Bruce ’Poppa’ Gallaher loves his sport.
Bruce ’Poppa’ Gallaher loves his sport. DAVID NIELSEN

Poppa's a World Master

BALLINA’S Bruce ‘Poppa’ Gallaher doesn’t know whether it was his rugby prowess or age that made him one of the most widely written about athletes at the recent World Masters Games in Sydney.

The 75-year-old featured in The Daily Telegraph and had none other than multi-media personality Peter FitzSimons mention him in dispatches.

The Tele wanted to interview him because he was the oldest rugby player listed in the program.
FitzSimons boasted that Gallaher was the first halfback he’d ever managed to run around in his rugby union career.

But to be fair, Gallaher was giving away plenty of size, and years, to FitzSimons, and he reckons he wasn’t in a position to tackle the big fella anyway.

“Overall, I was a little bit concerned about the size of some of these blokes,” Gallaher said.

“Halfbacks in the modern game have got to tackle anyone coming through off the ruck. I’m probably better suited to playing five-eighth but we had another bloke playing in that position.”

FitzSimons was part of the Mosman team that won the over-45 final, beating Gallaher’s Older Thistles side 15-0 in the decider.

“We played Mosman in the lead-up to the final and they won 43-0,” Gallaher said.

“In the final, we managed to hold them to 10-0 three minutes before full-time and then they got a penalty and one of the big forwards barged over for a try.

“If we had been beaten by 50-odd, or 40-odd in the final, I wouldn’t have been proud of taking home the silver medal, but seeing as we played well and held them, gave me a bit of solace that we earned the silver medal.”

Gallaher said Mossman had been training together for three months prior to the World Masters Games, whereas the Older Thistles only had a few training runs together before the big event.

Nonetheless, he was still surprised by the professionalism of his adopted outfit.

“I went down a few days before the Games actually started and I went to training on Thursday night and it went for two hours,” he said.

“Now, I’m 75 years old, and the rest of them are a lot younger blokes with an average age of around 50. Warm-ups started around 30 minutes before the games and this was all a bit foreign to me, to be honest.”

Gallaher has plenty of form when it comes to rugby union having played in Sydney and for NSW before converting to golden oldies.

He moved to Ballina in 1985 and has hooked up with a team called the Battered Prawns.

Touch football, tenpin bowling and lawn bowls also figure prominently on his playing schedule.
“I like to keep my physical levels up,” he said.

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