to Saturday nights instead of the Sunday games. It was during one of the typical half time breaks under the fig tree at the sports reserve, while some players were heaving up the previous nights refreshments, that Mario made one of his Churchillian speeches Fair dinkum you blokes. Have a go! You re old enough to go to war and kill people, You re men, so, start acting like it. Of course, there were quite a few other expletives intermingled into that watered down version.
In the early part of the decade, John Fuller carried on his Captain-Coach role for A Grade and gave his usual 100% effort. John always came with an entourage. The Fuller Family were great Club supporters throughout the 90s and early naughties and were present at nearly every game, in particular John s parents, Parky and Margaret. After each game, while John went through the post mortem of the game with Parky straight after the full time siren, the players sat patiently in the dressing room waiting to sing the team song. Perhaps John was just collecting his weekly allowance.
The treasurer was Chris Mitchell who couldn t lift heavy things but knew how to count, but he never counted on being involved in a shower scene with Herman … well sort of. Sorry, you ll have to ask them to explain that one but not while Chris wife is around.
Keith Wakeley continued to help behind the scenes with his sports medical expertise and together with life member, Dr Rod Ward, they combined to ensure that the players were some of the best looked after in the league. Rod Ward had been a previous TRL President in the early 80s and there weren t too many Townsville footballers who hadn t sat in his surgery waiting room at some stage and pondered with some intrigue, why all the clowns? .
After his time with the TRL Rod became a Uni Rugby League supporter, sponsor, doctor, life member, patron, advisor. You name it, he was it. Then in 2006 he changed … he became Father Rod Ward. His ordination was bigger than a UNI Club Mad Monday and was attended by nearly one thousand guests which included a sprinkling of other UNI life members who were pleased to receive a blessing on the night. Despite all the wonderful things Rod Ward has done for the Club the most enduring image of him came after the 1995 premiership. At 2am in the morning he stood in the middle of Bullwinkles night club with a rum and coke in each hand the one his left hand not having been touched for two hours because the other one kept being replenished. His usually immaculate hair had fallen over his face and looked like it could have been soaked in one of those drinks, and yet, all he could do was smile.
By the time 2003 clicked over, another FUG (Former Uni Great) returned to the Club to take on the role as president. Ken Veness hailed from Dimbulah before coming to the big smoke in 1979 and was part of the Under 20 Premiership team of 1982. After transferring back to Townsville with work, he was ready to commit again to the club. But, by the time he d finished his stint in charge, he was ready to be committed.
Since the commencement of the NQ Cowboys, sponsorship had always been hard to find as the NRL team monopolised the corporate dollar. Ironically though, it was the Cowboys which helped create an excellent fund raising source as the Club managed to get a Community Food stall during their home games, which was a lucrative source of income. Can you get sick of the smell of hot chips and frying onions? They certainly did. Di Parker pulled the strings while others helped around her and her hubby Allan was a willing worker on game days and had the odd run in reserve grade just to work up a thirst.
The Cowboys have continued to recruit a lot of rural players and bring them to town and feed them to the local Clubs until they were either good enough to play NRL, or, cut them loose. In 2004 they loaned the Club a young prop from western Queensland who played 4 or 5 games for UNI. He was a little unfit but had a massive work rate. His name is Matt Scott. Ever heard of him? We taught him everything that he knows.
The Family Guy became a popular TV show towards the end of the decade and although Alan Yardley is nothing like the show s Peter Griffin, he did bring FAMILY back to the club … his whole family as a matter of fact.
George, Rod and Kim, Craig and Sharon, Alan and Mary-anne and or course, all the kids, together with treasurer Dan Duffy have really brought an organisational professionalism back to the Club in recent years.
The naughties were lean years for the Club apart from one Semi Final appearance. The appointment of Tony Martin as coach in 2009 assisted in recreating the competitive edge via some strong and astute recruitment. Momentum was built and it was hoped that success would follow.
On one trip back from Bowen, Marto was travelling home in the same car as Alan and Craig Yardley and Jim Heery. They were towing the trailer which carried all the equipment. Most of them were on the soup , except Marto who was adhering to the team decision not to drink until they d won three in a row. On the rare, intermittent occasions that he actually stopped talking, he was adamant he could hear a strange noise coming from the towed trailer. Shut up Marto and pass me another beer, you re hearing things was the only reply he kept getting. It wasn t until they arrived back in Townsville that they found one of the wheels of the trailer was hanging on by only one nut. From then on, they declared Marto to be multi-skilled he could talk and listen at the same time.
In 2009 the Club only fielded Reserve Grade and under 18s in the TDRL competition, but after some hard work by the committee, led by President, Alan Yardley and Treasurer, Dan Duffy, the foundation was set for re-entry into A Grade in 2010.
It’s people that make a club and UNI Rugby League has been blessed with a cavalcade of personalities that gave it a character and flavour which has always been the envy of the league. It had been a long time between drinks, and with the re-establishment of a solid base, it was hoped that it wouldn’t be long before we once again saw … The Saints go marching in.