From left the Lower Clarence footballing brothers John, Kevin and Paul Plummer.
From left the Lower Clarence footballing brothers John, Kevin and Paul Plummer.

Three aces in the pack

There is a rule in the card game of poker that a full hand beats three of a kind but when you consider the three of a kind in the Plummer family of Maclean they certainly were a full hand in the rugby league scene along the Clarence and beyond.

The trio, John, Paul and Kevin form an impressive band, each of the three among the best in the area ever to lace on a boot.

All three learned their football on the Lower River, all tough, all fast, all fine readers of a game, all impressive pointscorers and surefire defenders, good sportsmen, real crowd pleasers and good citizens.

The eldest, John, was lured up-river from Maclean for his final two seasons, 1968 and 1969, as captain/coach of South Grafton and had Paul playing alongside him in 1968, before he returned to the Lower Clarence.

John retired after the South Grafton stint but Paul continued his participation with Lower Clarence.

Kevin, like his older brothers, played through the age divisions of the Lower River Minor League.

He also played three seasons of Under-18s and in 1973 helped the Magpies win their initial Group One first grade grand final.

Attending university, he played two seasons with Clovelly United, then first grade for The University of NSW and had two seasons, reserve and first grade with Eastern Suburbs Rugby League Club.

The eldest of the brothers, John Charles Plummer was born at Maclean in October 1942, son of Vincent Joseph and Daphne Helen (nee Shannon) Plummer.

His brother Paul Francis Plummer came along in November 1943 and then Kevin Vincent Plummer some years later, in March, 1956.

They have four sisters in Judith, Anne, Maree and Frances.

It was only natural the three boys would be outstanding footballers, it was bred in them through the mixture of the Plummer and the Shannon blood, both families household names in sport in the Lower Clarence area.

Vincent or Vinnie Plummer as he was often known, was a prominent footballer during the 1920s and 1930s and won at least one premiership with the Brushgrove Rugby League club.

Perhaps his three sons, each good kickers of the football, were goaded into performing well seeing their sister Maree kick goals barefooted in pick-up games of football played in the family backyard.

Each of the seven siblings began schooling at St Joseph's Infants and Primary school in Maclean.

John and Paul followed with four years each at St Joseph's Secondary School.

Kevin who planned to go on to university did four years at St Aloysius College in Grafton and then two years at Holy Spirit College (these days McAuley Catholic College) to gain the HSC.

At the various schools the boys played the then standard sports of cricket in summer and rugby league in winter plus the occasional games of tennis.

On leaving school John's first job was for two weeks, 10 hours a day, cleaning fish, mainly mullet, at the Maclean Fishermen's Co-op.

In 1958 he began employment with the Post Master Generals (PMG) Department at the Maclean Post Office, delivering telegrams by day and in alternate weeks working the telephone exchange at night.

It was in 1960 John passed a clerk's course at the GPO in Sydney and he has worked in a variety of post offices in upgrading positions since.

His first posting was to Cootamundra and he played his initial first grade football there, two seasons as lock in the Cootamundra blue and white jumpers in the Group Nine competition.

For 1962 and part of 1963, he was halfback with the Temora Dragons and in the latter half of 1963 he was posted back to Maclean and rejoined the Lower River Rugby League Club playing in the Northern Region of the Group Two competition.

Lower River won the minor premiership that year and the following season, 1964, with John in second row and Paul five eighth, Lower River beat the Clem Rankin-led Grafton Ghosts in the grand final.

They repeated the effort in 1965 with talented Englishman Jim Hooper as captain/coach, Paul Plummer centre and John Plummer lock, beating Coffs Harbour 21-5 on the Grafton Showground.

When Lower River moved into the Group One competition in 1966, again with Hooper as captain/coach, the club changed name to Lower Clarence and switched from the red, white and blue to colours of black and white and became known as The Magpies.

They won nine of their 18 games to finish sixth on 18 points and just miss out on a semi finals berth.

The following year, 1967, John Plummer married Maclean Hospital nurse Noeline Ensbey and they have a daughter Mary Anne who is a journalist and son Stephen, a teacher at Cecil Hills High School.

John, who was working in the PMG office in Grafton was appointed captain/coach of the South Grafton Rebels in 1968 and Paul moved up-river to join him.

The Rebels in taking fourth place on the ladder became the only Clarence Club to make the 1968 semi finals and after beating Marist Brothers in Lismore they lost to South Lismore in the preliminary final.

The following year, John in his final playing season, again led the Rebels, who once more finished fourth in the point score but lost out to Ballina in the minor semi-final played at Ballina.

John was transferred on promotion with the PMG to Narrandera in 1970 and he gave away playing football, although he continued to coach school teams.

Other job transfers came, to Bathurst and then Wollongong where he was regional manager and then, deciding on a change of pace he and Noeline bought and ran the Avaleen Lodge Motel at Nowra.

"One day I had 900 people working for me and the next just nine," John said.

"We were in that motel for four years before we came to Coffs Harbour in semi-retirement managing a motel and then we retired outright last year.

"These days I do lots of beach walking, I love fishing , playing golf and enjoying family and life."

Paul Plummer, who learned the butchery trade, worked for the Co-operative Butchery for 14 years at Maclean, Ulmarra and Yamba then set up in business for himself with his own milk run for another 14.

He worked in the hotel industry at Boggabri for a while, was licensee of the Ryan Hotel in Lismore and later ran the fish shop at the Maclean Fish Co-Op.

In his football, besides a 1993 Group Two reserve grade premiership with Lower River and those Group Two dual first grade premiership wins of 1964 and 65, another was to come in 1971.

That year the John Gahan led Magpies finished fourth in the Group One first grade point score on 22 points and qualified for the grand final beating Marist Brothers 20-6 in the minor semi and Casino 35-29 in the preliminary final.

In the premiership decider Kyogle, captain/coached by former Balmain player Bill Tonkin, edged out the Magpies 14-9 in a tough encounter and Paul decided to retire.

Four years previous in 1967 Paul had married Ronda Adams, daughter of police sergeant and former South Grafton Rugby League Club President, Ted Adams.

They have two daughters, Donna, an accountant and Tracey (Johnson) a nurse at Grafton Base Hospital and a much travelled son, Rodney, who is currently living and working on the Gold Coast.

The third brother, Kevin, following good results in his HSC at Holy Spirit College won a NSW Public Works Department scholarship for Civil Engineering at the University of NSW.

1973 had been a big year for him in rugby league, still eligible for Under-18s but also a vital link in the Lower Clarence first grade charge towards the grand final.

Coached by Darcy Goode, Lower Clarence won the Group One first grade minor premiership on 31 points, beat Marist Brothers 27-5 in the major semi at McKittrick Park and then beat the same club 27-13 in the grand final at Casino's Queen Elizabeth Park.

Kevin played in both the first grade and Under-18 semi finals, on different days, and scored a try in each and then turned in another top performance in the first grade premiership win.

Kevin did not play football in 1974, his first year at University, preferring to concentrate on his studies.

The following season he played five eighth for Clovelly United in the Eastern Suburbs Junior League in Sydney.

The team won the Eastern Suburbs competition unbeaten and while still Under-19 he played for the same club in 1976 and then in 1977 played first grade league for the University.

"We had a champion drinking team but did not go as well on the football paddock," he said.

Kevin graduated as a civil engineer and was posted first-up to head office of the Public Works Department in Sydney, where part of his job was working on North Coast Water Supply Schemes.

Ken Jones, CEO of Eastern Suburbs Rugby League Club in 1978 contracted him to play with the Roosters.

The great Arthur Beetson was first grade coach but Kevin was mainly playing reserve grade although he did have three games in first grade.

It was much the same in 1979 when another Australian icon, Bob Fulton, was coach and Kevin did get to play more first grade fixtures as five eighth.

Transferred to Coffs Harbour in 1980, Kevin played five eighth for the Coffs Comets in Group Two and same again in 1981, helping the side to the semi finals each time.

That was followed by a year off football, and then playing in the Coffs Comets 1983 premiership winning team for half a season before he was transferred to Port Macquarie.

It was then that he decided to concentrate on his engineering career and hung up his football boots.

These days Kevin is back in Coffs Harbour with the Department as an Executive Projects Officer, plays competition volleyball, is a recreational swimmer and contests the annual Coffs Harbour Triathlon.

It was while still in Sydney in 1978 that Kevin married Grafton girl Kerry Irwin, who is now a school teacher.

They have a son Joshua who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Sydney University with the University Medal.

Daughter Carlie is studying for a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce degrees at the same University.

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