Sport

History spurs finals charge for Wests

Wests Rugby club will be celebrating a special milestone for its annual old boys' day on Saturday which will see first grade wearing the strip of its 1974 side.

It has been 40 years since Wests made history as the first club in Australia to win all four senior premierships on offer.

Wests first grade captain Michael Smith, right, with former Wests player Darryl Cowie. The club will celebrate 40 years ...
Wests first grade captain Michael Smith, right, with former Wests player Darryl Cowie. The club will celebrate 40 years since the club won four from four senior premierships on Saturday. Photo: Melissa Adams

Playing in the first grade side that year were two Wallabies; Stuart Macdougall and John Weatherstone, and more than half a dozen ACT representative players, including Darryl Cowie, who went on to play 48 more first grade games for the club than anyone else, with his final tally of 262.

But Cowie recalls it was Gary Thomas, who went on to represent Australia in 7s, who was the stand-out of the game.

The 1974 Wests first grade side.
The 1974 Wests first grade side. 

"It was a pretty tough game and we were only leading 3-nil after about 50 minutes I think, then there was an all-in brawl and that seemed to change the complexion of the game," he said.

"Maybe [it] put them off their game and got us going, I don't know how it worked, but seemed to work for us somehow.

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"We scored about another 18 points after that, I'm not sure what the final score was, but I know if Gary didn't score all of them, he scored quite a lot of them."

It capped off an unlikely season, and Cowie doesn't recall too much about the celebrations that night.

"We never really thought we were going to win all four, and we never even thought about it really.

"Once you're in there [the grand finals] you've got a chance, but you always think one side will fall to someone – it's pretty hard to get everything to go right, you have to have everything go well for you, injury wise and things like that."

With all-in brawls a rarity in modern rugby, Wests are hoping their first grade upset win over the previously undefeated Tuggeranong last week was the turning point for their season.

"We lost the three games previous to last week, we'd had a fair few injuries and just lost to teams we probably shouldn't have lost to … and we came out with the idea we had to win this one to keep our finals alive," captain Michael Smith said.

With a number of old boys making the trip for the "four from four in '74" reunion, Smith said the whole club is motivated for the last round of the regular season.

"We've got a few grades that are on the fringes at the moment of making it into finals and the whole club is really rallying behind that," he said.

Fourth grade has secured its finals spot, while second grade can cement a spot with a win, and first grade needs only a point against Queanbeyan to secure its place.

"Queanbeyan are a tough team … they’ll come out tough and hard and they're a big hitting forward pack with some big centres as well, but we're just hoping to out-last their big hits and hopefully come out with it,'' Smith said.