The Western Suburbs Magpies’ iconic Victa-sponsored jersey, worn between 1978-82, is the stuff of rugby league legend, symbolising working-class heroics.
The iconic lawnmower brand has reformed with the Magpies for 2018, as the black and whites go it alone in this year’s NSW Intrust Super Premiership as the Wests Tigers’ “reserve grade” feeder team.
The Western Suburbs Magpies coach back in the ‘78-82 “Victa era” was Roy Masters, widely considered to be the architect of the bash-em-up then beat them on the scoreboard philosophy. Still a sports columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, Masters is to this day delivering nuanced takes on the politics of modern rugby league to his readers, and analysis as to where the game will shift to next as a whole.
To blokes like Masters, the iconic Victa/Magpies partnership of ‘78-82 seemed like a perfect fit. “It did seem natural; it was just five letters across the chest and a V for ‘victory’, but there was a certain degree of symbolism about it all,” he recently told Inside Sport.
“I remember we played one game at Brookvale Oval around about ’78 or ’79. We won, but it was a pretty violent ol’ game. One of the executives of Victa was there and he came into the dressing room. He lived on the north shore. He wasn’t as disposed to us as we were to ourselves. I said to him, and this was after a televised match, ‘You will have sold quite a few lawnmowers today!’ And he muttered something to the effect of, ‘Yes, but none on the north shore.’ Whereupon I pointed out to him that Silvertails didn’t cut their own lawns. They had gardeners who did it for them.”
Newtown-born Masters was the Magpies’ coach between ‘78-81. He would eventually finish his time in the sport as a 250-game coach for Wests and later St George. His glory years as a mentor marry up with the days in which the toughest of the tough roamed the footy fields of Sydney … to when class warfare was an actual thing fought out on the concrete-hard fields of suburban venues like Lidcombe and Brookvale Ovals.
Image at top: Big men take a breather – John Donnelly and Tom Arber in the dressing room after a tough match. (Image courtesy of Wests Archives; as appeared in the book Clouds Of Dust, Buckets Of Blood, author Gary Lester)