Bruce Walker was a young second-generation Tiger in Brisbane before the Bears of North Sydney and Manly came a knockin’ then came a Kangaroo Tour in 1978.
This hard-working forward was a 10/10 in Rugby League Week and was the last player to play for Queensland and New South Wales.
Bruce "Goldie" Walker had a truly golden career.
Bruce Walker Q&A
You started out in Brisbane at the Tigers as a 17-year-old in 1968 - good days?
Dad played for the Tigers; I grew up with his premiership pennant hanging in our house. I used to stare at it. He won with the Tigers the year before I was born in 1950. I was really only going to play for Easts Tigers, I went to Villanova and we lived at Norman Park. I played under 17 and under 18 and then reserve grade and first grade in 1970. My first contract for Easts was $200 a year and I went home and told dad I couldn’t believe it. I was making $35 a week as an apprentice and honestly football money was never bigger than my job money. I didn’t play too much league too be honest. At school they encouraged rugby union and then I left in grade 10 to start work and dad said concentrate on your apprenticeship. So when I was 17, I had only played one year of league.
Who were your Brisbane heroes?
Barry Muir, Johhny Gleeson and Dennis Manteit. I went to a Kangaroos reunion and got the courage to go up to Barry Muir and I told him you were my hero, and he was a lovely bloke. I was so nervous; just turned 60 and approaching Barry Muir to say you’re my hero and I was petrified.
The Bears from 1971 - what made you make the move?
Bears coach Roy Francis came to Brisbane to get Len Dittmar from Brothers but signed me instead after seeing me in a reserve grade final. I was only 19 and wanted to go to Sydney, so had no hesitation. The Bears were very frustrating - we would beat the top of the table one week then lose to the bottom of the table the next week.
Bears until 1978 and then a move to Manly?
I would have stayed at the Bears, I had seven great years there and I said to the Bears at the start of the season I wanted three years and I would stay on. They said you will be the first person we sign at the end of the year. Got to end of 1977 and I was living at Manly at Dee Why and I sat down with Manly and they asked 'what do you want?'. I said 'three years' and they said how about four and I said 'deal'. Manly were such a strong team, they’d won in three grand finals already in the 70’s.
You make the 1978 grand final but the strange twist is the draws and playing six games in 24 days.
Yeah, we finished third behind the Sharks and Wests, played the Sharks and lost, then drew with Parramatta so that got replayed, won that replay and beat Wests, through to the grand final and another draw and won the replay. It was momentum. Once we were going, we just kept going. I never felt like we would be stopped. Frank Stanton said we run off at half time to show we aren’t tired. He wanted to send a message.
You play for New South Wales in 1975 and beat Queensland by a point.
I knew when I went to Sydney that a chance to play for New South Wales might come up and it did in 1975. I was very proud to play for New South Wales. I am a Queenslander and a proud Queenslander but that was what the situation was and I had no issue with it. I go to the True Blues dinner every year.
Then finally a Queensland jumper Game I of 1982. How important was playing for Queensland for you? You’re the 57th player to play for Queensland and New South Wales.
It was very important. It was the first (three-match) series and I am proud of that fact. I have my FOG number (#25) and a cap for playing State of Origin for Queensland and I love that fact. I was 30 when I got to play for Queensland, so it nearly slipped by. My roommate was John Ribot and it was a great week. I got dropped for Game II. I rushed up on Mortimer and they scored and of course we lost which never helps. There was a push for Norm Carr to come in and he did for Game II. To play with my two Manly mates Paul Vautin and Paul McCabe was great. Fatty was on debut too. I am the last person to play for New South Wales and Queensland.
Where is your Queensland jumper?
It’s here, it’s not framed, but I have it with my Kangaroos and Manly grand final jumpers.
I loved the player ratings in Rugby League Week and you’re one of 27 players to get a 10/10, for your game against the Roosters in 1980.
I remember that game against the Roosters. I don’t think you ever come off saying that was a 10/10, but three tries help.
1978 Kangaroo tour - what’s your best memory?
TNT called me and said we saw in the paper you’ve been picked for Australia and planning to go away for three months, can you come have a chat. I went in and they said we have a rule anyone that works for us and gets picked in any sport for Australia, we will pay your wage for the time you’re away. I thought that’s great - I was going to go anyway - but it was great. So the money went in every week for my family and I had my pocket money in England.
What’s something Bob Fulton did that stuck with you?
All games were played at 3pm either Saturday or Sunday, so Bob said we should train at 3pm on a Friday, which caused a few problems for players because they all worked. I remember John Gibbs was a teacher and he was saying 'I can’t make training by 3pm'. But Bozo was thinking ahead and couldn’t see the point of training at night and playing in the day. I couldn’t get there by 3pm either, so a few of us expressed this to Bob and he expressed back 'I will see you at 3pm'.