On our huge show this week we feature 2 of the greatest rugby league players of all time Peter Tunks & Greg Hawick.
I’ve always been fascinated by the year the South Sydney Rabbitohs began in 1908. The focal point of the this tale is Arthur Stephen Hennessy nickname A.S.H & I was immediately drawn to the fact that we share the name Stephen spelt with the PH. ASH is Rabbitoh first grade player #1 & I’m #757, he made his debut in 1908 & mine was 1987 but we are both Stephens & Rabbitohs players so for me we share an affinity. I realise it’s only his middle name, the S in the acronym ASH but the man known as the ‘Father Of The Rabbitohs’ and I both suited up for the mighty Rabbits & didn’t spell our name Steven with the V. (Yes I do answer to the shortened version Steve but that’s beside the point!)
The most satisfying discovery I made was to uncover the fact that the first rugby league game ever played in Australia was held on the 21st of March 1908 at Sir Joseph Banks Park Botany. On this historic day a South Sydney Possibles & Probables trial match was played. I was born & bred in Botany, played for the Botany Rams & still live here today but I never knew about this game that ASH took part in was played at a park that I roamed as a kid.
In The Beginning…
The story of the Rabbitohs inaugural season in 1908 & their eventual victory in the first ever Australian rugby league grand final is a tale that Rabbitohs fans will cherish forever.
Stories will endlessly be told about the clubs Redfern origins, it’s 11-7 victory over North Sydney the first time the team took the field & the march to glory over the Roosters in the grand final at the end of that season.
This article takes you through some key points of this time & highlights the involvement of the ‘Father Of The Rabbitohs’ Arthur Hennessy.
Rugby League broke away from Rugby Union in the late 1800s for the simple reason that players weren’t being paid. The greatest game of all was born in England in 1895.
The beginning of South Sydney traces back to early meetings in the Australian test cricketer Victor Trumper’s shop. Trumper is one of the most important figures in the club’s formation.
Five other men also played huge roles in creating the Rabbitohs – Arthur Hennessy, S. George Ball, Johnny McGrath, Billy Cann & Ed “Son” Fry. Early meetings were held in 1907, plans were hatched then finally a meeting took place on 17th January 1908 at Redfern Town Hall Sydney to form the South Sydney District Rugby League Club.
Arthur Stephen Hennessy (nickname ASH) was born in Sydney on the 24th September 1876. Hennessy played hooker & although only a small man at 5ft 8ins (173cm) & 12st. 6lbs. (79kg) he would become a star rugby union player winning a competition with Souths Rugby Union in 1905 & gaining NSW representative honours.
By the time he finally helped create the NSWRL & the Rabbitohs, Hennessy was 31 years old so his career as a rugby league player was relatively short but he would go on to become the first captain of NSW & the Australian Kangaroos.
A trial match was organised between the South Sydney Possibles & Probables on the 21st March 1908 at Sir Joseph Banks Park Botany as a tune up for the upcoming season but also so the players could learn the rules to this newly created game. Englishman Tom McCabe lectured players and officials on the finer points of the new code. This historic match would be the first ever rugby league game played on Australian soil. Hennessy captained the Probables but they were defeated 9-8 by the Possibles led by Bill Cann.
On the 20th April 1908 the big one happened, the Rabbitohs first ever competition game in the NSWRL. Hennessy took the field for the Bunnies at Birchgrove Oval as an undersized captain/coach. Arthur Hennessy would earn the honour of being named Souths first grade player number #1. This numbering system was introduced by the club in 2003 & Hennessy was allocated his number then. The modern players like myself have embraced this numbering system with pride. Chris McQueen has his number 1070 boldly tattooed on his neck below is left ear.
The first ever try scorer for Souths was winger Tommy Anderson (first grade player #2) in the 11-7 win over North Sydney.
Souths would win their next 2 games before suffering defeat for the first time at the hands of arch rivals Eastern Suburbs 13-12 at the Royal Agricultural Society Showground. The Souths v Easts rivalry has been around for as long as the game has existed.
This would be Souths only loss of the season, they would remain undefeated all the way through to the grand final where they turned the tables on Easts to win the game 14-12. This result secured the competition, the first of the clubs 21 premierships, a record that has allowed the Rabbitohs to be continually described as the ‘Pride Of The League’
Hennessy would only play 5 games for Souths in 1908 before leaving for England on board the RMS Macedonia with the 1908-09 Kangaroos with 2 rounds to go before the finals. When their ship stopped over in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) the Rabbitohs players received a telegram from the team saying a simple message “Premiers”.
The tour robbed both Souths & Easts of their best players for the grand final & condemned the game to a contest without the best talent competing. Notable absentees that went on tour for Souths were Arthur Hennessy, Tommy Anderson & Arthur Butler (first grade player #3) while Easts lost the one & only Dally Messenger, Dan Frawley & Sandy Pearce.
Arthur Hennessy suffered a broken jaw on the Kangaroo tour & didn’t play in a test match. Hennessy played a total of 26 games for the Rabbitohs & would go into coach the Rabbitohs & Kangaroos.
Hennessy would create a institution of “running rugby” at South Sydney. He strongly advocated the no kick principle, emphasizing the importance of ball possession to score tries. This came to be the mark of South Sydney’s football with straight running and backing up. The no kick policy produced fast, open football and for Souths a remarkable winning record.
Hennessy was also caught up in the boundary wars with Easts that forced him to play for the tri colours for a short period.
Hennessy moved to Maroubra where he invested in the Maroubra Speedway and in mini-golf, and partly owned the Amusu cinema, Maroubra, living in a cottage opposite the theatre. Survived by his wife, Hennessy died on 19 September 1959 and was buried with Anglican rites in Botany cemetery.
After a 43 year drought the Rabbitohs won their 21st premiership in 2014. This victory meant that their legions of fans could celebrate the ‘Pride Of The League’ once again & sing the song ‘Glory Glory to South Sydney….South Sydney marches on’.
On Friday 26th June 2020 an image was posted in our newly created Facebook group ‘Rabbitohs Radio Podcast Listeners’ by legendary photographer Col Whelan.
Beneath the photo Col asked the question “Any idea who these blokes are”?
The next day we had our answer thanks to Chris Isouard. In the picture stood three Rabbitohs legends Albert Clift, George Treweek & Eddie Root.
“Albert mentioned this day in a couple of his interviews over the years” said Chris. “Treweek and Root visited him in the early 80s and presented him with some of their playing memorabilia. Like many, Albert was a hero of mine and inspired me as a kid to collect everything Souths”.
Albert Clift was a former player for South Sydney, former official and director, was the Club’s first mascot back in 1968, held an amazing collection of Rabbitohs memorabilia including the famed timekeeper’s bell from the first game in 1908 & is a Life Member of the Football Club.
Eddie Root (first grade player #139) 109 games & 34 tries was a starting forward in the Rabbitohs golden era of 7 premiership wins between 1925-32. Root had a brilliant career & is rightly regarded as one of the greatest ever Rabbitohs.
The 1931 Rabbitohs
The 1931 South Sydney Rabbitohs defeated the Eastern Suburbs Roosters 12-7 in the NSWRL grand final. Eddie Root was the hooker & George Treweek played second row.
George Treweek (first grade player #153) 119 games & 40 tries was a starting forward in the Rabbitohs golden era of 7 premiership wins between 1925-32. He is a legendary attacking player who was rated as the finest second row forward the game has produced.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs broke their 3 game losing streak on Saturday afternoon 13th June 2020 at Bankwest Stadium, Sydney with a 32-12 victory over the Gold Coast Titans.
This victory song has traditionally been sung by the team for decades dating back to the Bunnies glory days. We can’t give you the exact date it began to be used but perhaps there’s a Bunnies historian reading this now that could enlighten us. Mavo & Browny love singing the tune because it brings back memories of wins with their mates.
The songs lyrics are-
“Now that we’re all around the bar
And the captains declared it a quorum
We’re drinking our way through the night
And we’re having the time of our lives
Throw the empties away start again, start again
For the boys of South of South Sydney are together
And we’ll drink til the dawn breaks again
May the sessions of South Sydney last forever
Up the Rabbitohs!”
On this weeks show we talk to our newest Rabbitoh, first grade player number 1157 Keaon Koloamatangi & welcome back Cody Walker & James ‘Jimmy The Jet’ Roberts. We also look forward to the debut of another rising star in our forward ranks Patrick ‘Pati’ Mago.
Ziggy is one of the touch judges in the Titans clash, lets hope he listened to our Ziggy podcast last week!
Remembering A Rabbitoh
This weeks Remebering A Rabbitoh is first grade player number 153, 5 time premiership winner the legendary George Treweek.
- Fullback Clive Churchill
- Winger Harold Horder
- Centre Herb Gilbert
- Centre Paul Sait
- Winger Ian Moir
- Five-eighth Jim Lisle
- Halfback Bob Grant
- Lock Ron Coote
- Second row Bob McCarthy
- Second row George Treweek
- Prop John O’Neill
- Hooker Elwyn Walters
- Prop John Sattler (c)
- Reserve Greg Hawick
- Reserve Ray Branighan
- Reserve Ian Roberts
- Reserve Les Cowie
- Coach Jack Rayner
Rabbitoh Of The Week
RIP Toni Mavin
Peter Tunks, Greg Hawick & the defeat of the Dogs – RABBITOHS RADIO
Round 3 Rabbitohs V Roosters – Mavo Dives In
The Rabbitohs have certainly been through a tumultuous time of late. We lost Sam & George Burgess, GI & Sutto leaving us with a depleted roster. Richo goes but not before we gain Latrell & a couple of surprise forwards in Sele & Mago.
Then it’s one drama after the next. Latrell, Jimmy & Cody put the team in the headlines then GI drops a bombshell. If ever we needed some footy to get us back on track it’s now!
Beaten by the Broncos
It’s been a long time between drinks thanks to the dreaded Covid shutdown. When the Bunnies run on the field this Friday it will be 10 weeks to the day since their last game when they were rolled by the Broncos at Suncorp on the 20th March.
This is a loss we’d rather put behind us, it was frustrating to watch & a Stagg hat trick spoiled any chance the Bunnies had of winning the game.
The Broncos lost Croft in the 11th minute & were down to 16 men so we had them on the ropes but didn’t land enough blows to put them away.
Latrell chimed into the back line early with a class quick hands ball to Graham who just failed to score but then the Broncos took charge.
Stagg exposed some brittle defence on the left edge then the Milf carved us up in the middle making it all look too easy. The Broncos forwards were rolling, they were cruising at 10-0.
To their credit the Rabbitohs steadied the ship. A super Cody Walker cutout pass to Graham put us on the board & then a Latrell short pass to Jimmy The Jet saw Cody back up to level the score. A penalty goal handed us a surprise 12-10 halftime lead.
The 2nd half started like the 1st with Stagg finding the stripe with too much ease then Herbie goes bananas to help Stagg bag a treble.
AJ injected some spark off the bench & we somehow found ourselves with a late chance to score & produce an unlikely comeback. This of course didn’t happen & we’ve had an extra long wait to lament where we went wrong.
Friday night v the Chooks @ Bankwest
I only have fond memories of clashes with the Chooks when I was playing for the Rabbitohs in the late 80s. In 7 games we won 5 & I scored 5 tries. I couldn’t tell you one thing about the losses but the wins & tries remain embedded in my brain in my happy place as a pleasant highlights package. My favourite is round 2, 1988 when I scored a try on full time to seal the Rabbitohs first win at the the new Sydney Football Stadium. Scoring a try for Souths is great, scoring against the Chooks is unreal, scoring a try to win the game against the Chooks is the ultimate (just ask Adam Reynolds).
Roosters supporters are a different breed, they have this inferiority complex & feelings of envy that will never go away when it comes to the mighty Rabbitohs. It must be tough to be forever in the shadow of the pride of the league & the banter I enjoy with my numerous Rooster mates will never get old.
The most fantastic news from the early 2020 NRL season is that the back to back premiers suffered back to back defeats & that leaves them with an 0-2 start.
The loss of Cooper Cronk & Latrell Mitchell had an immediate effect as did the absence of Boyd Cordner. No Cronk has pointed the spotlight on the Roosters new halves pairing & whether their kicking game is up to scratch. Alarm bells are ringing at Bondi & if the Bunnies can extend their losing streak to 0-3 panic may set in.
My predicted scenario for this game is Latrell Mitchell to play well & we win. The bear has been poked so I’d love to see him go out & ravage the opposition. This would rub salt into the wound. Even better would be a try from Latrell in a win or if I dare to dream a Latrell match winning try (think Adam Reynolds/Steve Mavin).
We’re going to miss Cody Walker but there’s big wraps on Troy Dargan so here’s hoping he has a blinder on debut, we definitely need it against a Chooks team frothing to bounce back & get a win on the board. The Morris twins reunite & the return of Cordner strengthens an already ridiculously talented Roosters team.
The key to victory for the Rabbits lies in a tightened defence & our forwards laying the platform for our backs to shine. We saw some good signs in the first 2 rounds from Burgess, Knight, Tatola & Sua. We know what Cook & Murray can do so they just need to go out there & produce. Magos return is a further boost, his early form before he tore his pec was encouraging.
The new 6 again ruck rule might allow Cook to explode into action with more regularity. There’s no better sight than seeing our Kangaroos hooker darting into the clear. I think we can win but we’ll need to be at our best & get all the little things right. Complete sets, control the ball & play disciplined footy. Get to our kicks & don’t give away penalties. It’s a simple formula but if they can manage to achieve that then we have the squad to compete with anyone.
I went with the missus to Souths first game at the new Parra Stadium aka Bankwest in round 12 last year when we lost to the Eels 26-14. I was curious to check out the arena & now that it’s the Rabbitohs new home ground for a while, here’s a summary for when the crowds can return.
We decided to stay overnight at the Mantra which is only about a mile away from the ground. There’s limited parking at Bankwest Stadium but there’s quite a few parking stations in the area & we parked at the hotel car park.
We went to Parra Leagues before the game, went upstairs & found a great table overlooking the stadium at Pablos Cantina Y Cerveza. The food was alright but the highlight was the beer brewed on site by Jacks Brewery. I do love a good craft beer, there’s something special about a pint or 3 of freshly brewed pale ale before kickoff.
We decided to check out the rest of the club & this turned out to be a mistake. On this busy evening the sports bar was packed, the auditorium is now filled with pokies so it was standing room only. We left & went to the ground.
The amenities at Bankwest are quite good, we bought higher category seats & the view of the action was great. You can also walk down & watch the game around the 20 metre line behind the disabled seats. It’s standing room only but it’s an awesome view there. The variety of food is nice but even though there’s plenty of bars we still had to line up too long for my liking & it wasn’t a sell out crowd (21645). My other gripe is that they only sell mid strength beer which I’m not a fan of. This trend across stadiums in this country is ordinary as far as I’m concerned. If they want people to come to games then let them drink quality beer not the watered down stuff. Anyway I found a loophole, the cider & red wine is full strength so that’s what I tucked into.
After the game we drowned our sorrows in Church Street which was surprisingly vibrant on a Friday night. There’s some decent pubs & eateries along this strip & its just a shame that we weren’t celebrating a win.
The betting is Roosters $1.35 Rabbitohs $3.20 so yet again the evil empire is favoured to win. I say bring on the Chooks, Souths by 4.
A bright note before I go is that the leadership structure at the Rabbitohs looks solid now going forward. With Blake Solly at the helm, Wayne Bennett in charge & Jason Demetriou waiting in the wings we are in good hands. The club is also as closely aligned with the Juniors as it’s ever been & once this Covid fog clears that partnership will continue to flourish.
On Rabbitohs Radio podcast this week we speak to Souths CEO Blake Solly, if you haven’t listened yet please give us a go.
On the podcast this week we speak to Souths CEO Blake Solly, check out our debutant Troy Dargan & look at the moster clash with the Roosters at Bankwest Stadium.
Newly appointed Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly is a fine administrator & in our dealings with him he has only ever been welcoming & friendly. We spoke to The Juniors Chairman Keith McCraw about Blake. Keith has put a lot of work into building a close relationship between the junior & senior clubs. Keith said “Blake is an absolute champion & a good operator, we are in good hands”.
Troy Dargan is a 22 year old former Australian Schoolboy and NSW U20s representative as well as representing Cook Islands at Test level. Dargan played for the Guildford Owls, Wentworthville Magpies, Parramatta Eels, Brisbane Broncos & Norths Devils before arriving at Souths. A highly-regarded junior coming through the ranks at the Eels, Dargan played in the 2014 Australian Schoolboys team alongside the likes of Latrell Mitchell, Brock Lamb and Jayden Brailey and in 2016 was the Eels’ NYC Players’ Player and halfback in the NYC Team of the Year.
In 2018 it was reported that Dargan was considered for the starting half role in Round 1 for the Broncos but his NRL dream wasn’t realised. Dargan said at the time “My dad played footy and I just grew up with a football in my hand. Mum and Dad always say one of the first steps I took as a child was walking to try and kick a footy”.
“Mum and Dad said I used to sleep with a ball under my arm every night so I just grew up with a footy and then when you turn 6 and 7 that’s when you start playing and never looked back.
Take a look at his highlight package in the 2019 QLD Cup (below) & you can’t help but be impressed. Dargan is quick, runs the ball, has magic ball skills & a great left foot kicking game. If he can bring that form to the Rabbitohs he’s going be a star in the NRL. On the podcast last year in Season 1 Episode 12 Grand Final Heroes, Scott Sattler praised Dargan, saying he is a speedy halfback & Wayne Bennett is a big fan.
Rabbitoh Of The Week
We spoke to Michael ‘Gibbo’ Gibson about his life as a Rabbitohs supporter. Gibbo is a regular at Bourke Street Bakery & says “If you like mochas and hot chocs you will love the Bourke Street Bakery ones because they use real chocolate buds in there instead of chocolate powder, hardly any joints do that”.
“I’m an inner city boy fell & in love with Rabbitohs in late 80’s while living at Woolloomooloo. I grew up in The Rocks/Millers Point (Ex Rabbitoh Chris Caruana is from same area).”
“My mother and family are Carrions & grew up in Douglas and Mount Streets in Redfern. My uncles Ray and Roy Carrion were Souths fans.”
“My favourite Souths players over the years are Phil Blake for his individual brilliance and Tugger for his craftiness in the late 80’s. I also loved watching Tricky Trindall in the 90’s, he was probably my favourite player to watch of all of them, he was a standout when we were doing it tough. I liked watching John Sutton come through mid 2000’s especially at 5’8, I loved his skill set and left hand offload & more recently watching Cam Murray in attack and defence has been amazing.”
“I haven’t got a favourite moment but just having a quality team to follow each year is my highlight and one that my kids are excited to follow especially after those dark years we had, that’s what I’m happy about. I predict another grand final win before Wayne retires.”
“My kids Chloe and Blake are now mad Rabbitohs fans even though we moved out of the Souths area 2 years ago. My son Blake loves Cody Walker and wants to be him all the time, even my daughter pretends to be John Sutton when they are running around tackling each other.”
“I walked out to my first amateur fight with Reggie Rabbit leading me out to the sounds of Glory Glory. This was a highlight of my sporting life by far.” Michael Gibson
The Juniors is opening its doors on Monday 1st of June 2020
It’s a miserable windswept rainy Tuesday afternoon in 1987 at the Richmond Race Club harness track in Sydney.
A race is about to start & Newbridge Boy driven by the 17 year old kid from Redfern Darren Brown is raring to go with his ears pricked. Newbridge Boy is a long shot to win, its a strong field with most of the other runners more fancied.
The Atlantic Star has the legend John E Binskin at the helm & Sunlit Path, the odds on favourite has the lady Leanne Beynon in the sulky.
This isn’t the group one Inter Dominion Final or the Miracle Mile, it’s the Intermediate Handicap at a mid week meeting but the legend, the lady & the kid from Redfern are about to go to battle on the track. This is a special moment in sport.
The first harness race in this country was held in Parramatta in 1810 & was won by a horse named Miss Kitty. I’m going to tell you a story about a harness race win that took place 177 years later. It isn’t a famous victory, there’s no record breaking margin or notoriety other than for the people involved. It is however an important milestone in the life of one man, a man who will forever remember the day he took on a challenge & won. That man is Darren Brown.
Darren Brown steered Newbridge Boy to victory by 10 metres in a time of 2 minutes 43.4 seconds at odds of 33 to 1 in the Intermediate Handicap from a standing start over 2020 metres. Odds on favourite Sunlit Path driven by Leanne Beynon was 2nd & The Atlantic Star driven by the late John Binskin was 3rd. Newbridge Boy was owned by W. Stolzenbach.
So Darren drove a winner at big odds but there’s a few of reasons why this should never have happened. Here’s a summary-
- Newbridge Boy hadn’t won a race since 1985 & in its last start at Gosford it ran 10th beaten by 20 metres.
- The majority of the 9 other horses in the race were better performed than Newbridge Boy & 2 of those were driven by proven harness racing stars. Sunlit Path was the odds on favourite & was handled by Leanne Beynon who was Sydneys’ leading female trainer/driver of the 80s & 90s. The Atlantic Star was driven by group 1 winner John Binskin, a man regarded as one of the finest horseman ever in the sport. To this day there is a Binskin Lounge at Bankstown Paceway. Its named in honour of the Binskin family racing trio of Johns’ father Jack & his son Darren. All of whom are harness racing stars.
- Darren Brown was a kid with limited experience so his presence in the race was assumed to be ‘making up the numbers’.
- Roughies don’t usually lead all the way, they sometimes go to an early lead but more often than not capitulate & stop like they’ve been shot with a gun way before the winning post.
There is however more than one reason why Darren did win-
- He grew up in Great Buckinghham Street Redfern where they breed them tough. Darrens’ will to win would see him play over 200 first grade rugby league games in both Australia & England.
- Darren was a naturally gifted driver, Darren Binskin said “Darren (Brown) from the get go sat in the gig well & looked like a harness driver. He also took his opportunity.”
- The horse liked the wet & had previously won a race at Richmond.
- A horse that was challenging for the lead James Dee broke & galloped handing Newbridge Boy an easy quarter in the lead as they heard the bell for the last lap.
THE STORY OF THE RACE & THE MAIN PARTICIPANTS
Les Brown & Darren Brown
Les Brown was born in Redfern in 1949, is a Rabbitohs rugby league supporter & played halfback in the lower grades for the Bunnies. Les was a successful harness trainer/driver who tasted Group 1 success in 2006 with his horse Bold And Regal. The Brown family were all fighters, 3 of Les’ uncles fought at the Sydney Stadium one night. Les’ uncle Darby Brown was a champion boxer who held the welterweight title & was inducted in the Australian National Boxing Hall Of Fame in 2015. Les’ son Darren Brown was born in 1969, is a Rabbitohs supporter & played 208 first grade rugby league games in both Australia & England.
“When Darren was 14 or 15 years old you couldn’t keep him off the horses” Les said. “So if I didn’t let him drive he used to blow up all the time. So he began driving for me occasionally & on the day of the race I had to work. Darren took charge, he took Newbridge Boy to Richmond, geared it, drove it & drove it good too.
“I was only 17 years old & there was a bit of pressure on me to take the horse there” Darren said. “I had to do everything, it was a wet day pouring rain. The horse wasn’t a great one but he used to go well on this track. He liked the grass surface, a wet track & the way of going so everything was in his favour on this day.
“Newbridge Boy was 33 to 1 but we thought he had a big hope. There was an odds on favourite in the race (Sunlit Path) but I was quietly confident. I knew we were going to lead and early in the race the driver of the favourite loomed up to pressure me but then she backed off & I got a couple of easy quarters. Around the home turn I kicked away but back then Richmond had a 300 metre straight & the winning post took forever to get past. Half way down the straight I got a little bit excited & hit the horse a few too many times with the old cane whip & copped a fine from the stewards.
“In the end I won the race & beat a couple legend drivers in Leanne Beynon & John Binskin, it was a great thrill. I drove Newbridge Boy in his next start at Penrith & he had run a quick time at Richmond so he was the favourite. We started from the back & he was a pretty fierce horse & used to get on the bit. Once we were away I couldn’t really hold him so I had to go around the field & sit in the worst position in the race in what is called the ‘death seat’ which is just outside the leader. Anyway the horse faded in the run, ran last & the punters booed me off the track.” (Ironically the winner of that race was My Triumph driven by John E Binskin)
Leanne Beynon was a successful female harness trainer/driver. Beynon won races at Sydneys’ Harold Park & was also victorious in the time honoured feature PJ Hall Memorial (Perc Hall) in 1998 with Our Big Monte over 2420m at Penrith Paceway.
In 1987 Darren Brown was dating Leannes’ sister Michelle & Darren stayed at the Beynon house the night before the race. The Beynons were a harness racing family & the girls father John Beynon was highly regarded in the industry.
“They were talking their horse Sunlit Path up” Darren recalled, “They said their horse was flying (it had won 5 races previously including a win at Richmond) & they were going to rip into me & attack me if I took the lead & that I would eventually have to hand up to them (give them the lead). I said we’ll see on the day then in the race she attacked me early but I got the bikkies & had the last laugh so to Leanne thanks a lot!
“Leanne was talented from the start & was good with the horses” said Darren Binskin. “She was one of the first ladies in the sport & did exceptionally well. Leanne also had a lot of friends at Bankstown who had her back & would look out for her”.
We also heard that Leanne had a fiery side that would flare up when she was crossed. This passionate trait was no doubt an asset for a lady making her way in a male dominated sport.
John E Binskin
John E Binskin was the leading harness driver (36 wins 1978-79) & trainer (30 wins 1980-81) at Harold Park in Sydney. Johns’ son Darren was also top trainer (42 wins 1995-96) at the same venue which was the home of harness racing in NSW until it was closed in 2010 & relocated to Menangle in western Sydney.
In 1988 John Binskin drove Our Maestro to win the group one Inter-Dominion Final at Harold Park. In the same race Johns’ son Darren drove Karalta Gift to 6th place & shook hands with his dad after they both had passed the winning post. Also at the track was Johns’ father Jack who was celebrating his 81st birthday.
“There’ll be a lot of tears shed around this course because (Binskin) has been a very poplular driver over many years” said ABC caller David Morrow. “I’m sure his father Jack will be shedding a little tear because his son has finally cracked it for an Inter Dominion championship”,
The Binskins are a famous racing family. There is a Binskin Lounge at Bankstown Paceway named after John, his father Jack & son Darren (As told to me by Chad Bentley son of the late Les Bentley former longtime Bankstown Paceway President). Tragically John passed away in 1999 after he collapsed in the Binskin Lounge. Darren Binskin says that he takes comfort in the fact that his dad died with friends around him & didn’t die alone.
“JE was a great reinsman who just had an aura about him’ said Darren Brown. “He had a distinctive style, his famous silks were black with green stars & he wielded the whip in his left hand. After I won the race on Newbridge Boy, John lent over the sulky & shook my hand, it’s a moment I’ll never forget”.
The Richmond track, based at Londonderry, was first opened as a thoroughbred and harness track and held its first meeting on December 17, 1912. Aside from four years during the depression, the track has continually held race meetings until the present day.
The gallops ceased racing at Richmond in 1952 and the Club then operated solely with its trotting licence until October 1955 when greyhound racing was introduced on the straight track on site on Saturday afternoons. The Richmond trotting track was grass & with a straight of 300m long which was the longest in NSW.
On December 30, 1997, the last harness meeting was held at Richmond is now used solely for greyhound racing.
We visited Bankstown Paceway & Darren took us to Ellis Street which is a short walk from the track. Almost every house in Ellis Street once had stables in the backyard & it was here that the Browns, Binskins & Beynons all lived in 1987. In this era the sound of horses walking to & from the track all morning was the norm. These days many of the houses have been developed into housing blocks including Les Browns’ old home. Only a handful of trainers remain in the area & only 22 meetings are held per year at Bankstown.
Whilst at the track we were given a tour by operations manager Steve Thurlow. Steves’ son Ricky drove his first harness winner in his first ever drive for Les Brown.
Chad Bentley recalled fond memories of weekly family visits the track. “It was what all the local families did” said Chad. “We’d all go for a night out & have a great time”.
John Binskins’ wife Rita was a regular at Harold Park on Friday nights & would sit in the same seat every week with her friend Shirley. Rita was loved by all. Former Sydney race caller John Tapp described her as “a special lady”.
“My mums a very classy lady & always dressed immaculately” said son Darren. “People loved to talk to her because she was a bit of an entertainer”.
Long time Harold Park bookie Billy Trotter owned Bold And Regal, the horse that Les Brown trained to win the Group 1 Sires Stakes. “Billy took everyones money” said Les Brown. “and hes still got it”.
Peter Tunks, Greg Hawick & the defeat of the Dogs – RABBITOHS RADIO
Written By Steve Mavin
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