The next time you find yourself out Bondi Junction way, drop into Easts Leagues and check out the club’s Legends Bar. It’s a real treat for rugby league history disciples.
A few months back on his hit Fox League show “The Fan”, popular commentator Andrew Voss told his at-home audience there were bits and pieces of rugby league history to be found all across Sydney; he was showing us the family home in Double Bay in which a young Dally Messenger grew up.
Vossy is right. Not only is there a stack of rugby league history to be found in all corners of Sydney, more specifically - besides old sports ovals - there’s a hefty amount of history to be found connected to Dally’s club, the Eastern Suburbs Roosters.
Some of us are suckers for rugby league history. Where other passionate league disciples get their kicks via stats - and I totally get that - what this writer can’t get enough of is memorabilia. I’m not talking about “a framed picture of Shane Warne’s 712th wicket on a Tuesday” stuff. I’m more into the jerseys that were worn, and the trophies that were lifted in the game’s biggest, most historical moments and matches. Artefacts, if you like, rather than memorabilia.
What I’m also into is dispelling garbage, or at least trying to find out if a certain piece of information or long-held myth is true or not. Proper research in pursuit of the truth, as it used to be called. There’s plenty of this said garbage in rugby league, and quite a bit of it connected to the Sydney Roosters. Salary sombreros, no fans, no spirit, etc. You’ve heard them all before.
With the club on the verge of claiming back to back first grade rugby league titles for the first time since their famous blitzing wins backs in 1974-75, I decided to investigate for myself what the spirit and interest around the Roosters fraternity was like. So I headed straight for the chicken-coop itself, Easts Leagues in Bondi Junction. I don’t live far from there, but I’d never been, so I thought, what the hell, it’s grand final week.
Easts Leagues Roosters is a neat little club, with a cruisy bistro, a gym, etc upstairs and a stack of pokies downstairs. Seems rugby league enough so far on that score. After a few $6.70 schooners of New and a $17 schnitzel and chips (I’m not a member), I asked the bar staff if the club had a trophy cabinet or something similar: you know, something historical I can look at. I was pointed downstairs to the Legends Bar.
I had been previously disappointed on a visit to Norths Leagues in Cammeray, whose recognition to the history of the Bears consisted of merely a wall of framed pictures of internationals and interstate reps in the pool room up the back. The club was undergoing renovations at the time, so that might have explained it.
And sure enough, as I strolled around cynically, all I found downstairs at the Roosters was the leagues club-regulation giant room of pokies … until I checked out what was around the corner to the back and left.
There sat the Legends Bar. And wow, what a place. Artefacts everywhere: Cups, grand final-worn jerseys, historic programs, informative wall displays …
It filled the heart that the myths were wrong. The only club to have played in every single elite men’s rugby league competition in Australia since 1908 has a rich history that is celebrated very proudly and publicly. As someone who strolls down the road for most Roosters home games and sits in the GA seats watching the Bondi boys go around, I know the club has a dedicated following. There’s a lot you don’t pick up watching from the couch at home.
I’m not sure how long the display has been set-up the way it is, but congrats to whoever curated it and put it together. It must fill the Roosters’ faithful with pride whenever they down a beer in the Legends Bar.
Even if you’re not a Rooster, from one footy nerd to another, go and check it out for yourself. There’s a stack of great stuff on display.