As Jack Gibson might have put it: Wayne Pearce sure got all the ink.
Junior Pearce's imminent departure from football, thanks entirely to a
treacherous left knee, has put all other pending, possible and probable
retirements in Rugby League in the shade. But the fact is that a scatter of
other admirable players this weekend will bid certain farewell to the game they
Others are off to England to finish their careers, and still more are
contemplating deeply the toughest decision that any sportsman has to
make-whether the time is right to pull the plug, and how then to confront the
rest of their lives.
Much has been said on the subject. James Michener wrote of the elite
sportsmen's "ascent to greatness, followed by a sickening drop to oblivion"and
"how men play games for a brief season then spend the remainder of their lives
listening as strangers drop by their tables to tell them: 'I saw you once'."
A.E. Housman's famous collection "A Shropshire Lad" probably says it
better than anything else, through the poignant stanzas:
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the marketplace
Men and boy stood cheering by
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Smart lad to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out
Runners whom renown outran
And name died before the man.
Bill Vessels, an All American running back of the 1950s, had it all worked
out. He wrote: On my last day in football I said to myself -all this hoop-la
never really happened. It was a dream; my real life starts tomorrow.
Men like Trevor Cogger (Western Suburbs), Peter Cullum (Manly), Kerry
Boustead (Norths), Billy Johnston (Gold Coast), Steve Sharp (Parramatta),
Michael Bolt (Illawarra), Kevin Hardwick (Balmain), Peter Wynn (Parramatta)and
his brother Graeme (St George) will be wrestling with such matters in the weeks
A little further down the track so too will be Dean Lance and John
Ferguson(Canberra), and Chris Mortimer (Penrith) and Ian French (Norths)-who are
both off to finish their careers in England.
Most of them have made little splash with the quiet decisions they are now
Steve Sharp, the journeyman forward who was an integral part of the
Parramatta premiership-winning machine in the early 80s is certainly calling it
quits after a long and fruitful career in which he can fairly be said to have
graced in his quiet way both his club and the game.
Meanwhile, his 32-year-old clubmate Peter Wynn, 12 seasons an Eel, remains
undecided. The disappointment of an injury-jolted season may tempt the
popular"Wally" back for one more year.
At St George, his brother Graeme, 31, is at the end of a contract, and
maybe the end of his career-with the Saints at least. Twelve seasons of
unstinting loyalty, an Australian jumper and a premiership in 1979 is his career
ledger with the Dragons. If Saints chose not to sign him this time, he may play
Kerry Boustead, with schoolboy good looks and cheery grin intact, is off
in quest of further fame and fortune in his home State with the aim of bringing
down before long a North Queensland team to play in the Winfield Cup. He leaves
Sydney with an entirely justified reputation as one of the great wingers of the
Trevor Cogger at Wests has some doubts he will fit into the Magpies' new
plan under the Warren Ryan regime in 1991. After 12 seasons, 151 first-grade
games and around 270 altogether with the club, the outstandingly loyal Magpie
may well play his last game in the black and white at Campbelltown this Sunday.
He's 29 now and a future in the Metropolitan Cup is a possibility.
Peter Cullum, Manly's reserve grade skipper since 1988, is most likely off
to North Queensland captain-coaching once he finishes 1990 commitments with the
Sea Eagles. Like Cogger, Cullum has been a grade player since 1979, a true-blue
son of the peninsula who is one of those salt-of-the-earth players that
football clubs can be safely built around.
Globetrotters Chris Mortimer (Penrith) and the solidly professional Ian
French (North Sydney) will complete their careers in England.
"Louie" Mortimer, a stout-hearted inspiration, can be guaranteed to add
new steel to a famous old Yorkshire club, Wakefield Trinity. His farewell game
on Penrith Park last Sunday was characteristic of the man: no frills, but
Raider fans hope that their local heroes, Lance and Ferguson have at least
a month to wait before making their future-life decisions.
All of the above-named, whether they stay, or whether they go can be
judged by Grantland Rice's immortal sporting verse:
For when the Great Scorer comes
To write against your name
He marks - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the game. Every one of them would pass that test with