1969 Balmain jersey returned
GREG Fryer admits he is not a particularly sentimental bloke.
But the Ballina man is happy he has been reunited with a piece of personal, and rugby league, history.
A month ago, a jumper was returned to him 40 years since he last saw it.
The jumper is the one Fryer wore as a reserve for the 1969 Balmain Tigers grand final-winning team.
He didn’t get a run in that game, but sat on the sidelines with number 15 on his back to watch his team beat the South Sydney Bunnies 11-2.
Fryer had been playing the season in both first and second grades.
Both teams made it to their respective grand finals, but first grade coach Leo Nosworthy decided to keep fresh reserves for the first grade final, so Fryer and team-mate Sid Williams sat on the bench rather than playing in the second grade decider.
This was in the days when teams were only allowed two replacements, and only in the first half – Williams was called on to the field in the first stanza and scored the only try of the game, and when the whistle blew at half-time, Fryer’s game was over.
He had missed out on playing in both grand finals.
Fryer kept the jumper after the game, even though he said ‘there was no such word as memorabilia’.
He said most footballers would use their jumpers – even from the big games – to ‘wash their cars’.
In 1970, Fryer married Margaret and the pair hit the road to the Gold Coast for their honeymoon.
They stayed at Grafton overnight with the parents of another 1969 Tigers’ grand final player, Peter Boulton.
Fryer said he knew Peter’s father was a keen Balmain fan because his son played with the club, so he gave him his grand final jumper as a gift for letting them stay at his house.
Years later, Boulton’s father passed away and Peter was given the jumper.
This happened at a time when the Balmain Rugby League Club was looking for memorabilia for a room in the club’s building.
A friend of Fryer was employed to gather photos, jumpers and the like for the club – and they knew the story of Fryer’s jumper.
It was tracked down, framed and placed on the wall in the club.
Fryer said he and other 1969 Tigers players – including Ballina man Michael Ross, who played in the second-grade decider – travel down to Leichhardt Oval each year to watch a game.
Today, there are only a few Wests-Tigers games played at the former Balmain Tigers suburban home ground.
Fryer joked that he would look at his jumper on the wall and ‘try and figure out the lock on the cabinet so I could take it back’.
In the end, he didn’t have to worry about trying to pinch it.
The club’s building is now being demolished, and Fryer was offered the jumper – legally.