Remembering the players who left us in 2022: Part 1

    2022 was both a year to remember and a year some of us will want to forget. But before it fades away, let’s take some time to acknowledge some of the rugby league greats who left us for good in 2022.

    Bill Ashurst

    Ashurst was a tough English second rower with the ball skills of a halfback. Ashurst never took a backward step on the field, was never far from a blue, was a very good goal-kicker, and had an excellent general kicking game.

    He debuted with Wigan as a 20-year-old centre in 1968 before shifting to the back row, and spent six years with the club before joining the Penrith Panthers on a record contract in 1974. He walked away from his Penrith contract prior to the commencement of the 1977 season and finished his career in England. He played three Tests for Great Britain.

    Bill Ashurst passed away in June 2022.

    Paul Broughton OAM

    Paul Broughton was a handy footballer in his day, but will be best remembered for the contribution he made to the game following his retirement as a player. Broughton, a five-eighth or lock forward, was graded with the Dragons in 1952, captained the team to the third grade premiership in 1953, and made his first grade debut for the club the following year.

    He left St George at the end of 1954 and spent a couple of seasons as captain/coach with Corrimal in the Wollongong competition, before returning to the NSWRL with Balmain in 1957, but was injured in his first game for the club and retired from the game.

    He then returned to the Dragons in a coaching capacity, winning three lower grade premierships in four years, and in 1968 was the club’s chairman of selectors. He coached the Brisbane Brothers club in 1974, Balmain in 1975 and 1976, and then Newtown in 1977 and the early part of 1978, until he was dropped in favour of Johnny Raper.

    (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    He spent some years working as a development officer for the NSWRL and then was instrumental in the resurrection of rugby league on the Gold Coast and the formation of the Gold Coast Titans. Paul Broughton was generally ahead of the game, not afraid to think outside of the square, and left a lasting impression on those he mentored.

    Paul Broughton passed away in December 2022.

    Tony Brown

    Brown was a Newtown junior, and after being graded with the club in 1953, made his first grade debut in Round 5 of the 1956 season, in a 14-4 victory over the Dragons. In 1957 he was selected in the City Seconds team alongside half Bobby Bugden, and then really hit his representative straps the following year, being selected for City Firsts, NSW and then for Australia against England in the Ashes series.

    He went on to play 11 Tests for Australia and was a Newtown stalwart until he left the club at the end of the 1964 season, to join Penrith in the second division, and ultimately captain them in their inaugural first grade game in 1967, retiring later that year due to injuries. In 2008, he was named in the Newtown RLFC Team of the Century.

    Tony Brown passed away in April 2022.

    Jim Cody

    Jim Cody was one tough hombre, a Western Suburbs legend, and one of the best forwards to play the game in the 1960s.

    He was a Wests junior and made his first grade debut as a 19-year-old alongside the likes of Wests’ hard men Noel Kelly, Kel O’Shea, John Hayes and Kevin Smyth, and he soon established himself as their equal when it came to dishing out punishment to the opposition. He played 11 seasons with the Magpies, and the fact that he never played a Test match bears testament to the quality of the forwards playing in that era.

    Jim Cody passed away in November 2022.

    Bob Cooper

    Cooper was a big, bad back rower who came from rugby union to join Western Suburbs in 1976, and made his first grade debut for the club a year later. He was selected for NSW in the inaugural State of Origin game in 1980 and was effectively rubbed out two years later in the Round 18 clash with Illawarra when he joined a brawl that left several Steelers players on the ground.

    He received a record 15-month suspension for his involvement in the stoush, played AFL during the 1983 season, and was thwarted by injury when he attempted to return to the NSWRL in 1984 with North Sydney.

    Bob Cooper passed away in December 2022.

    Oscar Danielson

    Danielson was probably the first Samoan to play in the NSWRL. He joined Newtown in 1970 from the Marist club in Auckland, after representing both NZ and NZ Māori between 1964 and 1969. Unfortunately, in those days, once he moved to Australia he was no longer eligible to represent NZ.

    He was a no frills front row forward blessed with good ball skills, and he never gave an inch on the field. He spent three seasons with Newtown, before taking on the captain/coach role with the Corrimal Cougars in the Wollongong competition in 1973.

    Oscar Danielson passed away in March 2022.

    Des Drummond

    If asked to name a fast, black, English Test winger, most people will answer “Martin Offiah”, and with good reason, but let me tell you, Des Drummond was probably just as fast, once clocking 10.85 seconds for the 100 metres, a time below the Olympic qualifying time of the day.

    Born in Jamaica and growing up in Northern England, Drummond made his debut for Leigh as a teenager, and went on to play over 570 games in a 22-year career, and score over 250 tries, a remarkable feat for a player just 1.7m tall and weighing less than 80 kilograms. He also played 29 Tests for England/Great Britain and played 9 games for Western Suburbs in 1986.

    Des Drummond passed away in January 2022.

    Jason Edwards

    Edwards was a talented winger who really knew his way to the try-line, once scoring four tries as a 19-year-old for Country Seconds in their annual clash against City in 1990. Hailing from the Macquarie Scorpions club, he joined the Newcastle Knights in 1991 and played five games in the top grade over the next couple of years.

    Jason Edwards passed away in March 2022.

    Roy Ferguson

    One of the toughest centres to play the game, Ferguson was the first player to have the distinction of playing 100 games for each of two clubs during his career. Originally from the NSW Central Coast, he made first grade debut with Magpies in 1964 and played 101 first grade games for them over the next eight years.

    St George’s Graeme Langlands was reportedly tired of playing against the hard-tackling centre, so encouraged him to join the Dragons in 1972, where he went on to play another 100 games in the top grade. How he never once played a game of representative football is an absolute mystery.

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    Roy Ferguson passed away in December 2022.

    Olsen Filipaina

    Filipaina came from Auckland to join Balmain in the 1980 season after playing nine Tests in the centres for NZ. He was a huge man, and almost impossible to stop when he put his mind to it. He had five years with the Tigers, before playing a season with the Roosters in 1985, and then finished his career with North Sydney across the 1986 and 1987 seasons.

    Although a very good player at club level, his form was often inconsistent, but he was a totally different proposition when he was wearing the black jersey of NZ, and he gained Test selection on more than one occasion from reserve grade. He went on to play 28 Tests for NZ, and in 2007 was named as one of New Zealand’s Legends of League.

    Olsen Filipaina passed away in February 2022.

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