When asked for his greatest rugby league moment, it wasn’t the first Ashes victory in 1950, or the defining image of Norm Provan and Arthur Summons embracing in 1963, nor was it the birth of origin in 1980 that 90 year old Clermont resident and Rugby League fan Ivan Bettridge nominated.
Despite being witness to most of the greatest rugby league moments in the game’s illustrious history, including watching what true league historians consider the real birth of origin when the 61st Battalion (Queensland) took on the 30th Regiment (NSW) in the jungles of New Guinea on the 16th September, 1945, Bettridge nominated a Clermont Bears Emerald Tigers game in 1994 as a moment in time that stands out.
“With only 10 mins left on the clock the Bears were down 18 points, then when it seemed like all was lost and the game was over, Troy (Grandson) made a break and scored. He revved the team up and the Bears scored another two tries and a field goal and won the game on the siren by just one point. There have been some hard games over the years but I have never known my sons or grandsons to ever give up until the last minute of the game has been played. It has been a pleasure watching them play.”
There are few home games played by the Clermont Bears, whether it is juniors or seniors when this iconic gentleman of Clermont is not in attendance. Perched on the grandstand, or on his fold up chair under the shade of a tree, he watches over the games and relishes in the toughness, the speed and the skill of the game. He nominates the comradeship among the players and supporters, and the get-togethers after the games as what has kept him entertained throughout the years.
In 2009, Ivan was recognised as the Clermont Bears Supporter of the Century in the Clermont Bears Team of the Century announcement, and in 2013, Ivan discharged himself from hospital to watch the Grand Final showdown between the Clermont Bears and the Emerald Tigers.
It’s no secret either that the Clermont Bears hold a special place in his memory as his favourite players of all time are all former, or current Bears players. “There are too many to name, but Bill Grainger, Bob Baird, Gordon “Nippy’ Pullar, ‘Bull’ Nolan, Gordon Murray, Dave Power, Jamie Mitchelson, Clayton Humphreys, Brendon Finger, sons Doug & Terry and Grandsons Troy, Jared and Travis all showed great toughness, agility, speed and skills, and a great passion for the game.”
There have been some significant rule changes over the past 90 years. “The six tackle rule, banning the spear tackle and head high have made the game a lot safer and quicker, and have certainly improved the game.” He also applauds the introduction of the video referee, making the game fairer, and ruling out questionable tries.
His advice for current players is simple. “Keep fit and listen to your coach, and enjoy yourself. Never under-estimate the other team and become overconfident and don’t ever think the game is won until you hear the full time siren.”
His advice to the QRL and the NRL is even simpler. “Keep it a family game so Mum, Dad and the family can all afford to go.”
And for the record Ivan was serving in New Guinea as part of the 26th Battalion during the ‘original’ State of Origin in 1945. The Japanese had surrendered, the war had finished and they were waiting to come home which probably explains why Ivan couldn’t remember the final result. However a search of the records shows Queensland won the game in Bougainville back in 1945 …