Reunion for Birchgrove Scorpions

BIRCHGROVE Scorpions Junior Rugby League Club – a force to be reckoned with in the Balmain Junior League during the 1970s and early 1980s – is holding a reunion on Saturday February 24 at Balmain Bowling Club from 1pm.

A breeding ground for many a Tigers player over the years, event organisers invite all former players, officials and supporters to attend the get-together.

Club stalwart and long-serving president Geoff Large said the Scorpions enjoyed a wealth of success – winning numerous premiership and Club Championship trophies – before disbanding in 1987.

Birchgrove Juniors were a foundation club of the Balmain Junior League in 1908 and competed briefly in the 1930s before reforming as Birchgrove Scorpions in 1967.

Experienced wingers John Davidson and Wayne Miranda were the first Birchgrove juniors to establish themselves with Balmain in the NSWRL premiership during the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Miranda, a former Australian water polo rep, booted 252 goals in 91 games for the Tigers and followed in the footsteps of his father Ray, who played with Balmain in 1942.

Davidson, one of the toughest wingers to play in the NSWRL premiership, joined the Scorpions as a 15-year-old and often played three matches on the one afternoon with the Birchgrove senior teams.

Other Scorpions to earn their first-grade spurs include two time Grand Final forward Kevin Hardwick; wingers Stephen Kerr and Garry Mara; props Mike Marketo, Mark Clinton and John Bilbija; halves Mick Campbell and Peter Camroux; fullbacks Peter Grounds and Rod Pethybridge; half Mark Ko’cass, Bruce Parnell and utility Jeff Earl.

The Scorpions also fielded a host of representative players that made the grade in Gary Best, Laurie Cameron, Rod Sironen, Grade Laykoski, Craig Nolan, Peter O’Toole, Paul Garufi, Ken and Alan Hill, Brett Achurch, John Hanneman, Glenn Pearce, Steve Flecknoe, Mark Livingstone, Glenn Champley, Alan Beattie, Kevin ‘Stuff’ Walters and centres Glen and Ross Thomson.

Beattie and the Thomson brothers were the longest-serving Scorpions – starting their careers in 1967 and graduating to the Balmain U/23 squad.

Brothers Robert and Geoffrey Large chalked up 16 years service while twins Jeff and Will Arthur were long-term players.

Each season the club presented a Coach’s Club Champion Award for the Player of the Year and recipients included current Australian womens water polo coach Greg McFadden, Alan Beattie, Tony Pearson, John Davidson, Grant Samson, Robert McJannett and John Hanneman and Mark Champley.

Another fine player was Gary Gallen, father of Sharks’ international forward Paul Gallen, who captained the Birchgrove B Grade side during the late 1970s.

Birchgrove produced some fine coaches in their history and they include Joe Palmer, Allan Barnsfield, Glen O’Neill, Glen Charters, Brian Battin, Peter Large, Keith Perkins, Tony Newell, Rob Love, Les Ison, Frank Borg, Roy Totino, Ken and Barry Hogg, Robert Alston, Michael Mulry, Ray Swanson, Gavin Hoey, Tony Snowden, Larry Collins, Geoff Large, Kerry Devine and Wayne Miranda.

Birchgrove’s premiership-winning D Grade team of 1981 featured a powerful front row of Frank Mooy, hooker Grade Laykoski and skipper Rod Sironen.