THE late 1960s saw Home Hill struggle in the A grade Burdekin Rugby League club competition.
Brian Carnes, the club secretary, remembers driving along the Ayr – Home Hill Road to see if any hitch-hikers could be enticed to pull on a jersey.
“If locals were home on leave from the Navy or Army, anyone – if someone walked past the dressing shed, you’d be playing. In one game against Hornets, I remember Doug Leet kicked a penalty and we led 2 – 0 then the floodgates opened and Hornets ran riot scoring tries at will. Bones Berryman actually yelled out to a Hornets player heading for the try line to be careful as there was some vomit on the field”.
“On another occasion, John Cole, who scored tries at will, was racing down the sideline when one of our players yelled out ‘another try won’t hurt him’. The final score ended up like 72 – 2. Home Hill never completed the season”.
Home Hill did have a number of young and enthusiastic players who would be eligible for A grade in 1970.
In 1969, veteran coach, Cecil ‘Basher’ Oats had moulded them into a formidable unit to win the 1969 Presidents Cup competition, with a tough 16 – 7 victory over Hornets.
As well as a pool of young and emerging players for the 1970 season, the Home Hill Club brought Owen Bourke to Home Hill. Brian Carnes remembers Home Hill brought Owen up from Albury.
Ted McCosker and Eric McDonald and myself brought him to Home Hill and part of the deal was we had to find him a crop dusting job. Ivor Berrell, a halfback, and all muscle’, was another.
Desperate to regain some of the form of earlier seasons, Joe Rigano, in his second year as Home Hill Club president, remembers the decision to approach Andy Pegoraro to captain/coach Home Hill.
“Andy had started his career with Home Hill and had later moved to Brothers. At the end of 1969, I approached Andy at the presentation of trophies of the Burdekin League and reminded him of a conversation many years before, when he had said he would like to finish his career coaching Home Hill. He said he would think about it. I remember telling Brian Carnes and Wilbur Figg, the secretary and treasurer and both were enthusiastic. The next morning, Andy rang back and agreed.”
Andy Pegoraro clearly recalls the approach by the Home Hill Club. “Basher Oats and Joe Rigano (Home Hill club president) approached me – they said, we have a young side and a few experienced players, but need a leader and was I interested? I was 35, Owen Bourke was 27, Rennie Piva was about 27 but I decided to take it on.”
Laurie Rigano was one of a number of young players, who had been part of the 1969 Home Hill President’s Cup premiership team.
“We had lots of young fellas that stepped up to A grade in 1970. Percy Malpass, Malcom Figg, Robert Piva, Robert Lago myself and more. A lot of us had come back from boarding school and were in good nick and Pego moulded us into a good side. He asked me to play fullback at one point; ‘we’ll look after you’ he said and that’s how I got started”.
Home Hill started the 1970 season with a mix of experience but with a larger pool of young, enthusiastic but inexperienced players and it wasn’t long before Andy Pegoraro had moulded them into a formidable combination.
By mid-season Home Hill was developing into a premiership contender and in one match produced a resounding win over archrivals Brothers with Robert Piva, playing hooker, producing a history making performance, not only winning the majority of scrums but scoring five tries – arguably the most by a hooker in an A grade match in the Burdekin competition.
Home Hill reached the 1970 Grand Final against Colts, coached by former international, Barry Muir and it was played before a capacity crowd at Rugby Park on Sunday 20 September.
Home Hill captain/coach, Andy Pegoraro remembers the four plan to shut down the elusive Muir.
“Ron (Ron Nielsen) you are to put it on Muir, if the ref gets onto you, then Bourkie (Owen Bourke) and then Colin (Colin Santacaterina) – we gave Muir heaps that day”.
Home Hill recorded first points when Trevor Dale kicked a penalty and then Laurie Rigano kicked a field gaol.
Both forward packs were rugged in their defence and both defensive lines remained intact until about 10 minutes before halftime when Trevor Dale ran from halfback and found Peter and Alan Malpass, who combined before Alan Malpass scored a brilliant try.
Home Hill threw the ball around and a try to Robert Piva saw Home Hill leading 12 – 0 at half time.
In the second half, Colts resorted to kicking downfield to pin Home Hill down however fullback, Laurie Rigano was equal to the task and brought the ball back for Home Hill. In the forwards, Andy Pegoraro, Owen Bourke and Colin Santacaterina led the Home Hill onslaught with Barry Muir their target.
For Colts, the loss of Phil Zumaran before the match due to a rib injury cost them much-needed ball from the scrums while Graham Pollock had a good match in both attack and defence and scored Colts only try.
Sandy Wight and John Short tried hard while in the backs, Barry Muir, Mal Wyeth and Dennis Duell tried to make in-roads, but the Home Hill backs, who scored all of Home Hill’s five tries, were just too fast.
Final score saw Home Hill winners 25 – 3.