The Cumberland Throw

Parra Pete’s Eels History – Easter Footy Flashback

Late last year TCT were fortunate in securing historical contributions from Parra Pete, a regular correspondent in the media during the 1960s. Pete has quite a scrapbook on the Eels, and a wealth of memories about the heady days of that decade.

As we hit the week celebrating the 70th anniversary of Parra’s first ever Premiership match, and the Eels look to end a month long winning drought, it’s opportune to take a timely flashback to the ending of an even longer dry spell. Fittingly, we venture back 55 years to a clash with the Wests Magpies.

With thanks to Parra Pete, join us as we jump into that TCT Time Machine for our Easter footy flashback.

Sixties

THE ENDING OF A DROUGHT.

by Peter (Parra) Montgomery

The Easter Monday clash between the Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers will hold significant memories for long term supporters. It will be 55 years (and 3 days) since the Parramatta 1962 team – under the coaching of Killer Kearney – ended a 3,169 day drought in matches against Western Suburbs Magpies – surely one of the longest losing streaks between two Clubs in an established competition.

A classic team shot from 1962, courtesy of Getty Images.

Wests were a powerhouse back in those days, evidenced by their appearance in three successive grand finals (1961, 1962 and 1963) against the St George Dragons in the midst of their 11-premiership run. It’s hard to believe, but they were considered to be the “Silvertails” of the premiership, and only the might of that famous Red V club prevented the “Maggies” from notching their own little slice of premiership folklore.

Parramatta, on the other hand was the perennial wooden spooners finishing last in the 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961 seasons. During that six year period, the Parra side only collected 16 victories and one draw. A total of 91 losses marked that era as a dark time.

It was a primitive venue, but the locals loved their footy at Cumberland Oval in the 60s. (Image courtesy of the Daily Telegraph)

This incredible losing streak against Wests finally came to an end at Cumberland Oval on this weekend (April 14) in 1962 with the highly regarded Robin Gair landing two goals to enable Parra to record a narrow 4/2 victory over the Magpies.

The match was not without its controversy. A second half intercept try to Parramatta winger Ken Foord was disallowed for a double movement, a decision which did not sit well with the blue and gold faithful.

This dour affair was decided in the middle of the field, with the Eels pack earning plaudits for their tenacity and their scrummaging (a highly valued skill back in the day).

Newspaper reports of the match.

Later that season, Parra would go on to again defeat the Magpies 23 to 11 in a bruising battle at the Sydney Cricket Ground, announcing the Club as a strong contender for a semi-final position in its then sixteenth season in the competition.
Flash back even further and funnily enough, the Western Suburbs Magpies was the first team Parra beat as ‘stand alone Club’ in the NSWRL. It was a bruising 13/8 win at Parramatta Oval on June 21, 1947.

However, after that victory, matches against Wests usually went the way of Magpies, with Parra only winning two and having a draw with the neighbours in the five seasons 1948- 1952.

The great Ken Thornett in action.

Parramatta (will call them Eels from here-on) started to hit its straps in that 1962 season.
In 1962, the Eels put together an undefeated streak of nine matches (eight wins and draw) – the signing of The Mayor, Ken Thornett, from English Club Leeds on loan for a ten week period -being the catalyst of success.
On The Mayor’s departure from the Club to return to Leeds to complete his contract, Parra lost its four remaining “home and away” matches, but had enough competition points (20) to grab fourth spot, just ahead of Eastern Suburbs on 19.
Parramatta supporters rejoiced at the Club FINALLY being a chance for premiership honours.
The season resulted in a huge build up in support for the Parramatta side. Fans became louder, parochial, and fanatical in support of the team, and expectations of success were high, especially as the team had recorded good wins over the Magpies in the ‘home and away’ series.
However, the task to go one further proved a ‘bridge too far away’, especially without the inspirational Ken Thornett in the line-up.

The semi- final line ups.

In the semi-final, Wests won a hard match 6-0 with centre Gilbert McDougall crossing for both tries. Gilbert, the father of Test winger and Newcastle Knight premiership player Mad Dog Adam McDougall, was a very good player and he was outstanding in this match.
Clashes between the Eels and Wests are always something special. I enjoy them immensely.
Watching the teams compete on Easter Monday will have me recalling the days of the start of the awakening of the sleeping giant.

The great Dick Thornett belting it up against the Magpies.

I will recall those who “dug the well the current crop of players are drinking from”.
I will recall the feats of Ken Thornett, Dick Thornett, Brian Hambly, Ron Lynch, Leo Toohey, Bob Bugden, Billy Rayner, Noel Dolton, Kenny Foord, and Mike Jackson running around in the Blue and Gold.

Ron “Thirsty” Lynch

These were just some of the players who gave the young teenagers of the Parramatta district a team of which it could be proud.
This team ignited the passion in me for the love of the Parramatta Eels and Rugby League.
Rugby League has opened many doors for me – and provided me with many fantastic memories and friends.
These days I take it as it comes. I am as parochial as the next bloke, but finally at my age – I can enjoy the ebbs and flows of what the team provides, without suffering depression following a loss.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Enjoy the game and be respectful to it. The sun will rise tomorrow!

Parra Pete

 

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Ray
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Ray

Thanks Pete,

My sentiments also re your summation, spoken like a true supporter. Thanks for the info on 1962 has brought back a few vague memories.

Mitchy
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Mitchy

That is superb Pete; great memories and anecdotes. My old man talked about the same Peter Dimond I am sure that is the same bloke on the wing. Great read and gee i wish we could buy the old style gurnsey.

Parra Pete, Hay
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Parra Pete, Hay

Thanks for those kind words. I loved writing the article..Nothing better than being a passionate Parra supporter – win lose or draw..It is character building and prepares you for ANYTHING life can throw at you, that is..if you control it, and not it control you.
Been there done that..Many years of gnashing of the teeth, and sulking over a loss. Finally, I can relax and ENJOY the game. Still swear at the TV but no longer beat myself up…:lol:
I just love this website…btw..

Mitchy
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Mitchy

Glad that our Tv’s do not swear back Pete.

Tony
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Tony

Well written, Parra.

I remember those days on the Hill with yourself and the boys with great fondness.

Even on those days when it wasn’t “a game – it was a shame!!!”

Anonymous
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Anonymous

They were certainly great times Anthony…Good mates, good times, and many memories. would never swap those times for ANYTHING..

Rowdy
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Rowdy

Superb work Mr Montgomery. As my dear old dad would say, come on you blokes, do you wanna make me cry? That game was a mere 3 years shy of my advent as an instant Parra fanatic and clearly the catalyst for what I was to be mesmerized by shortly thereafter. Some members of that team were still playing in 1965 which I hope you can re-acquaint and introduce to us TCT and current Parra fans in the not too distant future. I got to know Bullet pretty well in the early 1970’s when he coached me for a very… Read more »

Parra Pete, Hay
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Parra Pete, Hay

Thanks Rowdy..Billy Rayner, Roy Fisher, Noel Storkey” Cornwall were the foundations of which the Club was built. Roy held the record of the most first grade games for the Club….without missing any…before he left to join North Sydney Bears. He was a tough front rower with red hair…and although just a plugger by todays standards…was a ‘local hero; to us blokes way back when PASSION and EXCITEMENT at getting within ten points of a win was all the rage, and wanting us to come back for more. BTW I am not MR Montgomery…Most people know me as PARRA….and have been… Read more »

Kaye
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Kaye

Hi Folks,

I am Ken Foord’s daughter Kaye (one of the twins). I have Dad’s footballing career scrap book which is full of newspaper clippings, original photos he had ordered from the Newspaper at the time and some Rugby League News / Program Booklets. If someone would like to drop me an email on the best way to go about getting the details to you, I would be more than happy to share the content with you.

Mitchy
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Mitchy

Great memories Rowdy and Pete. They must have been interesting times. I surely wish us fans could buy real memoribillia from the years gone….
When was the leagues club built.? And if you fellows know when did it become a power base for the area? I would attend the facilities there some nights when at uni in the early 90’s, and for a meal after a game.

Parra Pete, Hay
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Parra Pete, Hay

Was not old enough in those days – you had to be 21 to enter a Licenced Club…I was 16/17 at the time. The Leagues Club was built in 1959, from memory. The.Colonel Jack Argent was the builder – and the main pusher. It became known as “The House Jack built”.. One of the major supporters of the Club in those days was Sergeants Pies…the opposition fans used to call Parra “Argents Pies”…the bastards…lol It took a while for the Leagues Club to become the power base it is now.BUT at least it enabled the Club to enter the race… Read more »