Oct 23, 2020

2021 Towers rugby anniversary an all-Bull event

2021 Towers rugby anniversary an all-Bull event

There have been plenty of hard heads, rough heads, bald heads and bad heads gracing The Bulls home ground rugby union field in Charters Towers.

Chances are that visage will not have improved much at the club’s 40th anniversary next year.

Today’s hard-working club volunteers hark back to the foundation years when a call put out by new veterinarian to town, Bob Armstrong, resounded with a group of diehards including miners.

They came from Rishton, Ravenswood, Thalanga, Mount Leyshon, Pajingo, Osborne and others to strap on their boots.

The early times were fertile with the reserve grade team bringing home the pennant in the early 80’s and names like Geoff Lawler, Greg Smith, Ian Martineau representing Queensland Country.

The grounds, christened Dave Thomas Oval, were generously  supported by now deceased Ron Edgar from Leanda Drilling.

Conscious of the need to stake an early claim in the annals of Queensland rugby, Mr Edgar provided drill rods for the top on the goals posts to ensure they were the highest in the state.

While there has a been a competition of sorts played this year, the official 40th celebrations have been postponed until next year as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

While the date is yet to be set, it was already a packed agenda said club secretary Cathy West.  

“We’re sort of going back to the drawing board and it will run on a fairly similar idea to what we had started to plan in this year. 

“A formal dinner with a guest speaker is planned. There was going to be on a full day of games and possibly Friday night games with some junior teams. Just because we really can’t fit them all in. 

“We are going to have a golden oldies game, hopefully with a lot of our old boys playing, which would bring some of those old names back.”

Cathy’s husband Craig said he had, ‘played a few games’ with The Bulls. He retired a handful of years ago, aged 46. 

His son was in the first under 14s side in 2004. When he made seniors, Craig decided to have a run.

The names roll as if it were yesterday to the miner now working at Cracow in Central Queensland.

They include Adrian Costello from Pajingo, former mines inspector Ross Thomas, Joe Vitelli and Rodney Buck and Neal Valk who was Osborne site super and later mining manager at Dugald River.

They are a long-playing bunch with Craig citing the contribution of Ian Catterall from Pajingo who was 51 when he played his last game at scrum half. Ian was possibly the oldest senior player to officially take the field for Charters Towers in the senior mens comp.

The club has made an impression internationally with Bob Armstrong claiming the mantel as the first Australian to play in the 2nd Golden Oldies Rugby Festival which was held at Long Beach, California in 1981.

The events are now played all over the world and the Knackered Bulls oldboys have had teams play in Wales, Argentina, New Zealand and France as well as in the domestic competition.

Today, it’s a pretty slick affair with a squad of juniors bolstering the ranks and making an impression on the local competition.

That’s in no small measure due to the influence of club founder Bob Armstrong, who made an interest in rugby a job requirement for any vet he employed.

Enter vet Greg Smith in the early naughties who was instrumental in getting the junior Bulls into the Townsville and District competiton. 

The juniors continue to develop and show promise said Cathy West.

“Well, the youth competition really didn’t start until about 2004, and they started with what they called a Mickey Bulls team. 

“And then in 2006, a new group of blokes started up juniors as such with just one under fourteens team. And that team did make finals that first year. And then the following year, they won their first premier ship.”

Minjar has come on board to sponsor the four-to-nine year-olds in a local competition. They play each Wednesday during the season.

In any event when next year’s anniversary celebrations come around and the old boys get together, the scars on those aging heads will bear testimony to some hard-fought plays which have no doubt fossilised over the years.