Rugby league player John Rhodes
Rugby league player John Rhodes

A cold beer with . . . footballer with a Test secret

MICHAEL NUNN

IF I was going to have a beer with John Rhodes I could have it in his pub in Yeppoon.

The Panther, Seagull, Bulldog, state and Test outside back blazed a path in Brisbane and Sydney. We sat down and poured a beer to talk about a great career.

You debut for Wests Panthers 1967. How did you end up playing for Wests?

I was a Wests Mitchy junior so wasn't going to play for anyone but Wests. I made my debut that year and played 15 games. I got some offers from Sydney, Balmain, Souths and Canterbury and took the Canterbury offer.

Fifteen games is not too many but you are off to Sydney?

They were the Berries in 1968, not the Bulldogs yet. I had a good relationship with Bob Hagan and he said Canterbury would be a good fit.

You're right, 15 games isn't too many but I will tell you a secret. When I got to Canterbury, one of the Test selectors who was associated with the club pulled me aside and said you were a shadow player for the Kangaroo Tour. I was one injury away from going on a tour with the Test side after 15 games.

Rugby league player John Rhodes
Rugby league player John Rhodes

You played three games for NSW in 1968. How did you handle playing for the Blues?

It didn't bother me too much. It was just what had to be done. I knew once I went to Sydney that if I got picked for rep sides it would be for the Blues. I was on the bench for my first game but the Blues side had Beetson, Langlands and Raper in the side. It was pretty good company.

Your Test debut was at the SCG against Great Britain and a win 25-10. What do you remember?

I had only played seven more games for Canterbury. I was only 20 and played 22 first grade games by now so I was pretty fearless and just taking it all in.

You come back to Brisbane and play for Wynnum. Why not Wests?

Wests didn't want me. I asked them first and they weren't too interested in me so I took Nev Hornery and Peter Inskip with me to Wynnum. That Wests team was about to go very well so they thought they were sorted for outside backs.

Then in 1975 and 1976 you play for Queensland and Australia again. You score a try for Queensland in a rare win.

Very rare win indeed, we won game one 14-8. Peter Leis and myself got a try. It was great to play for Queensland and then to be picked for Australia again eight years after my last one and play another seven Tests was good way to end my career.

You retire at 27 and dive head first into coaching with Valleys.

I was pretty young but went into coaching and then we made the grand final in 1978 and got beaten 14-10. We led 10-9 with a few minutes to go but Greg Holben scored after we kicked the ball away and the Tigers had the win.

I thought I would be coaching for a while after making the grand final but Ross Strudwick wanted to coach Valleys and threatened to take seven players with him to Wynnum if he didn't get to coach so I was out. I moved to Yeppoon and bought a pub and I am still here.