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The Sydney Morning Herald

AWAITING THE 'SICKENING DROP TO OBLIVION'

Author: IAN HEADS
Date: 23/08/1990
Words: 980
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 46
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 have played.

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 ahead.

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 contemplating.

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 elsewhere.

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 modern game.

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 strikingly effective.

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 honours.

 
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