It was an end of an era in Bundaberg Rugby League (BRL) when QRL Central Region League and club support officer Dave Pearce retired last Friday after giving his heart and soul to the position for more than 14 years.
Bowen born and bred Dave, 68, moved to the Rum City on Boxing Day 1976 after playing for Whitsunday Wizards in the prestigious Foley Shield, and carved out a great career in league here as a player, coach, and administrator.
The former BRL operations officer accepted a redundancy package from the QRL but will remain involved in the game in some capacity.
“I was sent here by Ray Laird, who played football for Australia, to play for Natives as a tighthead-prop, and I played from 1977-80, then retired.
“But the best game I ever played in my life was the 1980 grand final where Natives beat Brothers 4-0 with two goals – it was just dour defence by both sides and it went from one end to the other, but no-one could score,” Dave said.
“It was a great team – it included the late John Booth, Ashley, Cameron and Tommy McIntyre, Lance Whalley, the late Barry Binnie, Russell Braund, Ron ‘Red’ Martens, Geoff Dixon and Neville Reeves, just to name a few.
“But my son Ryan was born, and we bought a house, and I retired from footy. Work-wise, I came here as a carpenter, but I became a quality assurance officer at the old abattoir.
“When my father-in-law the late Charlie Trigg retired as abattoir manager in late 77, I took over the job and did it until the abattoir closed in 1997, then I was bottle shop manager at the Old Bundy Tavern from mid-99 to 2005.”
During this time, Dave got back into the game in a big way, firstly coaching Wide Bay junior teams up to under-19 level from 1988-98.
He also took the senior coaching reins for his beloved reincarnated Easts Magpies (formerly Natives) in 1999 and was primarily responsible for guiding them out of the doldrums back to their glory days, before relinquishing the position after the 2004 season.
“I had a year off but then coached Emerald Tigers in the Central Highlands League in 2006, then the Wide Bay Development Manager position came up and I applied for the job – I didn’t think I would get it, but I did and started on January 8, 2007 and the rest is history,” Dave said.
“I have loved every bit of it, and I will miss it, but it is time to spend a lot more time with my beautiful wife Dorothy, Ryan and my two grandchildren Mia and Louis.
“Dot has been my brick – without her I would not have been able to do what I done – I was often away for weeks at a time, but she always stood by me and has been my greatest supporter.”
Dave’s biggest highlights include managing the Junior Kangaroos in their win against the Junior Kiwis in Gosford in 2000, managing the Queensland Under-19 team to defeat New South Wales the following year, and receiving a phone call out of the blue from super-coach Wayne Bennett one Saturday morning in 2002, asking him to manage the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) program which Bennett was setting up.
“The Junior Kangaroos that year included Brent Tate, Carl Webb, Justin Hodges, Braith Anasta, Ashley Harrison, Clint Newton, Mark O’Meally, Brett Finch and Corey Parker, and coach Steve Burraston,” he said.
“The Queensland under-19s I managed included Cam Smith, Dallas Johnson, a bloke called Johnathan Thurston, Aaron Payne, Bundaberg’s own Steve Irwin, and Brent Tate.
“After the players went out on the field, I cleaned out the shed and I came out five minutes behind them, and Thurston, who was a skinny kid at the time, had already scored two tries and kicked two goals for us to lead 12-0.
“Then came the phone call from the Master himself – Ryan was watching basketball and Dot was in the laundry, so I picked up the phone and the caller said ‘G’day, this is Wayne Bennett’.
“I thought it was joke and he asked me to manage the QAS and I said yes – he said more info would be sent during the week, and the paperwork arrived on the Tuesday, and suddenly people believed me.
“I did it for three years with Wayne, Kelly Egan and Paul White, and me as manager of the squad, and I followed them through from under-15 to under-17.”
Dave said the other major highlight was securing and overseeing the National Rugby League trial match between the Cowboys and Broncos at Salter Oval in 2016.
“I teed it up with Whitey (Broncos CEO Paul White) – I rang him in about 2014 and asked him about a trial and he said he needed 12 months warning as one year it is in North Queensland and the next in South Queensland,” he said.
“When I saw the 2015 trial was in North Queensland, I rang Paul straight away, and asked if we are still in the frame for next year, and he said they haven’t forgotten us and when we didn’t hear anything by May/June, I phoned again to see if Wayne is happy to go Bundy.
“And with a lot of work by many people, it became a reality – little did anyone know at the time they would be the two grand finalists, so it worked out fantastic, even though it poured down rain on the night.”
Dave described it as an “unbelievable journey”, and he was honoured with a presentation at a Men of League function on Friday night.
“I had a lot of respect for (late BRL president) Mal Breen, and Mike Ireland is carrying it on and doing his best for the game,” he said.
“Rugby League is a game that survives on volunteers, and without them, the game will suffer badly – my fear is that the more workload that is placed on them, more volunteers will be turned away and we have to ensure that they continue to get the support needed,” he said.
Autobarn Carina International Speedway has attracted an ‘almighty’ list of Modified Sedans and Production Sedans for tomorrow’s bumper meeting.
Thirty Modified Sedans will contest the ‘$2,000 to win’ Carina Classic in the division’s second major appearance in Bundaberg this season after a successful show on Boxing Night to commence the Summer of Speed series.
Former National Champion Aidan Raymont heads the nomination list after dominating the last event at Carina, but he will face tough opposition from Mick Shelford in his Holden VL Commodore, who ran second at the Boxing Day meet.
They will be joined by a pair of former national champions Brett Baxter and Max Clarke, while current Queensland champion Tim Weir is another notable inclusion in the field, along with last Saturday’s winner at Archerfield, Darran Lester, who will do double duty tomorrow in Production Sedans as well.
Victorian Matt Nelson will again fly back into Queensland for this event and will pilot a newly acquired FG Falcon while good friend Brody Fraser will pilot his Victorian registered Falcon.
The next round of the BWR Machinery Production Sedan Series is also on the program and has attracted a stellar field of 31.
Current Australian Champion Joel Berkley, fresh from a win in Rockhampton, leads the nomination list, which also includes Frank Packer, Travis Hutchison, Richard Cook, Adrian Stott, Gary Harris Jnr, Maddi McGee, Jim Cowley, and former Wingless Sprint champion Dan Moes who will make a sedan debut.
Nostalgia Sedans, Formula 500s and Late Models complement the massive program that gets underway at 4pm.
Bundaberg will chase a hat-trick of Wide Bay Goodchild Shield titles when they host Gympie in the final at Salter Oval on Sunday.
The Rum City were big winners in each of their round games, and will start hot favourites with a star-studded team that includes Queensland Country representative all-rounder Arden Lankowski and South Queensland Country duo captain Chris Duff.
Much is also at stake in the penultimate round of the Rum City Foods Intra Cup tomorrow, with Norths and East Bundy Magpies to battle it out for outright third position at Salter Oval, while Brothers who have second place secure, travel to meet the win-less Hervey Bay, who have the last-round bye and will be playing for pride in their last game of the season.
Last weekend, the centuries continued, this time with dynamic all-rounder Jackson Rehbein smashing an unbeaten 101 from just 82 balls for Isis/East in their under-16 showdown with Norths/Maryborough in the Heritage City.
Jackson then travelled to Bundaberg and played for Isis against East Bundy Magpies in Division 3, opening the bowling, and conceding just 10 runs from his four overs.
With two rounds to go in Hervey Bay Softball, United Firesticks can seal the A Grade Ladies minor premiership if they are able to defeat Terrors in Hervey Bay tomorrow.
At Brothers Sports Club, Waves Tsunamis will be hoping to shore up second spot when they take on bottom of the table Bargara Bullets.
In Men’s A Grade, United Heat must beat Misfits at the Bay to consolidate first place, as if they lose, they will be overtaken by Terrors if they beat Maryborough in what is expected to be an epic duel, while at Brothers, Waves Schooners need a win over Bargara Bombers in their bottom of the table match-up to keep their finals hopes alive.
Across The Waves coach Jason Bethune has declared that his team is “shaping up really well” for their AFL Wide Bay Takalvan’s Women’s first round battle with heavyweights Hervey Bay Bombers at Frank Coulthard Complex tomorrow.
The Bombers beat the Eagles in the 2019 grand final, and they were the two best sides again until Covid-19 brought a premature end to last season, and Jason was disappointed for the finals to be abandoned.
“But Our team is in it to win it this season and I have been incredibly impressed with how the girls have trained from day one of preseason. We had a bunch of familiar faces return and some new faces as well. The feeling around the team is excitement and eagerness to improve,” Jason said.
“What has been great to see is how the girls are pushing each other to be better and really raising the standards amongst themselves.
“The competition is very competitive, with Hervey Bay Bombers being the benchmark since the leagues inception but we are excited to play them in round 1, and go in with confidence that if we play to our ability, we can get the job done.
“But it’s not just Hervey Bay to worry about though, Bay Power and Gympie both showed tremendous improvement last season and I think the whole competition is in great shape for a very competitive season.”
Bundaberg’s other team in the League, Brothers Bulldogs, have the bye, and Gympie Cats will host Bay Power in the other match tomorrow.
Deception Bay owner/trainer Glen Boody upstaged the locals to take out the rich feature Queensland Bred 5th Grade Final at this week’s Bundaberg Greyhound meeting with Cribb Island Gal overcoming the outside box to defeat fellow Heat winner Off Break.
Two trainers claimed doubles on the program, with Stephen Bland, of Goodwood, picking up the Mixed 4th/5th Grade with Louisiana Flyer, which recorded just his fifth win in 49 starts, and a 5th Grade with Cambla Doll.
Bundaberg Greyhound Racing Club president Ricky Hassall also doubled up with Nerve Settler, which continued her good recent form in the 4th Grade, and veteran Burrum Boy, which posted just his ninth win in 99 outings in the Masters 5th Grade.
Garry Cluse, of New Moonta, took out the Novice Non Penalty with promising youngster Sunburnt Diablo, while Bribie Island’s Chris Riordan got the money in the Bargara Bakery 5th Grade with track debutant Fifty Fathoms.