Footballing excitement machine
By MAX GODBEE
RON PHILLIPS started his rugby league career at St Joseph's Primary School at South Grafton then with the South Grafton Rebels, travelled a lot and played for a variety of clubs and has many moments to be proud of.
Two of those proud moments include wining first grade premierships, one with South Grafton and one with Grafton Ghosts.
Another would be representing in the North Coast High Schools 7st 7lbs team against Brisbane schoolboys in a curtain raiser to an Australian/Great Britain Rugby League Test at Brisbane's Lang Park.
A further highlight was representing in the State Aboriginal team The NSW All Blacks.
From his performances in those games Ron was chosen in the All Australian Aboriginal team, but unfortunately their tour was called off.
Ron, now living in Lismore, is remembered as one of the nicest blokes and best footballers to come out of the Clarence region.
These days he is working at a Lismore pre-school but is a regular visitor back to the Clarence.
Ron Phillips was born in South Grafton in January 1952, the son of Cecil and Iris (nee Kelly) Phillips.
Cecil Phillips was a timber worker with Pidcocks Veneer Mill on the outskirts of South Grafton.
Ron's first schooling was under the supervision of the Sisters of Mercy at St Joseph's Infants and Primary Convent School in Spring St, South Grafton.
Right from the start rugby league was his main sport although it is believed with good reason that he could have gone a long way in track and field athletics had he chosen that path.
As a student he followed St Joseph's school with study at Grafton High for a few months until the South Grafton High School was completed and opened in 1964, when he transferred to the new school.
During his months at Grafton High Ron had the choice of cricket, tennis or golf as a summer sport.
He and good friend Graeme (Grassy) Skinner chose golf and both were delighted when one Wednesday afternoon Graeme hit a hole in one at the first at the 18-hole course at South Grafton.
Ron excelled in school sport at South High particularly in rugby league and athletics, was good at his studies and gained the Intermediate Certificate 1966.
"In athletics I always did well in the sprint races and the javelin and I'm told my Under-14 school record for the javelin still stands," Ron said.
Ron was an exceptional footballer not only representing South Grafton High but was chosen as centre in the North Coast Combined High Schools 7st 7lbs team to play against Brisbane Combined High Schools at Lang Park.
"My mate, Graeme Skinner, was also in our team and was my centre partner," Ron said.
"We trained at a football camp set up at Lismore High School for a few days before going to Brisbane, where we beat our opponents in front of a huge crowd.
"When we had finished the organisers sat us down behind the dead ball line at one end of the field and we were thrilled to be so close to the Test action.
"It was tremendous representing North Coast and you can reckon how we felt getting such a ringside view of the Test match and meeting the Australian and Great Britain internationals."
On leaving school Ron joined the NSW Government Railways working as a call boy in the locomotive department.
"It was shift work and my job was to deliver notices to the train crews about when they were required to report to work etc.
"I did this till I was 16-1/2 and then did a locomotive course which included cleaning the engines and getting them ready for the drivers and firemen.
"At 17-/2 I had passed exams and qualified as an acting firemen, the youngest there.
"I had joined the Rebels Under-18 team and was with them for two years, 1969 and 1970 and we went as far as the preliminary finals each year.
"I recall some of my team mates the first year were Bill Patricks, Tom McKenna, Neville Milligan, Dennis Hardy, Malcolm Meyers, Mick Alvos, Finley Brown David Law, Barry Braund, John Lawrence and Bob Cotten and in 1970 some of those again along with by Cliff Daley, Stumpy Stevens, John Ferguson, Robert Colling and others.
"In 1971, I received my first work-away posting, transferred out west to Werris Creek as a fireman observer," Ron said.
"Werris Creek was essentially a railway town and had a population around 3000.
"They certainly love their football out that way."
Ron played for two seasons for Werris Creek in Group Four coached by former Sydney player Dave Martin.
Werris Creek reached the grand each time only to be beaten by West Tamworth.
In 1974 Ron returned to the Clarence, still with the railways, and re-signed with South Grafton.
It wasn't long before he joined many other South Grafton footballers such as Dennis Pye, Viv Hodge, Ray Pereira etc working at the South Grafton Abattoir where former South Grafton player Jack McCooey was boss.
"I have worked all the years since leaving school and enjoyed it all, but those five years at the abattoir would have to be the most enjoyable," Ron said.
John Brown who had taken over from Viv Hodge was in his first season as captain/coach of the Rebels and took the team to third in the pointscore rounds, but the team was knocked out by the Kevin Kind-led Casino Cougars in the semi-finals.
John Brown was again The Rebels player/coach in 1975 and this time the team scored 106 tries in the 16 competition rounds in winning the minor premiership.
In the major semi final Ron Phillips was one of South Grafton's five try scorers in the victory over defending premiers Lismore Western Suburbs and then beat 1974 runners-up, South Lismore, 17-8 in the grand final on McKittrick Park
Ron switched allegiance to Grafton 1976 with The Ghosts finishing eighth and The Rebels went on to again win the minor premiership.
South Grafton easily won the major semi-final and in an amazing decision that split the Group into two divided camps, Group One executives took the grand final off McKittrick Park and switched it to Lismore's Oakes Oval.
Casino had lost two out of two to the Rebels in the competition rounds, but handed out a 22-7 drubbing to the Red and Whites in the Oakes Oval premiership decider.
The following year, 1977, Ron Phillips figured prominently in the Derek Moritz-coached Grafton Ghosts' run, (16 wins in a row) to the grand final where they beat South Grafton 16-14 on the Grafton Showground in a thriller.
Ron again played for Ghosts, this time coached by Phil Young, in 1978 when they finished fourth in the pointscore, but then were knocked out by The Rebels 31-14 in the minor semi-final.
He returned to South Grafton for 1979 when the Harry Reed-coached Rebels again made the grand final, but lost out once more to Casino, coached admirably by Pat Morrissey.
After five years working a the South Grafton Abattoir Ron took on welfare work at a Junior Detention Centre in Sydney and signed up with the Windsor Rugby League Club playing in Second Division.
The club had no major success, however, in the three years Ron was with them.
Next it was a year with Cremorne in the Sydney Junior League and then two years with the Lane Cove club in the same competition.
"I then played centre/five eighth for Wanderers club in the South Sydney Junior League before deciding that at 34 years old, it was time to retire from football," Ron said.
He is married and wife Robyn is an area health worker in Lismore. There is a daughter Meaghan.
Ron is employed at the Jarjum Pre School in Lismore in a variety of capacities, including driving the school bus to pick up and later deliver the students back home.
He also does the maintenance work on the bus and assists with child care programs.
Ron is also involved in other junior care projects and last week represented his area at the three days Annual Early Childhood Conference in Coffs Harbour.
For many years Ron has been involved with touch football, first playing the game in Grafton during the 1970s.
The past season he turned out with the Rouse Marauders in the Lismore Over-45s competition with his team going through unbeaten.
Also during the past season he started coaching junior rugby league, the Under-12s, with the recently re-formed South Lismore club.
"Most of our Under-12s were playing for the first time so our aim was to gain experience and to enjoy and we certainly did both." Ron said.
"I hope to be part of the coaching action again this year as well as continuing with touch football."