Reliving Cougars strong history
SEVERAL months ago a number of former players and officials got together to organise a reunion of players, wives and officials from this iconic club known as Casino RSM Rugby League Club and in recent years Casino RSM Cougars.
Former multiple premiership player David O'Connor, player and long serving Club secretary Paul Mulherin and past Club and Group one president Barry O'Keefe took up the onerous task of locating and inviting as many past and present players as possible to come together and celebrate the lives and times of the footy club.
High Profile Guests
As part of the process the organisers recognised the importance of inviting some high profile guests to attend and add to the mystique of the occasion.
Without holding back they went straight to the top and secured NSW State of Origin coach and Rugby League legend Laurie Daley.
Helping pull off this coup was NSW Country Rugby League president Jock Colley who, along with his wife, agreed to accompany Laurie to the dinner.
To complete the package former Eastern Suburbs and Parramatta star and funny man John ' Bomber' Peard accepted an invitation to be a part of the celebrations and tell a few yarns.
He had the crowd of 200 in tears of laughter with some 'oldies but goodies'.
Accompanying John Peard was long term close friend and former team mate Johnny Mayes who was a star performer with Eastern Suburbs and Manly in the '60s and '70s and now resides at Evans Head.
Plenty of Activities
In fine tuning the activities and in an effort to provide as much activity as possible for the reunion weekend, it was decided that the format would involve an initial get together at Queen Elizabeth Park on the Friday afternoon for the regular greyhound meeting.
This, of course, is the venue of many great rugby league victories over many decades.
Obviously it was a great chance to renew old friendships, have a few beers and back a few winners or losers.
This proved to be a fantastic introduction to the weekend activities and was well received by all those that could attend.
Saturday's activities included golf at Casino Golf Course for the keen golfers or an afternoon on the punt at the RSM club and culminating in the gala dinner at Casino RSM Club on the Saturday evening.
As expected this is when most of the crowd was able to come together for what was to be a wonderful and memorable occasion.
So Many Memories
Master of ceremonies for the evening was former RSM Club secretary/manager and lifelong associate of the footy club, Darren Schipp.
Darren did a terrific job in introducing our special guests as well as telling some ad lib stories about some of the great moments experienced over the years.
While it's dangerous to single out certain attendees it's also very important to acknowledge certain people who have left a lasting impression on this wonderful club.
There's no doubt that a level of success was achieved prior to the early 1960s with players like Bruce Olive being a dominant figure at the time.
Bruce who went within a whisker of representing Australia was accompanied at the function by his brother Brian who has been an integral member of the Casino side as a strapper/medico for many decades.
Who will ever forget the enormous impact that Terry O'Brien had on the rugby league culture throughout the town during the 1960s?
With great foresight by the club O'Brien was recruited to produce results and that's exactly what he did.
With several first grade premierships through the 1960s and the prestigious Clayton Cup in 1966 this close knit team was brought together and achieved remarkable success and support.
Names such as Walsh, Nolan, O'Connor, Clark, Swift, Peart, Long, Scully, Forrester, Madden, Scott, Casey, Teece, Morrissey, Russell, Elford and Strong became almost heroic in terms of Rugby League in Casino.
This was the greatest era in Rugby League history in Casino.
In the ensuing years and decades Casino RSM has had many fine moments and premiership glory.
Who will forget the quality and professionalism of the Kevin Kind coached premiership side of 1979?
The early days of a young David Torrens who was to become the only Casino player to win First Grade Premierships in 3 decades, 1970s, '80s and '90s. The '80s saw the emergence of the younger brigade of rugby league players, many were local juniors who had a passion for success.
That success came in 1985 when the Jay Clarke-coached side tasted premiership victory once again in a hard fought, extra time win over arch rivals Lismore Marist Brothers. Jay and many of his old team mates were in attendance to relive some of those great memories.
Casino's most recent premiership glory came in 1990 when under the guidance and leadership of captain - coach Ross Conlan.
The club was extremely fortunate to gain the services of Conlan who was a recent Sydney first grader with Balmain and who also represented Australia.
Ross became a fine member of the community and a tremendous asset to the football club as well.
The joy on the faces of many who hadn't seen team mates and friends for many years was memorable to say the least.
To the long suffering wives and partners who have heard these stories hundreds of times before there is good news, the reunion is over and you may not hear them again until the next one comes around.
To the organisers, you have done a wonderful job and we know that your efforts are highly appreciated by all who attended this special event.