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As promised, here?s Part II of Daniel Ramus?s interview with former Bulldogs champion Terry Lamb, exclusively for League Unlimited.
Rammo: Canterbury won the minor premiership in 1993 but were bundled out of the semis without winning a game. Tell us a bit about that.
Baa: I didn?t know that actually. I think we got beaten by St George and Brisbane in the semis. We had a pretty good run going into those semis. We did have a young team at that stage with guys like Dean Pay, Craig Polla-Mounter and Jason Smith coming through at that stage. Put it this way, we just weren?t good enough to make the Grand Final. I even forgot that we won the minor premiership that year, so that?s a bit of a bonus for us but I think South Sydney did the same thing in 1989.
Rammo: You made the Grand Final in 1994, losing to Canberra 36-12. Nothing seemed to go right for the team that day. Martin Bella dropped the ball from the kickoff in the in-goal area and things went downhill from there. What can you recall from Grand Final day in 1994?
Baa: I remember the early part of the game. I don?t think you can blame Marty Bella for dropping the ball off the kickoff, I was right in front of him, I should have taken the ball, and taken the responsibility. Martin hasn?t got very good eyes, he wears glasses so it should have been me taking the ball. Yeah nothing went right for us that day, we didn?t have the ball for the first 15 minutes and then Mal Meninga knocked me out, I had a bad neck the next day but that?s life and that?s footy. You?ve still got to be good enough to make a Grand Final but we just weren?t good enough to win.
Rammo: Just on that Meninga hit, that happened about 20 minutes into the game and it seemed to affect your performance. Do you remember much about it?
Baa: No I don?t remember much about that game at all. I probably should have gone off, I don?t think there was a blood bin in those days, I?m not even sure if there was interchange for injured players. I probably should have gone off the field for a rest, and I probably wasn?t good enough to play the whole game out but I think it?s just a part of me that wanted to keep playing.
Rammo: Given the incident with Hanley in 1988, do you think it was somewhat ironic?
Baa: Yeah probably (laughs). Whatever happens to me or anyone else on the field should be left on the field. These days I probably would have got 10 weeks hitting Hanley and Mal probably would have got the same hitting me. I spoke to Mal after the game and I know he didn?t mean it, he was just going for me because I was going to get the ball and it was just part of the game.
Rammo: Canterbury won the premiership in 1995 under your captaincy and the coaching of Chris Anderson. You were sin binned after just 5 minutes of the game for committing a professional foul when Manly were on the attack. Things turned around for the team and you recorded a memorable upset victory. Tell us a bit about that day.
Baa: I?m not sure about the upset victory. I?m sure it upset the Manly supporters though (laughs). I had to make the decision to tackle the bloke from behind otherwise they were going to score a try, and get abit of momentum. I think it was Matthew Ridge that I tackled from behind. I don?t think they scored any points in the 10 minutes that I was off the field. Our defensive effort was great and full credit to the young blokes that were on the field like (Jim) Dymock, (Dean) Pay, Jason Smith, Darren Britt and (Jason) Hetherington. I think those guys bandied together, they didn?t even look like making a break or scoring while I was off the field so full credit to the guys that were on the field. We just came together well as a team, that year was when the whole Super League saga unfolded, we were losing Dymock, Pay, Smith and Jarrod McCracken. We knew we weren?t going to be together after 95? so we made a pact that we?d do our best to win the comp.
Rammo: You originally retired at the end of 1995 and at the time it seemed as though you had gone out on the perfect note. But you decided to come out of retirement and help the Bulldogs in 1996. Do you have any regrets about that seeing as the side failed to make the finals?
Baa: No I don?t have any regrets about that. We lost some senior players and we needed to rebuild the team. We didn?t buy too many players from memory, so we just had to use players that we?d had in previous years. I was just there to help the players out. I don?t regret anything I did on the field or whatever happened off the field at all.
Rammo: Toughest player you played with or against.
Baa: I?ll just name a few players that I played with and against. Guys like David Gillespie, Joe Thomas, Geoff Robinson, Steve Knight, Terry Randall and Les Boyd. If anybody could pick a name between all of those players then good luck to them. I?ve played against many great players and it?s too difficult to narrow it down to one.
Rammo: Best player you played with or against.
Baa: I?d have to say Steve Mortimer here. I played with him between 84? and 88? and he?d have to be the best player I played with or against.
Rammo: Who had the biggest influence over your career?
Baa: I couldn?t pick one person. Definitely all of the coaches over my 17 years of playing for Australia, New South Wales, Wests and Canterbury. They?ve all had an input into my career. No one stands out.
Rammo: Personally, what do you consider to be the best achievement in your career?
Rammo: You amassed a record 349 First Grade games for both Wests and Canterbury. Looking back can you believe you made it this far? Are you disappointed that you couldn?t round out 350 games?
Baa: (Laughs), it was probably just one suspension too many wasn?t it. I can?t believe it, I look back and I can remember the early days, and remember a few in between and I remember the end of the career. I don?t think I would even be able to remember 50 of the games that I played. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I love the game itself it?s just great for a person?s character.
Rammo: Moving into the coaching ranks, you started with the Canterbury Premier League side from 1998 to 2000 taking them to premierships in ?98 and ?00. Did you enjoy coaching the lower grades at Canterbury? What memories can you recall from that period?
Baa: I absolutely adored it actually. It?s a completely different part of rugby league in general, you?re actually teaching the players, not helping them. You?re passing on your knowledge about rugby league and strengthening their own ablities in kicking, tackling and attacking. Yeah I thoroughly enjoyed it, winning a couple of Grand Finals didn?t hurt it either and we had a couple of beers after them as well.
Rammo: You then moved on to the first grade appointment at the Wests Tigers from 2001-2002. The Tigers were a bit unstable at the time, did you feel ready for the challenge?
Baa: I think I was probably ready for challenge but we had a fair few problems there. In the first year we had the drug scandal with Craig Field and Kevin McGuiness. We then had the (John) Hopoate situation followed by the Terry Hill situation. I enjoyed what I did there at the Wests Tigers, a fair few of them won the Grand Final this year, I think there was about 8 players which I had. I really enjoyed coaching them but we had some problems at the club.
Rammo: Are you pleased to see the success of guys you coached like Mark O?Neill and John Skandalis in the 2005 Grand Final?
Baa: The type of people that those 2 are, they were always going to win a Grand Final in their careers because they?re so loyal to the club. Those players helped the younger guys like Anthony Larranchi develop into good footballers. They were very stable in their life in general, and it was fitting that they won a Grand Final after being so loyal to the two merged clubs, Balmain for Mark O?Neill and Western Suburbs for John Skandalis.
Rammo: Did you enjoy coaching? If you had your time over again would you have approached your coaching career differently?
Baa: If I had some better advice then maybe I wouldn?t have coached a joint venture that already had players at the club. I think I only brought 2 or 3 players to the club, because the club had already signed the majority of its players from elsewhere. I would never say that I didn?t enjoy coaching the Wests Tigers, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but unfortunately we just had some problems there.
Rammo: You were appointed as a Bulldogs Board member in 2002 after the salary cap scandal. Are you still doing that now? What else are you doing?
Baa: At the moment I am coaching Cabramatta in the Jim Beam Cup, and I?m also still on the Bulldogs board. That?s another different role, being a board member. You have to take different responsibilities financially and you need to take players? welfare into account as well. It?s another side of rugby league which I have never experienced before and I?m enjoying that as well.
Rammo: You were named as Captain and five eighth of the Canterbury Bulldogs? 70 year anniversary team last year. This must have been quite an honour for you.
Baa: I actually didn?t know about the captaincy, I knew I had a good chance of being part of the team. On the night I didn?t know I was captain until they announced it. You could have made anyone captain of that side though, there was George Peponis, Steve Mortimer, Chris Anderson and Steve Folkes as well. I think maybe because I played through so many eras and for so many years at Canterbury was the reason they gave it to me but they could have named anyone as captain.
Rammo: Were you happy with the success of Canterbury in 2004?
Baa: Well they probably should have won the comp when they were thrown out because of the salary cap scandal. They did have the best team in the competition at that stage and they were playing good footy. They had some great young players that coming through. You look at the 2002 team now compared to the team played this year I think there?s about 5 players missing, the club in my opinion has been robbed of some good players because of the salary cap, but the salary cap is there for a reason. Hopefully every club abides by the rules.
Rammo: Your moustache and long hair gave away a battler image in your playing days. Is that an accurate perception?
Baa: (Laughs) I think that was just to do with the eras I went through and you?d either follow the trend or create one yourself. When I first started playing for Western Suburbs everybody had beards so I grew a beard, and then I?d shave the beard off and everybody would have moustaches, then the mullet came in. People don?t even care what they look like these days with haircuts or anything like that. So yeah it?s just a tradition that I enjoyed having. I had the goatie, then the full beard and then the moustache and the mullet, but they?re all gone now, all of the above (laughs).
Rammo: Are you saddened to see the Bulldogs moving away from Belmore Sports Ground permanently at the end of 2006?
Baa: I suppose being a person that spent so long there it is abit disappointing, but I think you?ve got to move with the times. One thing people don?t know too much about is that it would cost the club too much money to stay at Belmore, the council won?t let us play football there any more. We?d have to do the ground up which would cost around $15 Million. We don?t own the ground, the council own it, so it?s disappointing that the club is going to leave there next year but if you don?t move with the times you get caught behind. It happened with South Sydney and Redfern Oval, they probably should have done the Oval up 15 or 20 years ago because now it?s probably a bit too late. But yeah, go with the times.
Rammo: What is your fondest memory of the ground?
Baa: Probably when we played against Parramatta there in 1984. Both sides were undefeated and there was a crowd of about 20,000 people there. Also when we played Penrith at the multicultural day, when some people started rioting. It?s not really a good memory but it?s something that sticks in your mind. I just had so many great times there at Belmore, too many to talk about.
Rammo: Your sons Matt, Dean and Troy all play rugby league. Matt was playing Jersey Flegg for the Bulldogs just recently. Would you like to see your sons follow in your footsteps?
Baa: Yeah I would if they are good enough. All 3 of them play at Cabramatta now where I?m coaching. I coach Matt in the Jim Beam Cup and the other boys play C Grade down there. It?s up to them they?re all individuals and they can make those decisions when they get older.
Daniel Ramus would like to thank Matt Starkey and www.leagueunlimited.com for assistance with the interview.