Price is a true ambassador
GRAFTON'S Australia Day ambassador, dual rugby union and league international legend Ray Price OAM, might have been one of the hardest men ever to pull on a footy jumper, but yesterday he was all smiles as he shook hands and signed shirts, footballs and even dolls, with fans young and old.
Mr Price - or Mr Perpetual Motion as he was called in his playing days - was besieged by an enthusiastic throng outside the Grafton Community Centre yesterday as he waited for the city's Australia Day ceremony to begin.
For fans with memories long enough to take in his league playing days, which included 258 games for Parramatta, 23 league tests and eight State of Origin appearances in addition to his Wallaby jumpers, there was plenty of interest in some of the big 'contests' of the era.
His feud with St George great Rod Reddy, who gave Mr Price a tough time in the 1977 major semi-final and grand final, was one.
“Rocket (Reddy) was a great player and he certainly gave it to me in some of those games and got away with it,” Mr Price said.
“But there were plenty of times I got away with a few things against him.
“I never held a grudge against him for any of those things. You do things like that and they twist you up inside.”
For one couple, Paul and Shirley Penning, meeting Mr Price fulfilled a family ambition
“Our son was and still is a devoted Parra fan and when he was little wouldn't go anywhere without his 'Pricey' doll,” Mrs Penning said.
The couple brought the doll - a figure dressed in Parramatta's blue and yellow - for Mr Price to sign for their son, who is now 30.
Mr Price, who is one of a group of former Parramatta players who gained control of the club's board of directors, was also forthright about the direction of both the club and the modern game.
He was scathing of the club's failure to win premierships since its last in 1986.
“We should have won five since then,” he said.
“When we made the 2001 grand final it was 20 years after our first grand final win, but the club wouldn't let any of us near the team.
“Parramatta must be the only club in the competition that doesn't make use of its history.”