'81 loose-head prop
Terrace’s premiership-winning 1981 side was part of a 5 year GPS Rugby winning era spanning the years 1977 – 1981.
Brave & Game tracked-down Tony McNamee (loose-head prop) from the 1981 team on the eve of the Marist Trial game to bring you some of his memories. Before we do that, let’s turn to his player profile from the 1981 Terrace Annual.
From the 1981 School Annual - “Tony developed into an excellent scrimmaging forward. His drive and enthusiasm and good will was respected by all in the team. He certainly did not take any backward steps when confronted by physically bigger porps. He was very mobile for a prop and was always on hand to set the Terrace machine on attack.”
B & G: Tony, was there added pressure on the 1981 1st XV side to win the premiership following four consecutive 1st XV premierships?
Tony: Well we had come up through the 13a’s, 14A’s, 15A’s and 16A’s and we were beaten by everybody. Everybody thought this was going to be the year that it was all going to fall apart.
B & G: Were there many players in the ’81 side who contributed to the earlier premierships?
Tony: Well my brother played the previous two years and they’d always had the benefit of a couple of experienced guys who had been playing for a couple of years. We only had two guys who had played firsts before. But one of those was Michael Lynagh who had been playing firsts for three years.
B & G: What was the team feeling after the pre-season tour to Sydney failed to produce a win?
Tony: We got smashed in Sydney, absolutely smashed. I can’t remember the scores but they were demoralizing losses. It was the boys versus the men. A couple of the key players got brutally injured aswell. One of my mates Peter McCrossen who would have had a start in the firsts got completely poll axed by one of the guys from Joeys and broke his shoulder bone. He had to sit out for six weeks.
B & G: So what was it that really got the team fired up after that tour?
Tony: Well I remember when we came back our first trial was against St Laurence’s and we were all sitting in the huddle before the game. I remember Michael Lynagh, who never really said much, said to us, ‘look, I want to win every game from now on’. We didn’t lose a game the rest of the year.
B & G: What was it like to have a player of his caliber as your captain?
Tony: Oh fantastic. Like I said, he wasn’t like George Gregan, talking all the time. He didn’t really say a lot, but when he did say something you really listened. We had enormous respect for him and we all knew at the time that he was going to be something special. While I think it’s unfair to say we were a one man team, it is fair to say that we certainly wouldn’t have been successful if it wasn’t for him.
B & G: Were there any other players in the team who stood out as truly great footballers?
Tony: The other player who really stood out to me was the Vice Captain, Damien Kelly. He had been in the firsts the year before. Not that Kel was the best rugby player, but he was a big bloke who us youngsters really looked up to in the forwards. Jamie Keim was our outside centre and he was a superb natural athlete. He was sadly killed in a car accident a couple of years later but he would have gone on to represent the country. Stephen Partridge was a brilliant player as well who went on to play for Queensland.
B & G: The 1981 annual acknowledges that you “certainly did not take any backward steps when confronted by physically bigger props.” Did you enjoy the loose-head
Tony: Well I had always played there. When I was younger I was a big kid so I was big enough to play that position but by the time we were 16, the other boys had outgrown me. Technically I always felt comfortable there, it’s a very technical position.
B & G: Do you remember any of your opposite numbers?
Tony: Yes, I remember being pretty scared coming up against guys like Ox Baker and Cameron Lillicrap. Cameron actually ended up being one of my best mates at Uni because we were doing physiotherapy together. I never missed an opportunity to remind of our 1st XV win.
B & G: Is there any particular game from that season that stands out to you?
Tony: Probably the Grammar game. The build up to that game was phenomenal. We faced them about two-thirds of the way through the season and we were both undefeated. Going into the match, everyone new that this was basically the grand-final. We won 16-9.
B & G: If you could say something to this year’s 1st XV what would it be?
Tony: Just to believe that you can win. Don’t let anything make you think otherwise.
Tony McNamee completed senior at Terrace in 1981 and completed his degree in Physiotherapy from the University of Queensland in 1985. Tony has practised as a physiotherapist since 1985 and completed his Masters degree in Physiotherapy in 2000.
Tony continued to play rugby until he turned 30.