Updated: Mar 29
It was the late 50s and two teammates had dreams of playing first grade football. Unexpectedly one day, the opportunity presented itself, and the South Sydney Rabbitohs put forth a challenge. It was friend against friend, player against player, Brian Walker against Kevin Longbottom, and only 30 minutes to impress.
At the time, Brian Walker was one of Kensington United rugby league’s star players, and he would play alongside his friend Kevin ‘Lummy’ Longbottom. At the final whistle of a Kensington game, Walker and Lummy had just finished leaving the field when,
"Someone from South Sydney Jersey Flegg sent a taxi to pick up both dad (Brian Walker) and Kevin, and bring them to Redfern to play for the Souths Under 23’s.”
They had just played a gruelling 80 minute game for Kensington. Their muscles were aching, were breathing heavily, hoping for some rest, when the taxi arrived with Wally Stig. Wally Stig's talent was that he "could pick a good football player". An ability to discern between quality and potential. Stig was associated with the President's Cup (Under 21s and Under 23s) for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Hypothetically, Stig pointed to Walker and Longbottom and said, 'You and you, in the taxi, I have a proposition for you. How would you like to trial out for the Rabbitohs? Your match starts soon.'
Needless to say, it wasn’t long until they both had found the energy and jumped into the taxi and were making their way to Redfern Oval. Muscles regenerated, adrenaline high, future on the brinks. They both had just under one half of playtime to impress the selectors. 30 minutes that could change their career trajectory.
“Dad [and Kevin] jumped in the cab, got to Redfern before the game, and both played a half each.”
The player that impressed the most would have the opportunity to join the under 23's Jersey Flegg team, and eventually have the chance to represent the South Sydney Rabbitohs in First Grade, they may even win a Grand Final Premiership.
“Kevin ended up impressing the selectors more than dad (Walker) and eventually got selected to play first grade.”
However, even though the star Kensington player, Mr Walker didn't successfully wow the selectors enough, he never forgot his 30 minutes of fame and still holds that story close to his heart. He hasn't held that against the Rabbitohs either, and has been supporting them in the Cardinal and Myrtle stripes ever since! 'Once a Rabbitoh, Always a Rabbitoh.'
Kevin 'Lummy' Longbottom was an indigenous player and prized for his long-range kicking abilities. Lummy, as he was nicknamed, was an inspirational player both on and off the field, often inspiring young indigenous kids. Young 16 year old, Darcy West stood in the stands during the 1965 final, he recalls Lummy as, "one of my idols back then as a 16 year old Aboriginal growing up". Lummy went on to have a successful career in the Cardinal and Myrtle, playing from 1961 to 1969 (134 games). It is still believed that his 3 long range kicks in the 1965 Grand Final at the Sydney Cricket Ground, still hold the record for the longest kicks at the stadium.
When Eric Simms wasn't at the tee (which would be indented into the ground with a few kicks and swipes of the heel), Lummy would be tasked with the job to kick the long-range distance shots.
Longbottom's task for another ripper long-range shot came in the 1967 Grand Final. However, the kick sparked controversy. It was disallowed, but upon slowed-down footage, had successfully gone through the uprights with a bump on the cross beam, and roll over. The kick was from about 2-3 yards inside the Rabbitohs field of play, and in the centre of the field. Being in the centre made it easier than the left or right side, but the distance was challenging, even the greatest kickers today would struggle under better conditions. The thing to note is that in those days they didn't have a kicking tee to support the ball or angle it precisely. The second issue is that because the ball was leather, it would soak up the rain which made it heavy and harder to direct in your kicking game. They had to make the tee themselves, with the ground, initiative and through a bit of ball balancing. The 1967 Grand Final commentator said (in the historic footage),
"Longbottom is having his third attempt of goal [and] has gathered some mud. This is a long long kick, although it is in centre field."
As the ball floated toward the uprights, the touch judge underneath had no doubts it went in, nor did Les Johns (the Canterbury-Bankstown's Fullback) who signalled success in "involuntary admiration". A touch judge, John Martin, "scurried away feverishly" disallowing the kick by waving it down. Another touch judge, Bob Tinsley, "signalled a fair goal." The head referee Col Pearce (who was in the wrong position on the field), quickly had a discussion with the two that disagreed and unfortunately awarded a no goal.
"After hearing both their explanations I still could not make up my mind, so I decided I could not possibly rule in favour of the goal. That’s a policy I’ve always had."
A newspaper article the following day stated, 'This goal is not a record. And I thought that the record book did not lie...' However, Rabbitohs supporters will always remember the 'correct' final score, regardless of what the record book states, 14 - 10 to Souths. Whether you play for the Rabbitohs for 30 minutes, play for 300 games, bounce in joyous praise at the stadium or yell at the television on a Friday night, one thing is certain - You are a Rabbitoh for life.
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