League in Don's blood
ANTHONY Don has the DNA of a winner.
The Ghosts fullback and try-scoring machine follows in rather prestigious footsteps – his grandfather, the late Ron Willey, enjoyed an illustrious playing and coaching career in rugby league and like his grandson, played fullback.
Don has been a revelation at the Ghosts this season scoring an astonishing 13 tries in five games including a five-try-haul against Evans Head in round one.
Blessed with blinding speed and mesmerising footwork, Don could rewrite the record books this season if his try-scoring feast continues.
The record for the most tries in a season is 38 held by Shaun Laurie and Northern United’s 2009 centre Fred Waters.
Willey, who played fullback for Canterbury, Manly Warringah and Parramatta in the late 1940s to the early 1960s, scored a modest 26 tries in 201 first grade games, but it was his goal kicking and defence which highlighted his career.
Willey slotted 603 goals and probably should have represented his country on more occasions, but unfortunately a guy called Clive Churchill denied him selection.
When asked if he received any advice before his legendary grandfather died in 2004, Don lamented the fact he never got to sit down and talk rugby league with him.
“Unfortunately, my grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s and I never got to talk about league (with him), but my grandmother and aunties always talk about his playing days,” Don said.
Back in Willey’s day, fullbacks were more noted for their defence, kicking game and setting up tries for their wingers and according to one of Willey’s old mates, the former Manly-Warringah great could do it all.
“I played for NSW Universities the other Saturday and a couple of my grandfather’s old football friends came to the game to watch and told me some stories,” Don said.
“Apparently, he would always show the opposition the sideline and take them out with his cover-defence ... he was a real good defender according to his mates.”
Although too young to see his grandfather play, Don said he had seen old footage of grand finals which his grandfather coached.
“I’ve seen footage of when he coached Manly back in 1972-73 when they won the premiership,” Don said.
Willey was regarded as a masterful coach who guided Manly to their first premiership in 1972. Willey also had a proud record for NSW as the first coach to win a State of Origin series 3-0 against Queensland in 1986.
The picturesque North Sydney Oval was the venue for many hard-fought battles Willey encountered as a player and coach and Don’s grandmother Kath had a rare opportunity to see her grandson play for the first time when he ran out for NSW University.
“I was tossing-up whether to go and watch as it was raining, but I’m glad I did,” Kath said.
“He scored a length of the field try and set up two more ... he is certainly very fast.
“Jim Gartner (father of former Manly centre Russell Gartner) and his brother Clive both played with Ron and were there to watch Anthony, they were both very impressed with the way he played.”
When asked if her late husband and Anthony had similarities on the playing field, Kath had one thing to say.
“Like Anthony, Ron was also very quick and had a determined nature,” she said.
Don’s NSW University side proved too strong for Queensland with a decisive 40-22 victory and as a result the modest fullback was selected in the Australian University side to tour Great Britain in November this year.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the Grafton Ghosts tomorrow when they play Mullumbimby at a wet Les Donnelly Field, Mullumbimby.
The Ghosts have named an unchanged side to the one which defeated Northern United last week and coach Col Speed is confident his side can continue on their winning ways.
“We’ve picked the same team as last week and worked on a couple of things during the week which we needed to address after the game against United,” Speed said.
“The oval at Mullumbimby is a swamp at the best of times so with the recent rain I’m expecting conditions to be wet.”
Speed said although the Giants were below his side on the ladder in fifth place, his undefeated team will show them plenty of respect.
“Mullum are always a hard side to beat at their home ground, they seem to have a strong first and reserve grade side each time we visit,” he said.
With a general bye round next week, Speed said he was hoping several key players would be back from injury to strengthen the squad.
“The bye next week couldn’t have come at a better time. Aaron Hartmann is recovering quickly from a calf injury and Ben McLennan should be available after the break,” he said.
More good news for the Ghosts is the return of local junior Adam Elliott who moved to the Gold Coast at the start of the season.
Elliott is adept at playing in the back-row or at five-eighth and according to Speed will be an asset on and off the field.
First grade kicks off at 2.45pm on Sunday and not 5.45pm as per previous draw.
1. Anthony Don
2. Carson Galloway
3. Phil Warby
4. Khan Williams
5. Daniel Lollback
6. Daniel Roberts
7. Ryan Farrell (c)
8. Danny Wicks
9. Rhys Walters
10. Dave Emmott
11. Grant Stevens
12. Ryan Danvers
13. Don Dickson
Interchange: Nat Sewell, Liam Bland