Edmund and Roger Nasser
Rugby Moments and Memories
No matter how many games of Rugby you end up playing, around the country or around the world, it seems you never forget the games you played with your mates at school. Earlier this year, Brave and Game caught up with Edmund and Roger Nasser to talk about old times, old friends, and old scores.
B & G: Edmund, how did you start playing rugby?
Edmund: I’ve got three older brothers and one younger brother. When I was about 5 or 6 years old we started playing backyard football. My first experience with club rugby was with the Kenmore Bears when I was eight years old.
B & G: You were a Full Back weren’t you?
Edmund: Yes. Then I got too big and too slow to stay in the Backs so when I was 16, I went into the Forwards.
B & G: So Under 8 at Kenmore and then Nudgee Junior the following year?
Edmund: Yes, I started there in Grade 4 in 1979. When I went there, Paul Smith was the Grade 4 teacher and the coach of the Under 9 A’s. For some reason, he picked me as five eighth. I don’t quite know why he picked me as five eighth but I loved it and that’s where I played.
My fondest memory of rugby at Nudgee Junior was when we were Under 10, we played the Grand Final against Ashgrove at Ballymore. John Eales was the captain of the Ashgrove Under 10 A’s and we beat them! In John’s book, he refers to that game, because Andrew Khoo was playing in our team and now they are brothers-in-law. John married Andrew’s sister Lara. Clearly, John got over the loss pretty quickly and went on to bigger and better things with his rugby!
B & G: So Edmund, what was your way into the Terrace Firsts?
Roger: The big thing about Edmund’s selection was he played Full Back in year 10, then he moved straight into the First XV in Year 11 as Number 8, so he never really had experience in the Forwards. Within a few months he actually went from a Full Back in the 15 A’s to a Number 8 in the First XV playing against guys who in many cases were 2 years older than him.
B & G: This is Grade 11?
Edmund: Yes. When I was in Grade 11, I was 16 and got selected for the Terrace Sydney rugby tour. I played one game at five eighth and one game as Number 8. Michael Broad was the coach and I remember he sat me down quietly one day after training and said if you really train hard enough and have a shot at this, you could make the First XV. This conversation was a real encouragement for me....I put my mind to it, trained hard and I got picked at Number 8 without having played in the forwards before that tour.
So I ran around in the first game against Brisbane Grammar in 1986, it was a big game, a big crowd, I was very nervous and I really didn’t know what I was doing.
Looking back now, I don’t think I really knew how to play as a proper Number 8 until I played A grade at Queensland University a few years later. I was surrounded by guys who knew how to play rugby properly, like Brendan (Nasser) and Jeff Miller. I didn’t really know how a proper Forward should play before that.
B & G: Just before we get into the Firsts, what about State under age representation?
Edmund: I played in the Under 12 Queensland team as a Full Back and then I played Under 19’s when I finished school as a Number 8.
B & G: Who were the other school boy stars around when you were playing? You mentioned , John Eales was playing at Ashgrove.
Edmund: Yes, we occasionally played Ashgrove in trial matches but the school boy stars that I mainly played against in the GPS system when I was in senior were Tim Horan (from Downlands) and Jason Little (from Toowoomba Grammar). As a school boy, Jason was just a phenomenal rugby player, cricketer player and athlete.
Roger: When he was in senior, Jason Little used to play in the XXXX Cup Cricket Competition, which is where the Queensland Shield side used to go to country areas and play against the local team. Ian Botham was playing for Queensland at that point. It must have been 1987 up in Toowoomba and Jason, as a school boy, clobbered about 60 off about 25 deliveries. I remember he hit Botham for 6 and they has this picture of this kid, who was this little blonde haired 17 year old next to big Beefy Botham in the paper. I remember reading that and then they explained that he was also an Australian school boy rugby player, he’d won the GPS high jump and this that and the other. He was just a phenomenal athlete.
Edmund: Eales, Horan and Little were all my year at school and they became three of the greatest rugby players Australia has ever produced.
Roger: And each of those three were also excellent cricketers. Edmund was the captain of the Terrace First XI for a couple of years and you would have played against them many times.
Edmund: Little was the best cricketer of the three. In fact, I believe Jason was the standout school boy in my year across all sports. He was probably a better cricketer than he was a rugby player. He played five eighth at school.
B & G: Let’s talk about individual games during 1986 – 1988.
What are the ones that stand out in your mind?
Edmund: I was fortunate to play for 3 years in the First XV (1986, 1987, 1988) and we came second in the competition all three years. Looking back on the results in Brave and Game, we played 24 GPS competition games over those three years for 19 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw. I know it sounds strange but unfortunately it is the losses that I best remember. In 1986 we lost against Brisbane Grammar in the first game of the season. In 1987, we lost to Nudgee and TGS. In 1988 we lost against Ipswich Grammar in the first game of the season. I can still remember the losses!
But the First XV matches were all fantastic to play in. I remember Chris Handy (ex Wallaby) used to come down and coach us occasionally because he was a Terrace old boy. One of the things he said that sticks in my mind 20 years later was that many of the kids in the team would never play before a bigger crowd or a bigger atmosphere than First XV. In fact, there aren’t many games full stop that have a bigger atmosphere. Maybe an interstate match, a Test Match or a Grand Final in club rugby, but there aren’t many games with a bigger atmosphere than what schoolboys experience in First XV. They were great games and wonderful experiences.
B & G: Focussing on Downlands, what are your memories of your games against them?
Edmund: Tim Horan was an obvious stand-out as a player. I remember playing in a Queensland Under 15 State Trial at Brisbane Grammar with Horan at inside centre and I was outside centre. He had just such a strong will to win. He was so determined, even in that Trial. He really hit his straps in Grade 11 when he was five eighth for the Downlands Firsts. He and Robbie Martin were the only two guys picked as 16 year olds in the Queensland School Boys (Under 17) team.
B & G: So we’re in 1986 now?
Edmund: In 1986, Horan was picked in the Queensland School Boys (which is for 17 year olds). Robbie Martin from Terrace was the only other guy picked in that team. Garrick Morgan grew a lot after school when he put on a lot of weight. He was a bit of a string bean at school. Peter Ryan was a pretty fiery Number 8.
B & G: So you were right up against each other?
Edmund: Yes. I remember playing against Peter Ryan. We had a few fights through the years. Brett Johnston kicked on after school and Brett Robinson played prop for Downlands in 1986.
B & G: Did Downlands have a particular style of play?
Edmund: None that I can really remember. Downlands always were the Bye for GPS schools. Unfortunately for them they were not in the competition proper. So mentally we didn’t take it as seriously as a proper GPS fixture. It’s a travesty because the Downlands team in 1987 were probably good enough to have won the GPS competition.
Roger: In the 70’s, there was a period where there seemed to be a lot of guys who went to Terrace and grew up in Brisbane, but they went to boarding school up at Downlands. In some cases maybe their fathers had gone there. There were the Douglas’, there were dozens of them. So in my day, I remember Downlands was always a fairly big game because you knew a lot of guys in the team. You kind of wanted to beat them. There was a guy who played Half Back in their First XV when I was in year 12 called Peter Munchin who was in our class up until about year 9 and then went to Downlands and it was a bit of blow because he was a very good player. Paul Hopkins was in that team and that sort of thing, so you always wanted to beat them.
Edmund: Anyway I think mentally we treated the matches against Downlands as a Bye and Downlands certainly deserved better than that. They had some wonderful players and a great rugby culture.
Roger: Their coach John Elders had a phenomenal record in the 10 years he was there.
B & G: So you’re 16 years old in 1986, your first year in the Firsts – with virtually no experience playing in the forwards – how did you go against Nudgee?
Edmund: They had a big Forward pack. Most of their forwards weighed over 100 kilo’s. We had a lightweight pack in comparison. The first scrum of the day we just went back, it was like we were on skates, because they outweighed us by a huge amount.
We had a really good/tough tight five, (we packed endless amounts of scrums in training) and by the end of that game we were pushing them back. It was a warm day at Tennyson and we eventually got the better of them.
Roger: Now, you can’t push more than a metre in schoolboy scrums. But in those days it was a full on contest and that 1986 team must have scored at least six pushover tries. Edmund scored them all from Number 8.
Edmund: I didn’t have to do much – simply fall on the ball over the line. Our tight five did all the hard work. Alan Ball was our forwards coach and we had to do scrum training until it was dark down at Victoria Park. The backs had gone home. It was great. Fantastic memories. Of the three years I had in the Firsts, I think the Forward Pack in 1986 was the best. One, because it was my first year and as Roger said, we scored a lot of push over tries and secondly because they were just all great blokes as well. Not to say the other years weren’t all great blokes. You make life long friends playing rugby.
B & G: What about the Toowoomba Grammar game when you played Jason Little?
Edmund: He was in the First XV in 1986 and 1987. We beat them in Tennyson in 1986 and they beat us up in Toowoomba in 1987.
B & G: Anything stick out about that game?
Edmund: Well in 1987 we played them very late in the season and we’d lost to Nudgee earlier in the season. That loss to Nudgee took the wind out of sails (for the premiership) a bit and Toowoomba Grammar caught us a little bit short on their home ground which was never an easy place to play. Maybe if we had beaten Nudgee earlier in the season, and we were undefeated at that point, it might have been a different story. After our loss to Toowoomba, we were out of the running to win the Premiership.
B & G: What about Brendan Nasser at schoolboy rugby.
Roger: In Grade 12 he had glandular fever.
B & G: That’s right I remember that.
Roger: He was obviously a very good player. He really bloomed after school. He played one match against Nudgee in 1981 coming on as a reserve and played on the Wing.
B & G: I remember that because Michael Lynagh didn’t play in that game.
Edmund: That’s right, he had broken his collar bone the week before against TSS.
Roger: Brendan didn’t make the Firsts in year 11 because that was in 1980. Terrace had probably the best school boy team ever that year. When you think about the pedigrees of the players they produced from that team. They produced three Wallabies: Michael Lynagh, Michael Cook and Damian Frawley. They produced at least six other blokes who became great players .... Jamie Windsor broke every play scoring record in the Brisbane cup competition. Laurie Robson played Australian Under 21’s.
Anyway in year 12 in 1981, Brendan would have been a shoe-in for the First XV but got glandular fever literally on the week leading up to the first game. I remember he said ‘I’m playing’, and Mum said ‘No, you’re not playing, because if you’ve got glandular fever and if you’re playing you’ll take six months to recover. If you nip it in the bud now it will take you six weeks’.
It was a massive disappointment. That would have only fuelled his determination when he left school because he really wanted to make an impact at school boy rugby. He grew a lot when he left school. He did a lot of weights and became very powerful.
B & G: Was he the best Nasser?
Roger: Edmund’s record was the First XI for three years, First XV for three years. Captained both of them. He had a phenomenal record.
B & G: And Simon Nasser played in your last year, did he?
Edmund: Simon was in the First XV for three years – 1987, 1988 and 1989, and he also played in the First XV cricket team as well.
B & G: After school, did you go straight to Uni?
Edmund: Yes. I played one year of Colts rugby which is Under 18 / 19 and then I went into grades as a 19 / 20 year old.
B & G: Who was in the Uni team at that time?
Edmund: There were about eight Wallabies, namely David Nucifora, Andy MacIntyre, Cameron Lillicrap, Jeff Miller, Brendan Nasser, Peter Slattery, Michael Lynagh, Greg Martin. Uni won the A grade Premiership in 1988, 1989, 1990, My first year of grade rugby was 1990 but I didn’t play in the Grand Final because all of the Wallabies were playing.
B & G: Were you trying to do what Brendan had done?
Edmund: I don’t think I was as determined as he was to play for Australia. He was also a lot heavier and stronger player than I was.
Roger: Edmund played in the 1992 Grand Final A Grade against Souths and then in the 1994 season they selected a Queensland extended training squad for the next year of about 45 players. And you got to thinking you’d get in it and you didn’t and then you had this opportunity to go to Oxford University on a scholarship and it was OK, well if I’ve made the training squad then maybe I’ll stick at it but this is an opportunity too good to refuse. I remember talking to you a lot about it at the time.
B & G: So what was the scholarship?
Edmund: I did a one year post graduate in politics and economics. The majority of the fees were funded by the Oxford University rugby club.
B & G: Did you play for Oxford?
B & G: In the Oxford-Cambridge ...?
Edmund: Yes. I sat on the bench for the Oxford-Cambridge game.
B & G: What college were you at?
Edmund: Keble College. I went over there in August 1994.
B & G: And then back to Brisbane?
Edmund: No, I was overseas for nearly six years. Four years in England and then I had two years in Switzerland.
Roger: He played rugby for Switzerland.
B & G: Who did Switzerland play against?
Edmund: Well they play in Rugby World Cup qualifying matches. I played for Switzerland versus Latvia in Geneva. I was picked as a five eighth. Rugby is truly a global game- that’s why all these little countries have rugby teams.
B & G: Well, we have another generation of Terrace players about to run out on the field. If you had a chance to talk to the teams before the game what would you be saying to them.
Edmund: You are continuing a proud tradition and there are Terrace Old Boys of all ages that follow your results with joy (after a victory) or disappointment (after a loss).
My brother Brendan once told me that you’ll always remember your First XV games. 20 years later I know what he meant.
B & G: Edmund, Roger – thank you very much.