Rugby league player Mitch Brennan.
Rugby league player Mitch Brennan.

A cold beer with . . . footy great ‘Mickey Lane’

MICHAEL NUNN

MITCH Brennan had a swerve and pace that scored tries wherever he went. The premiership-winning Dragon was a proud Magpie, Dolphin, Rabbit and Raider as well as Origin footballer.

Brennan didn't miss out on anything in his career including a fake name and captain of South Sydney and the Dolphins.

We swerved to the bar and sat down for two beers.

Souths Magpies, how did that happen?

My grandparents lived in West End so I would stay with them for large amounts of time because dad was in the Army and would be away. We moved around a lot but settled in West End from about 12 years old so I was always going to be a Magpie.

You're in the Souths Hall of Fame and winger in the team of the team of the century. What do the Magpies mean to you?

Souths were everything to me. My brother got a Souths jumper one year with the big black V on the front and we lived in West End- those two things pretty much decided for me.

I remember being 15 and walking around West End and Souths' Fijian connection Asaeli Batibasaga Moritekei Nabuta and Isoa Volavola came out of the pub and it might have well been Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. They were superstars for Souths.

I recently had a very humbling weekend. I went to Souths Hall of Fame dinner on the Friday night, then South Sydney had a best moments dinner and a try I scored made that list and then on the Sunday I was guest of the Dragons. Three great clubs.

Former State of Origin player Mitch Brennan. Picture: Derek Moore
Former State of Origin player Mitch Brennan. Picture: Derek Moore

You head to the Dragons but it wasn't without controversy in 1978. How often do people call out Mickey Lane?

Yeah it happens a bit. I had a man come up to me and shout Mickey Lane! Then asked what's your real name again.

I got fined $500 for trialling with the Dragons under a fake name when I was contracted to Magpies and the Senator Ron McAuliffe wasn't too happy with me. I was only young and if Harry Bath suggests you do something then you do it. I didn't think it was that bigger deal but it certainly turned out to be big when I got recognised.

I think I will get called Mickey Lane for the rest of my life.

There were 16 tries and a grand final win with a try on the big day in 1979. That's a good year. What influence did Harry Bath have on you?

Harry was ahead of his time and a visionary. He was a great Magpie and played for them at 16. He was part of the Magpies first premiership since the name change. He was a terrific player and then went to Sydney and played for Balmain and in England then came back and played in three of the Dragons huge run of premierships. Straight into coaching he came back to Souths and then the Dragons with the premierships in 1977 and 1979.

I was going down to Sydney to meet Jack Gibson and thought I better stop in and say hello to Harry and he asked what I was doing and I told him meeting Jack and trying to get down to Sydney to play and Harry said no way you play for me here at the Dragons- so that was it.

Harry could improve your game with the slightest little word. He told me once at halftime that centre keeps trying to take you on the inside. I said I have it covered Harry. He just said I know you do but he's doing it because he knows he can't take you on the outside. He knows he can't match your pace. So, I went outside him next time I had the ball and scored.

In 1981, you go to the Rabbits. Why the change?

It wasn't just one thing. I had a few injuries and thought a change might work. I wanted to play centre not wing too.

I had an incident at the Dragons where I came off injured and the Test team was picked that night. I made the team and the selectors rang the Dragons and spoke to an official and he told the selectors I was busted and wouldn't play the Test. So, they took me out of the team. I was fine and played for the Dragons the next week not even knowing I was picked in the Test team and then I got fined $500 for pulling out of a Test to play for the Dragons.

I thought might be time for change.

Then back to the Dolphins. Was that Tosser influenced?

Is there any way you get to the Dolphins without it being Tosser influenced? What a terrific club, great people and I loved my time at the Dolphins. I got to play for Queensland from the Dolphins. I captained the Dolphins in the 1983 grand final loss to Easts and got to experience lots of great things at Redcliffe.

Your State of Origin career was four games, three wins and three tries. Thoughts on that?

I loved Origin and still do very much. It's so special and I am very protective of it and the whole concept. It was great to play and each of my daughters has an Origin jumper. I gave them one each from the year they were born.

My daughter lives in Perth and she wore my jumper to the game over there in 2019.

I read a script for a play based on Origin someone wanted to do and they asked for my opinion if it was accurate they had Tosser drinking all the time. He never drunk at all and players were portrayed as yobbos. I rang Rod Reddy and asked what did you wear when you came back from Sydney for the first game. He said I will send you a photo. He was dressed professionally. I just won't have people not pay these players the respect they deserve.