ONE OF OUR BEST: Paul Pyers (second from left) during his time with the South Grafton Rebels. Pyers was selected in the Rebels Team of the Century.
ONE OF OUR BEST: Paul Pyers (second from left) during his time with the South Grafton Rebels. Pyers was selected in the Rebels Team of the Century. Contributed

The Pope: A man of mischief

RUGBY LEAGUE: Paul 'Pope' Pyers was a larrikin, a prankster and loved a punt, but above all he was a bloody good footballer.

Pyers passed away over the long weekend in his home at Carseldine, Brisbane and will always be remembered as the kid from the bush that punched above his weight on the footy field.

Born and raised in South Grafton, Pyers was described as the complete rugby league player, capable of slotting into any position in the backline.

A magical player with ball in hand, Pyers played for South Grafton from 1950-53 and captained-coached the Rebels in 1964.

He also represented Queensland on 11 occasions and played first grade for Eastern Suburbs and Parramatta.

Arguably the finest player to wear the red and white of the Rebels, Pyers was an automatic selection in South Grafton Rugby league Club's Team of the Century.

In 1959 Pyers was part of the Queensland side that defeated New South Wales 3-1 in an era of NSW dominance and from all reports was a standout for the maroons.

Rugby league journalist at the time, Steve Ricketts wrote: "Centres Paul Pyers and John Kelly were magnificent in attack with Pyers showing neat footwork to beat Reg Gasnier and then short kicking for winger Des Hendry to score in the corner."

An Australian team was selected from the 1959 series with only seven Queenslanders included in the 26-man squad.

The Courier Mail's Jack Reardon suggested at least 10 players should have gained selection for the Kangaroos and rated Paul Pyers non-selection as a glaring omission.

Former teammate and close friend Al Cannon remembers Pyers as being a character on and off the field and a brilliant footballer.

"He was a character in his own right, a real prankster and a brilliant footballer who had all the skills," Cannon recalled.

"He could play in any position on the football field and was a mad punter. I remember in a group game he broke through the defence heading for the tryline with defenders 30m behind him.

"As he ran down the sideline he heard someone's transistor blasting out a horse race with his horse in it. He stopped on the spot and waited for support so he could hear the end of the race."

Pyers played with and against some of the best footballers to lace on a boot including St George captain and legend Norm Provan. During a game between Eastern Suburbs and the Dragons, Pyers copped a bit more than he bargained for.

Al Cannon takes up the story: " I'm pretty sure it was when the 'Pope' was playing for Easts and he slipped away from the scrum base and nailed Norm Provan.

"He told me he looked up at Provan and told him he was old and too slow. Ten minutes later he said his eyes opened and he was in hospital with five fractures to his jaw.

"He said Provan said to him later while he was laying in hospital, 'Not bad for an old fellow.'"

Paul Pyers was a man who lived life to the full. Loved his football, loved a bet on the nags and will be remembered as a rugby league player who had the crowd on their feet every time he touched the ball.

Paul Pyers funeral will be held on Friday at 11am at the Albany Creek Crematorium in Brisbane.



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