Part six - 1984
During our three year reign as Premiers, we were fortunate to basically have the same squad each year apart from a couple of players. In 1984, however, several of our players joined the enemy, SGIO. I won't name them but Cooper was one.
We would also have a new coach. In all, we had seven new players in the squad. But rather than have a negative effect, we just rolled along as if nothing had changed. After all, we were still playing for Normanby. That was all that mattered to us.
Our new coach, Harry Donnelly was already a Normanby legend having played with the club since 1971 and had been an integral part of the team in our 1983 campaign. Harry had been mightily impressed with Peter Younger's style of coaching and incorporated this with his own style. He would leave no stone unturned in his quest to get us to another Grand Final.
Harry was a great believer in us peaking and ebbing during the season which wasn't the norm at the time. He would push us physically and then refresh us with light periods then push again several times during the season. The reigning Premiers from the Commercial League, Hamilton Cities, would join us in the A1 competition. They had quite an imposing record in that League apparently amassing an unbeaten run of seventy odd games. Plenty of people in the Metropolitan League were looking forward to the Normanby v Cities clash about four games into the season. They had a very physical side, mostly from the Waterside Workers Club, who had intimidated their opponents.
The stage was set for the showdown of the respective Premiers which would take place at their home ground at Hamilton. I remember the game clearly and it was bruising from the start. They would try the bully tactics on us from the outset. Some of our young blokes really stood up to them and gave plenty back. It was a very good, close game which we held on to win with some great defence on our line. I do believe this game set us up for the year although they would get revenge in the Presidents Cup later in the season. Our old foes the Natives would personally take a disliking to Cities and would have some fierce run ins with them. Natives would beat us to the Minor Premiership by one point. SGIO were a very strong outfit and finished third ahead of Cities and Newspapers rounded out the top five. Hansens didn't make the finals for the first time in a long time.
During the season, we as a club weren't happy with some of the decisions the League were making and were keeping our options open about where we would play in 1985. We were hellbent on making it four in a row and Harry had our minds on the job. We had a wonderful mix of attacking players and prided ourselves on our defence.
Our for and against coming into the finals was 359 for and 164 against. The second best for, Natives had scored 461, and easily the best defence in the league. Natives progressed to the Grand Final and we had a really tough win over SGIO for the right to play the Natives. We would meet SGIO in the decider the following year.
The final would be at Gibson 4 again which was almost as bare and dusty as the year before. As was the case every other year, we would train at Gilbert Park the day before every finals game. We had a light run followed by the tradition of throwing the coach and the Manager into Ithaca Creek after training.
The mood the next day was the complete opposite. Harry had us primed to rip in against our old rivals. We knew we were fitter than the Natives but we needed to contain their flair. In all of the many games I have played against the Natives, this is the only one I can remember where there wasn't an all in. There wasn't one punch thrown all day. They knew we wouldn't be intimidated. We led 9-2 at the break with Mick Wall scoring the first of a double. They would get within a point of us at 15-14 midway through the second half but our fitness shone through and we went on to win 27-14. Try scorers were Mick Wall 2, Alan Soldatenko and Bob Taylor one each. Ian Dobbs kicked five goals and a field goal.
Sadly, this would be our last game in the Metropolitan league with our club entering us in the rapidly expanding Public Service League which would become the pinnacle very rapidly. Our record in The Metropolitan League is stunning. In our twelve seasons, we won seven premierships. The early Eighties in the league were heady days indeed with names such as Internationals Arthur Beetson and Robin Orchard plus Alan Currie, Wayne Hale etc running around. But we were about to embark on one of our biggest gambles yet by entering a new League after winning four in a row in the Metro League.