Heroes of Yesterday, Interview 30 - 14 June 2017 - Graeme Wynn
Where did you grow up?
Werris Creek, North West NSW. Peter Wynn is my older brother and I have two older sisters.
What was your first football experience?
Dad worked on the Railway and I was born at Blayney, NSW and I played Under 7's out there. We then moved to Werris Creek and Peter and I played for the local side in the 4 Stones 7's team and after that it went to age groups. After that we only played for the School side and then the Under 18s side for Werris Creek. In 1978 I was selected to play for Country Firsts.
As a child what was your most memorable experience of Rugby League ?
Peter and I went to the Northern Division to play in the Under 18's side playing against Queensland. We were coached by Jack Gibson, we all looked up to Jack because of his status and we stayed at his place. Throughout my career I always chatted with Jack and had a lot of respect for him. The guys who came from the country were very raw. We came up against players like Wally Lewis and Fatty Vautin.
Did you collect footy cards as a kid ?
Yeah I used to collect the old Scanlens footy cards.
Who were your footballing heroes as a kid ?
I looked up to Changa Langlands and Bily Smith as a kid, I was always a St George supporter.
Lead up to the top grade?
In 1977 and 1978 I was playing for West Newcastle in the Newcastle competition. I was the player of the year for West Newcastle and Man of the Match in the Grand Final win. It was a very strong competition and there was some past Sydney and English Internationals playing for West Newcastle including Eric Lawson.
Do you remember your first game in first grade, and what were the highlights and lowlights?
It was against Manly, I scored two tries and I was Man of the Match. The Manly side was very strong with players such as Terry Randall, Max Krilich, Russell Gartner and Allan Thompson.
Experiences playing for St George between 1979 to 1990?
Roy Masters and Harry Bath were the best coaches. They introduced a few very good players including Steve Morris, John Dowling and Steve Edge. We always had a very good pack with Craig Young, Bruce Starkey, Rod Reddy, John Jansen and Robert Stone.
We had a great side until 1986. A lot of players were being recruited from elsewhere and in 1990 they got rid of me, I was heartbroken. I got a call to play for Wests Magpies and I ended up playing 46 First Grade games for them in the 1991 and 1992 seasons and I was awarded player of the year for them in 1992.
1979 Rookie of the Year?
It was a Channel 9 award that they handed out.
Semi Finals 1979 experience?
In 1979 we beat Parramatta against my brother and I got Man of the Match. We then went straight to the Grand Final, it was a good week.
1979 Grand Final experience ?
All of the boys got together before the game and had a talk. It was a Saturday game. The following morning I had to go to Channel 9 to accept my Rookie of the Year award. We went to the Georges River Sailing Club to celebrate, everything happened very quickly. I was awarded the Frank Hyde Man of the Match for the Grand Final/
1984 Final where Eric Grothe scored at the death and lead up to that ?
If you go back through that game, you will see a lot of decisions that favoured Parramatta to get them in the position for that try. In saying that we had our opportunities and didn't capitalize on them. We didn't have the ball for the last ten minutes of the game. I think we would have beat Canterbury in the Grand Final the following week, we had Steve Rogers in that side.
1985 Grand Final loss against Canterbury ?
We were beaten by a point, those things hurt you. We had tough forwards as well as Canterbury, I don't think they were tougher than us. We had Pat Jarvis, Carig Young and myself in the forwards, John Fifita broke his arm in the Semi Final so couldn't play. I personally think we would of been better off with big Chris Walsh in the side but they picked Graeme O'Grady, much smaller player.
Western Suburbs years between 1990 and 1991
Brian Smith let me go after 12 years service, he said I wasn't good enough. I spoke to Jack Gibson and he gave me confidence about my ability and that I was still valuable. Paul Langmack was injured at Wests and then Warren Ryan called me and asked if I wanted to play at Wests. We had a really good team at Wests and a great bunch of blokes. I played 42 games in two years for them, not bad for a bloke who was meant to be washed up.
NSW Selection in 1980
I played in two Interstate matches and one Origin. In the Interstate games, we had a lot of players who were from Queensland. It was quite funny, in the Origin concept a lot of players didn't want to play against their club team mates. When we arrived at Lang Park Queensland were full of energy and really had a desire to beat NSW which was lead by the inspirational Arthur Beetson. We were probably ambushed, we didn't expect that sort of intensity. We had Les Boyd and Ray Price pull out of the match.
Australia selection in 1980, Tour of New Zealand
I played every game and I was a reserve for the Test sides, I didn't get a run for the Test matches though. My firs match was against the New Zealand Maories, I was just excited to put on that Green and Gold jumper and honoured to be selected to play for my country.
What was your highlight of playing First Grade football?
My first highlight was pulling on the St George jumper and then winning the Grand Final with the Dragons. Then it was playing for NSW and finally for Australia.
Who was your most respected rival?
In the early days I respected Les Boyd, I respected nearly every First Grade footballer, they are tough, otherwise they wouldn't be there. I respect my brother.
What was the best team you played against?
We had some great games against Parramatta and the Bulldogs.
When did you know it was time to give the game away?
In 1992 we played in a Semi Final and Warren Ryan asked if I wanted another year, my body told me that I had enough of the training. I was still enjoying the football that is for sure.
What followed after football?
I coached the Gymea Gorillas and I am still coaching them now.
I was on the board of the St George Dragons until we merged with the Illawarra Steelers and the boards agreed to combine. I have the Under 26s St George representative sides and I am watching those kids come through now.
How has the game changed since your playing days?
The professionalism, it was beginning to become professional at the end of my career. The players today get enough from football to be a full time player, we had to work to earn our money.
These days they train so much that they are all athlets. They have sports scientists, nutritionists, recovery specialists, they look at each player every day. We used to have a few beers after a game. Skills work has improved, they plan an eight hour training day and we used to train two hours, three times a week.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Sea Level at Cronulla
What are your hobbies?
I play a bit of golf and I still love football. I have my wife and three kids, we were married in 1984 and she has supported me throughout all of these years.
Have you collected your own footy cards ?
My sons put them together and framed a bunch for me.
Have you collected scrap book ?
I used to live with this lady and she used to maintain a scrap book for me while I played. I have papers but I am not a big collector.