There were length-of-the-field tries and bonecrushing tackles, when members of the champion Gunnedah rugby league team of 1973 gathered at a reunion at Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club on Saturday night.
The team, coached by Roger Buttenshaw and led by the vastly experienced Paul Hassab, was one of the best, probably even the best, in Gunnedah’s league history, winning the Group 4 premiership as well as the Clayton Cup for the championship team in Country Rugby League that year.
Ten of the Bulldogs’ squad of 15 for the grand final attended the re-union. 
Main speaker at the function was Robert (Changa) Jones, who was team hooker in 1973, and is board Chairman of the Dolphins, to make their appearance in the NRL in 2023.
Mr Jones said there has been “great spirit” in the Bulldogs’ side of 1973, which had given all the players “memories for life.”
In the grand final that year, the Bulldogs downed West Tamworth 25-5 with tries to Ray (Spike) Smith, Merv Turner, Robert Miller, Gary Scovell and Robert Jones, and Jones kicking three goals and Paul Hassab two.
The win was achieved without star player John Donnelly, 18, who had broken his arm making his debut for NSW against Queensland in Brisbane in July. Donnelly went on to play Test football as a hard-man enforcer in the Australian front row, as well as playing for 10 years with Western Suburbs in the Sydney competition.
Running through the side, Jones reserved special mention for Mervyn (Swervin’) Turner, the side’s mercurial centre, saying that he was “the most talented footballer I have ever seen, at any level – there was nothing he couldn’t do with the ball, just an amzing athlete.”
The 1973 side was strong “right across the park” with a blend of experienced players like forwards Hassab, Pascoe, prop John Rennick, second-rowers Don Pascoe and Vern (Blue) Bartlett and lightweight lock Ivan Wheeler, plus a speedy backline with talented youngsters like halves Richard Gallen and Ray Smith. Turner and Rod Gawsthorne in the centres and Gary Scovell and Hilary Daley on the wings.
Robbie Miller came into the side at fullback through the season and was one of the Bulldogs’ best through the final series.
Replacements on grand final day were Ken McKenzie and Peter Wilkins.   
Don Pascoe was another topline player of the late 1960s and 1970s, playing six times for NSW and scoring six tries, including three against Queensland in his debut on the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1968. He also played in a World Cup trial in 1970.
At the end of his career, the strapping Pascoe moved into the second row, where he played a key role in the Bulldogs’ premiership triumph.
Jones said he will “always remember” his football days, which he described as the best days of his life.
There was a minute’s silence for some of the players and committee members of that team who had since died, including Vernon (Blue) Bartlett, Rod Gawthorne, John Donnelly, Kevin (Killer) McCoy, Jim Sharpe, John Baldwin, Neville Launt, Col Brady and Rex Carter.
There was also high praise for coach Roger Buttenshaw, who was unable to attend the reunion because of a prior commitment to a family function.
“Roger was the ideal coach – he knew the game backwards and had the ability to draw the best out of his players,” Jones said.

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