Western Suburbs First Grade 1997

Back Row: Gaven Williams (Club Physiotherapist), Andrew Willis, Shane Millard, Damien Kennedy, “Mark the Magpie” Wallington, Harvey Howard, Steve Georgallis, Ciriaco “Cherry” Mescia, Jack Stiles
Third Row: Brent Huckstepp (Club Doctor), Bob Murray (General Hand), Aseri Laing, Chris Yates, John Skandalis, Bill Dunn, Aaron Salisbury (Strength and Conditioner Coach). Mark Egan (Skills Co-ordinator)
Second Row: Tom Raudonikis (Head Coach), Brandon Pearson, Andrew Leeds, Des Hasler, Paul Langmack, James Smith, Ken McGuinness, Darren Willis, Dennis Regan (Head Trainer)
Front Row (Ball Boys): Joe Lambatan, Damien Bullock, Adam Quinn, Stephen Bullock

1997 was, of course, a watershed year for Rugby League. There was an alternative competition, the Super League Telstra Premiership. The defectors from the ARL were the Auckland Warriors, Brisbane Broncos, Canterbury Bulldogs, Cronulla Sharks, North Queensland Cowboys, Penrith Panthers, Perth Western Reds who were joined by two new teams, the Adeliade Rams and the Hunter Mariners. The Brisbane Broncos dominated the competition winning the Grand Final against Cronulla 26-8. It was a hollow victory as the two leagues would unite in 1998 to create the NRL.

The clubs that remained loyal to the ARL were Western Suburbs, Balmain, Gold Coast, Illawarra, Manly, Newcastle, North Sydney, Parramatta, South Queensland, South Sydney, St George and Sydney City. It was obvious that not all teams would survive in a united competition.

Against this background, Wests tried to eke out a successful season. They started poorly but won enough games (10) to be a serious semi-final contender with two games remaining. However, two very poor losses; Illawarra 10-34 and South Queensland Crushers 18-39 meant they missed the semi-finals by one point. Coach Tom Raudonikis thought it highlighted a lack of depth in Reserve Grade and recommended the culling of eighteen players for 1998 season. Remarkably, there was a 20% increase in crowds.

Powerhouse English forward Harvey Howard

Des Hasler from Manly was a shrewd buy and the debut of Brett Hodgson, touted as a future International, gave the team added pace. Important losses were Paul Bell to the Western Reds, Josh Dooley to Hunter Mariners and Andrew Hick to Adeliade Rams. Steve Georgallis and Andrew Leeds passed the milestone of 100 First Grade games, while Paul Langmack joined the exclusive “300” club, 300 First Grade games across two teams, Canterbury-Bankstown and Western Suburbs. Tommy Raudonikis was also inducted into the NSW Sportsman’s Hall of Fame.

Ken McGuinness        Ken McGuinness using his famous sidestep

Ciriaco Mescia, Darren Willis, Brandon Pearson and Bill Dunn all made Country of origin teams while Ken McGuinness joined his Coach, Tom Raudonikis, as NSW State of Origin representatives. Ken McGuinness was voted the “Club Player of the Year”, Harvey Howard the “Best Import”, Brett Hodgson “Rookie of the Year” and Kevin McGuinness “Clubman of the Year”.

Kevin McGuinness       Kevin McGuinness using his blistering speed

Rookie of the Year Brett Hodgson scoring yet another try


Western Suburbs Full Squad 1997

Back Row: Shayne McInerney, Chad Harris, Paul Smith, Brett Taylor, Gary Dowse, John Frare, Ed Brown (Second Grade Trainer)
Fourth Row: Willie Newton, Darren Capovilla, Brett Hodgson, Shane Millard, Damien Kennedy, Harvey Howard, Ciriaco Mescia, Adam Capovilla, Damien Williams, Greg Hunter (Trainer), Gaven Williams (Club Physiotherapist)
Third Row: Bob Murray (General Hand), Greg Alchin (Trainer/Runner), Brent Huckstepp (Club Doctor), Shaun Walliss, Adam Donovan, Alex Chan, Aseri Laing, Chris Yates, John Skandalis, Bill Dunn, Aaron Salisbury (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Mark Egan (Skills Co-ordinator), Jim Ramsay (Masseur), Charlie Tuxford (General Hand) Darren Davies (Masseur)
Second Row: Tom Raudonikis (Head Coach), Ron Prior (Gear Manager), Jason Alchin (Second Grade Coach), Nathan Lakeman, Adam Doyle, Kevin McGuinness, Brandon Pearson, Andrew Leeds, Des Hasler, Paul Langmack, James Smith, Ken McGuinness, Darren Willis, Mosese Maraivalu, Steve Georgallis, Jack Stiles (Football Manager), Dennis Regan (Head Trainer)
Front Row: Daniel Bullock, Joe Lambatan, “Mark the Magpie” Wallington, Adam Quinn, Stephen Bullock



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