On Tuesday, 13 September, 1983 the touring party of the NSW Police Rugby Football League Association assembled at the departure lounge of Mascot Overseas Terminal. The party, under the supervision of Sergeant 2nd Class, Laurie Jones of Maroubra, who is the Senior Vice President of the Association, consisted of 29 players and 11 officials and visitors.
It was a true representative side, with a player drawn from each of the affiliated clubs in the Competition. The tour which resulted in two hard years of fund raising efforts from the committee especially Alex (Jet) Ramsay and Richard (Jules) Marlow, was the third made by a representative team from our Association to the North Island of New Zealand. Assistant Commissioner K.J. Pyne, the Patron of our Association, was on hand to wish us well on the tour. Ian Jackson from the Police Public Relations was once again on hand to take that important team photo. To Ian and the staff of the Police Public Relations who are always willing to assist us when possible - we thank you.
At 1pm Continental flight CO2 lifted from the runway of Mascot Airport and the tour had begun. At that stage some of the members of the touring party knew each other by first name only. By the time we touched down in Sydney on our return home all of the party had combined to cement strong friendship. This alone made the tour worthwhile.
Upon arrival in Auckland we were met by the President of the New Zealand Police Rugby League Football Club, Ken Loza, our friend since 1978. Dave Gray, and a number of members of their club including senior Inspectors from the area. We were immediately made welcome in typical unique NZ style. We were conveyed by the team bus which we were to see a great deal of in the next ten days, to the Milford Marina Hotel, which is on the north side of Auckland, approximately 15 KLM from the centre of Auckland.
Mention must be made of the accommodation which was allocated to us by our host Bob Anderson, a former NZ Detective. It was first class for our requirements and no effort was spared to ensure that our stay was an enjoyable one. None of us could forget the feast that Don provided for us on our last night in Auckland in appreciation of our stay at this hotel.
On Wednesday, 14 September, we journeyed a short distance to Henderson where we played an Auckland Police invitation side at the Te Atatu Rugby League Football Club. All members of the Police Force and our Association would be proud of the way the team was turned out and the manner and discipline which they applied to themselves. It was Rugby League football at its best with our lads winning the match 44-12. Our pal Ken Loza refereed the match and ensured a free flowing game.
Following the match our team members were congratulated by Assistant Commissioner West of the NZ Police on the manner in which the game was played and wished us further success on the tour. Later that evening we journeyed to the Henderson Police mess which is established and run by the Police attached to Henderson Police district. Once again we were feted and made welcome. Laurie Jones responded on behalf of our party and was well received, a great night was had by all and already the indications were strong that the tour would be an outstanding success.
On Thursday, 15 September, the lads had a quiet day which was spent sightseeing around Auckland and some shopping. Once again Ken Loza and his lads were always on hand to assist the boys when asked. A feature at this stage was the bond of friendship that had developed between the tourists and their willingness to do things together.
On Friday 16 September, Ken Loza organised a tour of the Henderson District which is a typical NZ rural area and later that evening we met with the men and families of the the NZ Rugby League Football Club at Pechar's Vineyard at Henderson. At the vineyard is an outside bowling alley which was the focus of much fun and frivolity. The Henderson Police at the vineyard had worked all day preparing and cooking four sheep and at least 20 chickens on the spit. The ladies had prepared a massive salad, with all the extras. As the night drew on all were well fed, the guitars were produced and plenty of new stars were found on the entertainment field.
On Saturday, 17 September we journeyed to Whangarei, where we were met by our friend Chief Inspector Don McConnell and his good wife. Don had visited us with the NZ team in 1979. We stayed at the Settlers Motel which was first class accommodation and once again the hospitality was tremendous. That afternoon we went to the home ground of the Takahiwai Warriors where again we played a Police invitation side. Our lads won the match convincingly with sound disciplined football 36-2. A number of the Warriors team were renowned players of the district which were the regional champions in 1981. The match was watched by a good crowd who enjoyed the standard set by both teams, the score being no real indication of the play. Interested observers were the visiting New Guinea Rugby League Football Club. After the game we were again feted, this time at a traditional 'Hangi'. The team then had an enjoyable evening at the Takahiwai Warriors Club. The lads joined in the activities and many friends were made. The choral work of the team was something to be remembered.
Sunday, 18 September we were taken on a tour of the Bay of Islands which is one of the most picturesque parts of the North Island of NZ. Upon returning to Whangarei we went to see a representative rugby league fixture between the New Guinea team and a regional Northern Districts team. We left that match convinced that we could have given both sides a good game. We were taken back to the Whangarei police canteen or 'mess' where the police and their families made us welcome at a bar-b-que, which once again had to be seen to be believed. A most enjoyable evening was had at the canteen during which some hitherto undknown musical talents of the tourists were revealed. Many new friends were made.
On Monday, 19 September, we journeyed to Milford enjoying the scenery on the way. At this stage we called into the thermal baths at Waiwere where the lads enjoyed the facilities, and removed some of the soreness from the match. The slide into the pools was no place for the faint hearted.
Tuesday, 20 September, was a free day for the boys at Milford. This was spent shoppin, sightseeing around the Auckland area. Some of the lads still talk about a magnificent Chinese meal that they all had, something that shall be remembered for years to come thanks to Jim Bryant's generosity.
Wednesday, 21st September, was our final game. During the morning prior to the game you could gauge a feeling that the lads wanted to win this match and remain undefeated for the tour. The match was played at Carlaw Park, Auckland, which is the main rugby league ground in NZ. I was a tremendous feeling as the team prepared for the match. We won convincingly 46-0 against a strong NZ Police side. Once again the score was no indication of the standard of the game.
The NZ team was led by Lindsay Proctor, an ex-Kiwi international and contained a number of players with club experience. Our lads were just too fast, too solid, too experienced, too good. After the match we were again entertained by the NZ Police at the Auckland referees' room adjacent to Carlaw Park where various awards were presented. Steven Coleman was voted the 'Man of the Match' and together with Keith Cook was the driving force in a well deserved victory. Special awards were presented to our John Floyd and Ken Johnstone from the NZ team. Once again a great night was had by all.
Thursday, 22nd September, was shopping day for the team. A late invasion of the duty free stores, with special buying for the family at home. Later that evening we held the 'End-of-tour' awards, in which all players were presented with their playing gear and tour medals. A night to remember.
Friday, 23rd September, an early flight on CO2 from Auckland at 8am, arriving in Sydney to excited family and friends at 9.30am. For some reason the flight home was a quiet one. All the touring party within themselves appeared satisfied of the fact that they had accomplished what they had set out to do and to renew friendships and play good football.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the magnificent effort during the tour by Doug 'Dinga' Bell and Dick Baker in the preparation of the team and the efforts of 'Jules' Marlowe and Alex Ramsay in assisting. The results of the team effort speak for themselves. Senior Vice President Laurie Jones handled the 'PR' as only he can do and as a result the friendships already established between both clubs became even firmer.
In all the years that I have had the pleasure of being involved with the NSW Police Rugby Football League Association, both as a player and administrator, I feel that no previous touring team has been a greater credit to themselves, to the NSW Police Force and the game of Rugby League. They showed complete discipline both on and off the field of sport and were magnificent ambassadors. To each member of the touring party, on behalf of the committee of our Association, I thank you.
(Reprinted from the 1983 NSWPRL Yearbook)