Question 1: Jim where did your love for Rugby League start?
Jim: Well my father was one of the founders of the Wynnum Manly Football Club, so when I was a kid I went to all the football games with him naturally. I didn’t play much, because early in my career I broke one elbow playing tennis and then broke the other elbow not long after, doubling my mate on a pushbike when the front forks on the bike collapsed, I went over and I broke the other elbow. That set me back as far as having a football career was concerned. I did play Rugby League at junior level at Manly State School, I also had weight problems at school because I was tall and light and my mother didn’t really encourage me to take up the sport either.
Question 2: Did you recall the early days of the Wynnum Manly Rugby League playing when re-entering the competition in 1951?
Jim: I went to a few games early in 1951 and 52 and then from about 1954 I didn’t miss a game for at least 20 years including trials etc. My mother and step father never missed any games particularly being a football family in those days. I was born in Wynnum so most people living here lived and breathed the local team. We had a great competition before 1951 with all the local sides in Wynnum playing, such as Waterloo, Manly Rats, Hemmant, Moreton Rovers, Dunwich and Fisherman I used to go down to Kitchener Park to watch all these games.
Question 3: So your father started the Geraghty Cup can you elaborate on how this competition operated?
Jim: You can go back to the late 1930’s when he started the Geraghty Cup. It was played by representative teams from Wynnum, Beenleigh, Beaudesert, Redcliffe and Dunwich. The Cup is on show at the Wynnum Manly Leagues Club. It was called the Geraghty Cup because my father sponsored it, Redcliffe won the last Geraghty Cup in the mid 1950’s.
Question 4: Why did the Wynnum Manly jersey have to change from Green and Gold and move to Green and Red in 1958?
Jim: Wynnum Manly originally had the Australian colours however they were told by the powers that be (ARL) that it would need to change, they said that the Wynnum Manly club was not permitted to wear the same colours as the National side. The Wynnum Manly side were taking on Wests in the game before Australia played, thus the reason it was seen by officialdom and the rest is history.
Question 5: in 1959 we built the nucleus of a great team that just missed out on playing the Grand Final that year, why did we go downhill so quickly the next season?
Jim: Well Rex Fox was our coach in 1959 and should of have been put in as coach for the 1960 season, but the management of the day went for Laurie Coleman. Laurie was the publican at the Manly Hotel and was a great bloke, but I thought the decision was criminal and wasn’t the right thing for the club at that time. I thought it put Wynnum Manly back years when that decision was made because we lost so many good local players such as Keith Lewis, Lou Greenhill, etc. We ended up winning 2 games in 1960.
Question 6: Your brother John Geraghty played for Wynnum Manly in the late 1950’s and early 60’s what are your recollections of your brother as a player and how did the nickname of pencil come about?
Jim: My brother John was very quick, there weren’t many in Brisbane quicker than him. In 1959 the Wynnum Manly Club won the inaugural “Victa Sprint” held on Grand Final day it was a 4 x 100m relay involving two forwards and two backs from each club. The Wynnum players represented in this sprint race were Jimmy Thompson and Steele Davis (forwards) and my brother John and Lionel Morgan (backs). The third runner was my brother and he made up a hell of a lot of ground with Lionel running the last leg. All eight teams were represented it was a very prestigious event at the time.
Question 7: The 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s was a pretty torrid time in the Brisbane Rugby League as far as brawls taking place, what was the worst brawl in your time of watching the game?
Jim: Actually there was a fight and it was the day Wynnum were playing Wests at Lang Park. Johnny Payne was a very niggling player in those days and he started a brawl, the whole side participated in this brawl, anyway a bloke who was playing for Wynnum Billy Saunders also an ex Valleys player, he could fight. I can still see to this day, I’m in the stand on the halfway line, he pushed John Payne up against the fence in front of a packed grandstand and belted the hell out of him. I had a word to John Payne years later and he said “I never wanted to take that bloke on again.”
The other one is when Bob Greenhill and Henry Holloway got sent off the field at Davies Park. When they were making there way off the field they were still jostling with one another when Bob Greenhill hit him with a haymaker and knocked him out cold.
Question 8: What was the funniest thing you saw on a football field?
Jim: This was an absolute classic, I was at Lang Park and Fonda Metassa got carried off the field on a stretcher and put into the back of an ambulance, next thing as the Ambulance was just about to leave the ground, Fonda hoped out of the back doors of the Ambulance and went back onto the field and continued to play.
Another story involving Fonda who had just arrived back from New South Wales was when Wynnum Manly centre Ray Moore (who could tackle) crash tackled Fonda over the sideline in the early days at Kougari Oval. Fonda was lying on the ground in front of me as I was doing the ground raffles and then their coach Bob Bax came over to check if he was alright. Fonda said to Bob Bax I’m alright I am going back on, Bax put his hand on his forehead showed him the blood and Fonda half passed out. It was typical of Fonda he was a true character of the game.
Question 9: Who was the best player you ever saw wearing the Wynnum Manly Jersey excluding Wally Lewis?
Jim: There is two parts to this answer the player they gave the greatest service to Wynnum Manly was easily Keith ‘Bomber’ Brown. He coached Wynnum Manly more than any other player. When he came to the club in 1954, he started to put Wynnum into the right direction. He was a very classy skilful footballer, he was a good captain and lead by example. His natural position was five-eighth but we had Bobby Cook there so he played predominately in the centres. He was a clever footballer and there would not be many people out there that would disagree I feel.
The best player I ever saw play for the club was Lionel Morgan, because you wouldn’t get many footballers do what he did. He would make the front pages of the newspapers, he was just a sensational player I have not seen many wingers better than him. He was sometimes unorthodox, he only played two or three games for Australia but in my opinion the selectors got it very wrong and he should of played a lot more games for Australia. He did slow down when they butchered the operation on his knee, but he was still a great player. A special mention must also go to Bobby Cook, but we also had some other great players such as Wally Lewis, Gene Miles, Billy McDermott, Lew Platz and John Rhodes.
Question 10: Why did it take Wynnum Manly 31 years to win their first premiership in 1982?
Jim: Well for starters Wynnum Manly was made up in those days with a majority of players being meat workers, people from outside looking in didn’t think the metalworkers were first class citizens, which is a load of bullshit because they are, that was part of the story. But we weren’t winning games and Valleys and Brothers got all the players, Wests were next in line and we didn’t ever attract any of the players that these clubs did. I was on the retention committee and I worked bloody hard to get good players to Wynnum we just needed a couple of top class players because we already had some very good local players. We finally had a breakthrough in the early 70’s with Nev Hornery, Johnny Rhodes, Peter Inskip and Doug Kelly coming to the club. Once we got those players by 1975 we started to be on the way up.
Although we won premierships throughout the 1980’s with some wonderful teams we put on the paddock, I believe we did not become totally professional until Kelly Egan joined the club in the early 2000’s, in partnership with Mark Rockley. They totally changed the culture and professionalism at the club which still exists today.
Question 11: Name the Wynnum Manly player you thought never reached his potential?
Jim: Keith Smith, one of the most talented footballers the club ever had without any doubt at all. He got picked in the Brisbane side as a centre. He was good enough to be in the Queensland side and should of played test football. The only thing that ever held him back was his attitude, he was a lazy trainer, just so laid back.
I went to the grand final each year in Sydney and we would always go to the Norths Leagues Club on the Sunday, we got to know Harry McKinnon who was the president for Norths. We talked Harry into taking Wynnum player Morrie Dent, but he was disappointed on how that went for North Sydney. We tried to talk him into taking Smithy but he didn’t seem interested.
Keith Smith was just an athlete, once he got out in front of the defence they could never catch him.
Question 12: Who was the hardest tackler?
Jim: There was a bloke in 1959 who was working over on the mines at the Island, he came down from North Queensland his name was Alan Peever. He was the best tackling centre I have ever seen bar none, he was phenomenal, he would just run straight at them and they would be laid out on the ground. He wasn’t that big and I sometimes would say to myself, “how and the hell does he do that”. He was compact and strong and had a great technique. He was a none stop defender.
Question 13: Who was the hardest player to tackle in your opinion?
Jim: He had all the talent in the world but never really made it was Gary Seaton’s father Henry. Henry was a big man who played in the reserve grade Grand Final Wynnum lost to Wests in 1957. He played in the centres and had potential galore.
Question 14: In 1973 Wynnum Manly recorded their fourth season in a row finishing in the bottom two places as the retention and recruitment manger what did you and the club do to turn this around?
Jim: We went down to Sydney, a bloke called Doug Kelly played on the wing for Valleys and signed with Wynnum in 1972. Doug had a group of mates playing down at Canterbury Bankstown in Sydney, they were John Rhodes, Nev Hornery and Peter Inskip. Doug was a real nice bloke and we signed him on the wing to play for Wynnum and he spoke to me about these blokes, so I asked Doug to make a phone call to the group. The next thing you know I was on a flight to Sydney where Johnny Rhodes picked me up at the airport. I went to the Canterbury Leagues Club and spoke to Neville Hornery and then went to his house and spoke with Peter Inskip and John Rhodes also, so we got them up to Brisbane to play for Wynnum for a sum of money which we could afford at the time in 1973.
Then there was Barry McTaggart, a gentleman called Tom Murray who was also on the committee rang me at work and I said “Whats up”, he said “Barry McTaggart is currently having a beer with Bob Bax at Dooleys in the Valley and he is chasing a contract. So I got the phone number for Dooleys and had him paged and organised to meet up with him to discuss his future. Peter Thompson was on the committee, so Peter and I arranged to meet with Barry at The Leichhardt Hotel and signed him to play for Wynnum in the 1974 season.
We started off slow but won nine of the remaining 11 games in 1974 which set us up for the 1975 season in which we made the semi finals.
Just remember in that time when representing the club in an administration role it was a voluntary position.
Question 15: What were your recollections of Wynnum Manly winning the 1982 Grand Final?
Jim: Unbelievable with up to 20 buses going to Lang Park from the club for Grand Final day. The football was just incredible, we came back to the club and I had to work behind the bar, picking up glasses as the club with the amount of people they had there the club just couldn’t handle it. I didn’t have a beer until about 4.30am on Monday morning it was out of control. The field was full of supporters with presentations taking place, a day never to be forgotten by anyone in the district.
I went to bed to catch up on some sleep, the Monday they went to the Manly, Waterloo and Fishers Hotel. The players and supporters came back to the club and we run out of beer, luckily the Manly Hotel helped us out on that occasion.
Question 16: Why did it all fall apart financially for the club when we had been such a stable club, spending within our means for so long?
Jim: Well, the only real source of money we had in those days was raffles and some sponsorship, there were no poker machines. With success adds additional player costs and at the end of the day the club overcommitted. We were totally gone financially, we were just about to go down the gurgler by 1987. If it wasn’t for a handful of people that did not stop working tirelessly and a change of government allowing poker machines to start in 1992, I don’t believe the club would have survived.
Question 17: Do you still have any involvement with the football club today?
Jim: Not in an official capacity, but still sell doubles on game day and always go to the games were possible.
Question 18: You became a life member of the club in 1987 that must of been a special moment in your life?
Jim: I felt as though others could have received this award also but was absolutely thrilled at the time to be recognised for the work and assistance I had given the club over so many years.
Question 19: You have seen so much change in the game over your lifetime what do you think of the modern day game?
Jim: When they introduced the ten metre rule they should have stopped there. I think they have now changed the rules too much to suit television which is the big money spinner for the NRL.
Question 20: What did you do with yourself after you pulled up stumps in your administrative roles with the club?
Jim: I still go to the football each week and have just retired at 84 years of age. I still sell doubles for the club because I find it hard to let go. I have been married to my wife Lorna for the last 60 years and still live in Wynnum. I still walk along Bay Terrace every afternoon to keep moving and still do volunteer work at Oz Care at Kangaroo Point.
Story Source: Paul Comber
Photo Sources: The Geraghty Collection