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Country teams used to look forward to the battle with the boys from the City! Now days, in my opinion, it doesn?t mean much to them as much as it did before. Many footballers from the bush used to fight for positions in the two teams that were picked. These games then exposed them to the selectors and to be considered for further representative honours. Sure, the games were sometimes uneven as the Country players used to lack the fitness and skill levels of the city teams. However, we shouldn?t lose sight of some of the players that were discovered in these games and then bought by City Clubs.
Two players who immediately spring to mind are Graeme Langlands and Mick Cronin. Both were South Coast boys and went from Country teams to be legends with St George and Parramatta respectively, as well as NSW and Australia.
Graeme Langlands was a product of the Wollongong area, and played for the Country side in 1962. A chance meeting with Frank Facer in the St George Leagues Club was instrumental in him being graded with St George the following year. However, Facer, while congratulating Langlands on his game for Country told him he wouldn?t be able to find a spot for him.
The following season Langlands nearly signed up with Manly but when Brian Graham, the incumbent full back for St George was transferred to Papua New Guinea, Facer quickly got out his pen and signed up Langlands to a contract. How pleased they would have been if they could have foretold the future?
Langlands played for Australia that year and at the end of his career his representative honours read: 36 games for NSW and 90 games for Australia including tour matches and World Cup appearances.
He had the best side step I have ever seen and Brad Fittler, at his best, nearly matches it. He was also a cunning footballer and his partnership with Raper and Smith led to several premierships for St George. In hindsight I believe that Langlands went one season too long and injuries prevented him from going out in a blaze of glory. It is a shame he will always be remembered for that one bad day and the white boots.
Mick Cronin was a product of Gerringong. He first played for Australia, while still playing for Gerringong, in 1973-75. Many tempting offers came his way in those days however, like the unassuming guy that he is, he turned them all down to stay in the coastal town.
However, Parramatta made him an offer that was too good to turn down and he commenced a ten-year stay with them in 1977. What glory days they were to be for Parramatta. A lot of people don?t know it but he was on a handshake deal, no contracts, but just the word of a gentleman. In fact Newtown, when Singleton was the CEO, tried very hard to entice him away from Parramatta, but to no avail.
Cronin had a phenomenal record with the boot and was a scoring machine. In fact, he held the record for the most goals kicked in a row with 26 until Halligan defeated it in 1998.
His record of 282 points in 1978 stood for twenty years until bettered by Ivan Cleary.
Cronin?s stature in the game led Parramatta to 4 grand final wins in the 80?s and since his retirement the club has struggled ever since. An eye injury eventually led to him retiring back to his beloved hotel in Gerringong.
One only has to look at his point scoring record to see what a champion he was: 173 points for NSW, 201 points in test matches and over 1900 points for Parramatta.
As originally stated, the City Country matches are no longer the catalyst for a country boys career like they used to be. Both these two players may not have made the grade if they hadn?t played in the City V Country matches.
Besides the two fine players mentioned above, have a look at the role call of players who were selected from the bush and went on to further representative honours. Steve Morris, Greg Brentnall, Laurie Daley are just a few.
Should we resurrect the original idea of City V Country? Yes, let?s not let this game go the same way that country football is going ? down the gurgler!
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