Give me down to there hair, shoulder length or longer
Here, baby, there, momma, everywhere, daddy, daddy
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it, long as God can grow it, my hair
(Hair – The Musical)
Hair. Outside of clothing, the changing fashions of the last 70 years have probably been best represented by how people have worn their hair. Even the follicly-challenged have expressed themselves via their hair at some stage in their lives.
As a teenage high school student in the mid 70s, there was only one style for me – ridiculously long. Going prematurely grey in my early 20s meant the colour bottle was introduced. I now prefer to ignore some photos from my youth!
For a few footballers in the early 1970s, long hair presented challenges beyond the target of a flowing mane to grab in a tackle. Roosters players such as Russell Fairfax and Ian Schubert were denied entry to Easts Leagues Club for having hair that extended past their collars. Terry Reynolds made the headlines during his career for the battles over his hair length.
Of course, dress regulations eventually changed with the times and hair length now has little bearing on admission to a premises. But no matter the era and its style, it’s always seemed like the hirsute footballer, or at least those with the more unusual choices about what they grow on their bounce, garner the most attention.
And so to this week’s Eels team list – our hair heroes.
A number of selections might be unfamiliar to younger readers, and unfortunately not all photos capture the players’ hair at their most “extravagant”. Nonetheless, I consider all players to have rightfully earned their place in the list, and above all else, they possessed enough talent to play first grade football.
Fullback – Phil Jelley
Pronounced “Jellay”. My memory of Phil Jelley was of a fleet-footed fullback with extremely long hair.
He used to tape his hair down to play so that it was less likely to get extra attention in tackles.
Phil played 26 games with the Eels back in the early 70s.
Time certainly moves on. He passed away in 2013 at the age of 62.
Wing- Eric Grothe
When Eric first hit top grade, there was no shortage of hair.
The long locks were soon accompanied by the bushy beard as part of his trademark looks.
As his career moved along, the headgear became part of match day gear, and the flowing mane thinned.
But the memories captured in this photo live on.
Centre – Gary Pethybridge
Another Eel from the early 70s who would tape his hair down to play.
Gary Pethybridge played 31 hair-filled games for the Eels after coming through as a local junior, before signing to play for St George and later Penrith.
A serious neck injury undoubtedly curtailed his representative career.
Like Guru, the hair would eventually depart.
Centre – Brad Takairangi
When Taka grew his hair out, it was braided on match days.
However, the best was saved for the training paddock.
Some days it was wild and unfettered. Other days it would be held in place – somehow.
Wing – Matt Petersen
When his nickname is all about his hair, you know he has to feature on this list.
Matt was a solid finisher, and eventually became a USA rep player.
Five Eighth – Ken Hey
The son of rugby league great Vic Hey, Ken had two stints with Parramatta – the first in 1978.
Vic had been a Parra junior before Parra entered the Sydney Premiership, so he was in the twilight of his career when he finished with two seasons as Captain coach at Parra and then continued as a coach until 1953.
It’s never easy playing in the shadow of a legendary father but Ken carved out a career across three clubs from the mid 70s to the mid 80s. I remember Ken as a backline utility in 1978, and in particular a strong performance from him at fullback against Souths at Redfern that year. And of course I remember the wild, wiry hair.
Half – Terry Reynolds
During his time at Canterbury, Reynolds was actually suspended by the club for refusing to cut his hair.
After parting ways with the Berries, Reynolds found a new home at Parra. Supporters of my generation will fondly remember his scrum base partnership with John Quayle and the classic moves they executed.
He was part of the Eels resurgence in 1975.
Prop – Fuifui Moimoi
One of the greatest all-time crowd favourites, Fui was renowned for his fearless charges, and that hair.
When not in corn rows, it was a glorious mass sitting atop his scone.
The accompanying photo from training captures it superbly.
Dummy Half – John McMartin
This spot nearly went to Trevor McCarroll.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a single photo of Trevor, and I can’t simply say that he was one of those players that had to tape his hair down to play..
So next cab off the 70s hair ranks is famed Eels rake John McMartin.
Magnificent sideburns completed the look for an Eels player who should have played for Australia.
Prop – Junior Paulo
Another from the current brigade who enjoys having a bit of fun with his hair.
Whether it’s a rat’s tail or the top of the head braids, Big Junz has mixed it up over the years
Just quietly, the bloke can play too!
Second Row – Nathan Hindmarsh
The workaholic Hindy was probably better known for his difficulty in keeping his shorts above his rear end, but there’s no team list for exposed arses.
After beginning his career with a crew cut, Hindy let the hair roam free throughout most of his time in the spot light.
The bloke would have looked perfectly at home in the 1970s.
Second Row – Feleti Mateo
Ridiculously talented, outrageous in his offloads, Feleti Mateo could be equally creative with his hair.
Born into a generation that enjoyed fades and designs, the big back rower took some interesting cuts onto the field over the years.
Anyone who’s forgotten his talent should look at his highlight reels from 2008 and 2009.
Lock – Ray Price
A young, long-haired, bearded Ray Price embodied the hair of the 1970s.
When he first took the field in Parra colours, Pricey looked like the wild footy player that had tormented his opponents in the other rugby code.
His appearance changed over the years and the scars were testimony to how he played the game.
In my mind, the greatest Eel of all.
Bench – Kenny Edwards
Controversial? A wasted talent? Some fair criticisms.
But Kenny was passionate about his football and he was just as passionate about Parra. Though it could bubble over into errors and penalties, he brought energy to the team
I remember speaking to him after a training session in the lead up to the 2017 final against Melbourne. He was so pumped about the game, and after having a few short words with him, I believed we would win. We should have.
This haircut almost embodies Kenny the player. Full of colour and lots of whys!
Bench – Manu Ma’u
Manz – the bloke who Nathan Peats called the scariest man in the world.
Was there anything particularly different about his hair that entitles him to be on this list?
No, but I’d maintain that whenever he kept it at this short length, it added to his aura.
Imagine telling Manu he had to leave the field!
Bench – Tepai Moeroa
For a while, Tepai seemed to be going to Brad Takairangi‘s stylist.
The mass of hair disappeared as Tep wound up his six years of top grade at Parra.
The current Waratah’s player is still only 24 years of age.
Bench – Geoff Gerard
The final spot almost went to Shaun Lane. Then I was sent this photo of Geoff Gerard.
I’ve used photos of Gerard in other team lists that depict his long haired, bearded younger years.
But this photo seemed to capture rugby league in that era.
It’s a great shot.
I’m going to conclude this post with a photo of dual code brothers – Mick, Don and Ray Price.
The photo was taken just before Ray joined the Eels in 1976,
It’s a photo that screams western Sydney, mid 1970s.
Even though this was snapped whilst they were at the Two Blues, all three brothers spent time at the Eels and to be honest, this photo was just too good to not include.