World Club Memories

WHEN Sydney Roosters come to town next month it will be a repeat of the first ever World Club Challenge match.

Saints headed out on tour to Australia in 1976 to take on the Eastern Suburbs – who later became Saints opponents in this year’s World Club Series.

The Saints of 1975-76 were dubbed ‘Dad’s Army’ because of a large portion of the squad was over 30-years-old, writes Alex Service.

Experience is everything, however, and the team ended the campaign as Challenge Cup winners in the searing heat of Wembley Stadium and later beat First Division Champions Salford in the Premiership final.

Captain Kel Coslett and the lads were really buzzing after their achievements and looked forward to a unique three-week tour Down Under to play a match against Queensland at Lang Park, Eastern Suburbs at the Sydney Cricket ground and finish off over in Auckland.

Former Saints’ full-back Geoff Pimblett was, quite naturally delighted at the prospect of going to Australia and New Zealand.

He says: “It was a fantastic experience for the lads, but it would have been better if we had say, just a week’s rest to recover from our own domestic matches and then jetted off Down Under.

“But we had six weeks’ delay before the trip and we’d lost a bit of momentum by then – a great pity.”

The party flew from Heathrow on June 17 to Brisbane with stops at Amsterdam, Vienna, Bahrain and Singapore. The first match was on June 22 at Lang Park, against a Queensland side which included some familiar names such as Greg Veivers, Ross Strudwick and John Lang.

Despite holding a nine-point lead at one stage, Saints were a tired team when the Maroons clinched a 21-15 victory in the last few minutes.

So on to Sydney and the unofficial World Club Championship match against Eastern Suburbs on June 29, coached by the famous Jack Gibson.

Despite some early flurries, the Saints failed to make a real impression on the game and Easts, with the likes of Captain Artie Beetson earning the $5,000 dollar Man-of-the-Match award, were far too good on the night and won 25-2.

The crowd numbered 26,856, including a large number of ex-pats, cheering on the visitors.

“We had a few chances just before half-time, but we couldn’t take them,” recalls Geoff, “which was a great shame and they dominated after half-time.

“We stayed at Bondi Junction and you remember daft things like ordering prawn cocktail for breakfast. It was all-inclusive and you could eat what you wanted, but we hadn’t seen things like that before.”

Then it was on to Auckland and the slithering mud of Carlaw Park, before returning home on July 7.

“We cut them [Auckland] up time and time again but couldn’t finish them off”, adds Geoff. “We ended up losing 20-13, but we’d had enough by then. If only we could have toured earlier – at our peak. Mind you, what memories, When you can sit in Bradman’s seat at the Sydney Cricket Ground – that’s what it is all about!”

Saints will face Sydney Roosters at Langtree Park on Friday February 19 (8pm) as part of the prestigious World Club Series – and tickets are now on sale.

They are priced at:

Hattons Solicitors West Terrace, East Terrace and Family Stands:

  • Adult – £22.50
  • OAP and Young Adult – £15.50
  • Junior – £10

Solarking South and Totally Wicked North Stands:

  • Gold: Adult – £30, OAP and Young Adult – £22.50, Junior – £12
  • Silver: Adult – £28, OAP and Young Adult – £20.50, Junior – £12
  • Bronze: Adult – £25, OAP and Young Adult – £18.50, Junior – £10

Tickets can be bought by popping into the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.

A package for all three games (Leeds v North Queensland, Wigan v Brisbane) costs £60 and can be purchased by visiting or calling the Rugby League Ticket Hotline on 0844 856 1113.

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