Match fixing in the 1960s

  • by Willow
  • October 28 2004 12:00AM

This is a true story.

I know it?s true because it was told to me in 1997 by a bloke I knew? we?ll call him Bruce McKenzie. His best stories were about his glory days when he played a handful of first grade matches in the 1960s. Bruce loved telling yarns and he was in fine form that afternoon.

The year was 1962 and Bruce?s mob was looking unbeatable. They were playing at home against a bunch of easy beats? a weary looking lot who were on hiding to nothing after driving all morning to get there.

Back then, before the days of online gambling, fans could bet on the game by buying tickets from one of the bookies wandering through the crowd. A popular wager was to pick the first try scorers. The prize depended on the outlay but usually, there were a few quid in the pool and enough to buy more than a couple cartons of beer. But as is usual, it?s easier to pick your nose than to pick a winner and the bookies almost always win.

It was before the kick off that the captains from both sides hatched a plan to beat the odds and the bookies, while at the same time scoring a few beers for everyone. They decided to go for a double and pick the first try scorer from both sides, calling in other senior players to let them in on the plan. They agreed that the first try scorer was to be the burly forward, let?s call him Jack McGrath, while the second try scorer would be the visitor?s winger? say, Terry O?Donnell.

It was agreed that after the first try scorers were done with, it was ?game on?. They shook hands and pitched in before sending out a gopher. It was collusion at its worst but understandable? and for all intents and purposes, it looked a ?sure thing?.

Initially, things went to plan. Jack was bludging out wide and got the wink from the inside backs. The dummy half saw it was on, sending the ball out. Jack growled convincingly as he brushed aside some below par defence, scoring 15 yards in from touch.

Big Jack didn?t score too many tries but he knew he?d done his bit that day, leaping in triumph before vigorously shaking the hands of those around him. Bruce recalls hearing his mates muttering, ?Steady on Jack?you?d think you?d won the whole bloody brewery.?

It was then Terry O?Donnell?s turn. Stepping into the opposition?s backline, he was delivered a ?miraculous? intercept as the ball landed firmly on his chest. ?Tezza? set off on an easy 50-yard run to the line. With no one in front and everything going to plan, the beer was as good as in the bank.

Meanwhile, a young fullback up in the line decided to take off after Tezza. Playing his first game in the big league, the youngster wasn?t part of the collusion. Keen as mustard, he ran for all it was worth, closing in on Tezza who by now, was only 10 yards from the line and striding confidently towards the post-match piss up.

You can imagine Tezza?s surprise when he suddenly heard the pounding of fast approaching footsteps? and for a moment, you can share his shock as he was broadsided by one the best covering tackles of the year. Totally unprepared, Tezza was smashed into touch, getting knocked out in the process before being carted off by St.Johns Ambulance.

Thrilled with his effort, the young fullback jumped to his feet in triumph but was gob smacked as a number of his team mates dropped to their haunches; one bloke cursed him while another seemed ready to shed a tear. Needless to say, the beer had evaporated and in a time of small wage packets and even smaller match payments, it was a hard pill to swallow.

But they soon got over it, patting the youngster on the back. After all, the other mob was reduced to 12 men and the match became a cakewalk. Afterwards, the fullback was told the full story, obliging him to shout a beer for those who pitched in.

If you hadn?t already guessed, the young fullback was indeed Bruce McKenzie; a top bloke who sadly passed away about three years after telling me the tale. As for how fair dinkum all this is, let?s just say that old Bruce was still laughing about it 35 years later.

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