Western Suburbs Squad 1996

Back Row: Paul Bell, Bill Dunn, Cherry Mescia, Damian Kennedy, John Skandalis, Justin Dooley, Darren Capovilla, Chad Harris, Darren Burns
Middle Row: Brent Huckstepp (Doctor), Gaven Williams (Physiotherapist), Aseri Laning, Kevin McGuinness, Andrew Willis, Chris Ford (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Jack Stiles (Assistant Football Manager), Stephen Noyce (Chief Executive), Mark Wallington (“Mark the Magpie”)
Front Row: Mark Egan (Skills Coach), Darren Willis, Craig Coleman, Andrew Leeds, Tom Raudonikis (Head Coach), Paul Langmack (Captain), Ken McGuinness, Steve Georgallis, Dennis Regan (Head Trainer)
Ball Boys: Adam Quinn, Adam Noyce, Chris Marrow, Andrew Small, Chris Taplin

1996 continued the improvement of the previous year. Twelve wins and a draw saw Wests make a qualifying semi-final where they went down 20-12 to Cronulla after leading 12-2 ten minutes into the second half. Andrew Leeds exemplified the Magpie spirit, playing with pain-killing injections for a broken bone in his ankle. New imports, Craig Coleman, Darren Capovilla and Harvey Howard (from Leeds) all contributed strongly to the improved performance. Jason Duff also made a good debut but the emergence of local Junior, John Skandalis, was the major talking point. Debuting against Penrith in Round 9, he was immediately thrown into the First-Grade cauldron, and he didn’t take a backward step. “Skando” was hit with a head-high tackle from the kick-off, there were two all-in brawls, Paul Langmack was concussed, a Penrith player sent off and four players spent time in the sin-bin! Welcome to First Grade!

John Skandalis made a dazzling debut in First Grade 1996

Wests won their game 17-8 against Illawarra but Super League put a shadow over the victory. A Federal Court decision meant that Super League would run an alternative competition in 1997, a decision that was to be appealed in the High Court. Wests had made a unanimous Board decision to stay with the ARL. However, it meant that five Super League aligned teams forfeited in the first round, throwing the competition into turmoil. It meant the possibility that there could be a redraw and all competition points being taken away. Tommy Raudonikis was, predictably, outraged. “They are my points, and no one is bloody taking them off me!” Eventually the situation was resolved but only for the rest of 1996.

Amongst the turmoil, Tom Raudonikis was named as Country Origin Coach, while Jason Alchin had a promising start as Reserve Grade coach. Darren Willis and Paul Langmack both had milestone years, passing 100 first grade games for the club. Andrew Leeds was voted “Clubman of the Year”, Ken and Kevin McGuinness were equal top try scorers, Steve Georgallis was the Golden Magpie winner, Damian Kennedy the “Rookie of the Year” and John Skandalis the “Best Performed Local Player in Grade”.

Captain Paul Langmack in one of the jubilant moments of the successful season


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