25 August 2020

Quayle appointed a Trustee

John Quayle is one of the greatest administrators in the history of Australian sport – a mantle not given, but earned, across many years of fronting the biggest organisations and operations in the country.

The former NSWRL/ARL boss-turn-Venues NSW deputy chair has seen it all.

Quayle navigated Rugby League through some of the code’s most challenging years and then presided over the ‘best ever’ Olympics when Sydney hosted the games in 2000.

Recently-appointed a Trustee of the SCG, Quayle recalls his fondest memories of the ground, looks back to lunching with Sir Donald Bradman, and casts his mind ahead to the exciting future of the Moore Park precinct.  

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EARLY SCG MEMORIES

My first memory of league at the Cricket Ground was when England toured for an Ashes series in 1966. I travelled down with two mates from the country. We slept in the car and queued up to get in. England won 17-13.

I watched my first NSWRL grand final in 1969 in what became one of the most famous upsets ever when Balmain defeated South Sydney.  

PLAYING AT THE SCG

I joined Easts in 1968 and the Roosters had a great association with the SCG. We trained a lot on SCG No.2 and played at the Sports Ground of course. The match of the round was always at the SCG and, invariably, it involved St George. The reserve grade teams used the dressing rooms in the old Sheridan Stand whenever we played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

One of the great thrills was if you’d played well and then were asked to sit on the bench for first grade. You would put your gear under your arm and your bag on your shoulder and walk in front of the Ladies Pavilion and then into the Members Pavilion. The ultimate prize was walking into that dressing room and you knew you’d made it if you got to play on the Cricket Ground.

THE 1972 GRAND FINAL

I still joke with Ken Arthurson (former ARL Chairman, SCG Trustee and Manly chairman) that he had the referees from that day on.

We had two tries disallowed by Keith Page and Manly won their first premiership.

The Easts team was very good; Arthur Beetson of course, Ron Coote, Mark Harris, John Ballesty and Kevin Junee. It’s a pity that we didn’t have the video referee back then.

Arthur played at about 16 stone in those days. We had a cruise to Hong Kong before the season and Arthur came back weighing 19-stone-6 when he got on the scales. I remember him warning me not to tell anyone. Our coach Don Furner had us out running with Artie every day to get him fit.

SWITCHING TO PARRAMATTA

I joined Parramatta the next season and it was from there that I made representative sides. The two best matches I played at the Cricket Ground, and probably what earned me selection for Australia, were in the 1975 finals.

We had to play three sudden death matches in five days, and we won them all, first against Wests, then Balmain and Canterbury. Manly were too good for us in the semi-finals the next week and, of course, 1975 was all about the Eastern Suburbs team going back-to-back.

FAMOUS FACES, FAMOUS MOMENTS

After I stopped playing and during the period that I was learning the club industry, I was at a lunch in the Members Pavilion attended by Don Bradman. That was a highlight of course. Pat Hills was the chairman of the SCG, John Woods was the secretary. Alan Davidson and Arthur Morris were constants and were the reason there was such a great association between cricket and rugby league.

The 1971 Wallabies-Springboks Test stands out. The South Africans were staying at Bondi Junction, so John Ballesty and I decided we’d see what the protests were all about.

At Easts, we had a small part in the start of World Series Cricket. Many of the leagues club staff worked at the matches when they were held at the old Showground.

In my capacity with the club, I was at a meeting between SCG chairman Pat Hills and Kerry Packer. I clearly remember Pat saying that the SCG couldn’t afford the $3m to build the lights that day-night cricket required. Packer’s response: “If you let me play here, I will build the light towers”. And who can forget the night in November 1978 when Packer demanded the SCG gates were opened and a full house watched Australia take on the West Indies.

RUNNING RUGBY LEAGUE

All the major sports were sponsored by the cigarette companies during the 1980s. There was a lot of cooperation and sharing of ideas and problems.

I watched the Sydney Swans play at the SCG during their early seasons after relocating. Everyone said they wouldn’t make it, but I knew that the AFL’s promotion of their sport was so much better than other sports.

I developed a great association with Ross Oakley back then. We were all sponsored by the cigarette companies, so all the codes got together regularly. When I was running rugby league, our problems were exactly the same as those of the AFL.

When Tom Hafey was the Swans coach, he and Jack Gibson had a lot to do with each other. Tom thought a lot like Jack and, as much as he was influenced by American Football, he was also influenced by Tom’s coaching – and the line of AFL coaches who were influenced by Jack continues to this day.

THE FUTURE

I was the CEO of the league when we opened the new stadium in 1988. I was a member prior to that. We have a new organisation now to build. It’s only taken 18 years, but it’s a great move for the venues and for sport in NSW generally.

It’s a great honour to be a Trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground and I couldn’t be happier to be coming back to where it all started.