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The Directors of the St George Rugby League Football Club have recognised the invaluable service of Brian “Poppa” Clay and in an acknowledgement of respect, have made him the Dragons' Sixteenth Legend.
Poppa came to St George in 1957 as a lock, but switched to five eighth in 1959 when John “Chook” Raper joined the club. This switch from lock to five eighth would see Poppa as the fulcrum around which Saints would produce that magic football and all so see him as a roundabout and/or brick wall for the opposition.
Former Super Coach Jack Gibson once said in respect to Clay's tackling power “When Clay was on the left the inclination was to detour right”. Ian Walsh commented, “If we had an opposition player who was causing us trouble, one of Poppa's specials would generally bring them back to the field”. Poppa was also known as ‘The Baron of Bruise'. He also gave incredible service to his outside team mates enabling them to revel in his service.
Arguably the greatest five eighth to wear the red and white, Brian Clay played for the Saints from 1957 to 1967, scoring 33 tries in 200 games, he represented NSW in 57 and 59 and Australia in 57 and as a Kangaroo on the 59-60 Tour to Great Britain. He was renowned for his toughness, especially the second test against the Poms when he starred and played with two broken ribs.
In 1969 Poppa was third grade coach at St George and in August of that year, he suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised. It was to signal the beginning of a long battle with heart disease for Brain “Poppa” Clay whose life ended prematurely in September 1987 .
His name is raised frequently by Saints supporters who witnessed his unforgettable on field feats and his peers in rugby league discussions. Now it will never be forgotten as he has been honoured with Legendary Status and will join his former team mates, Norm Provan, Kevin Ryan, Billy Smith, Ian Walsh, John Raper MBE, Reg Gasnier AM, Graeme Langlands MBE, Johnny King, Eddie Lumsden, Ken Kearney along with Noel Pidding, Matt McCoy, Craig Young, Rod Reddy, and Mark Coyne in the Legends Walk at OKI Jubilee Stadium.
The Legends Walk due for completion in October still has positions available for those supporters who wish to take this once in a lifetime opportunity to join these great rugby league legends.
For further enquiries please contact Frank Bates - Promotions & Fundraising Manager for JOCA on 0419 251 596 or collect a form at the reception desk, St George Leagues Club.