Peter Grigg - The Bluebag Wallaby
A story on the 619th Wallaby - Peter Grigg
Peter Grigg was born in Herberton on the Atherton Tablelands in 1958. He grew up in Ravenshoe. He was one of the Mountain Men of Teachers West.
John Roots very fondly recalls Peter’s early life and his move to Townsville.
“Peter Grigg lived with his mother Margaret, father Neville and two sisters Catherine and Tricia beside Cedar Creek in Ravenshoe. It was just down the road from a collection of residences based around the Corney & Smith Sawmill on Tully Falls Rd. My first recollections of Peter were at Marshall Park in Millaa, when he was a little “tacker” about 18 months old, running around carrying a football on the field, where his father was refereeing a game of League between Ravenshoe and Millaa.
Margaret was fully occupied keeping him in line, a task that she would continue for many years. Particularly, after his Father passed away. I’d been teaching, in Townsville, and when I came home from school, Phyl (my Mother) informed me that I was to ring Margaret Grigg. Margaret (nee Miss Della Bosca who had been my year one teacher in Ravenshoe) was not someone to take lightly. I wondered what I had done wrong this time.
Anyway, when I phoned Margaret she informed that Peter had been in strife again at school and he wanted to go to Townsville to get an apprenticeship, and asked if he could stay with Phyllis and me. Phyl agreed and Griggy duly arrived.
I was playing league with University and Union for Teachers at the time, so we put the feelers out regarding an apprenticeship, with various Clubs. Griggy agreed to play for whatever Club was able to get him an apprenticeship. We played trials with WEAS (West End Athletics), Souths, University and maybe even Brothers. Griggy impressed with his speed, attacking ability and aggressive defence. It went without saying that Peter began playing Union with Teachers, as I ensured any Tablelanders I knew joined the “Bluebags”.
University Rugby League Club arranged an interview for Peter as an apprentice mechanic with Peter Longford – it must have been destiny as Peter’s Father Neville and his Grandfather Basil, had both been competent spanner wielders. Peter duly completed his apprenticeship and became lifelong friends with Peter Longford and his wife. Not many people know that Griggy qualified as a mechanic, as he spent more time truck driving than he did “mechanicing”, and he never worked in the trade after he left Longford’s – preferring to sell insurance.
Peter played Union with Teachers West on Saturday and League with University on Sundays. Peter was actually a very good centre three quarter and I believe he would have been even more destructive for the Wallabies if given a go in that position. He could tackle – a rarity in Union in those days.
I was very proud to hear Peter give credit to me (Rootsie), as a great influence and Mentor in his rise through the ranks as a Rugby player.”
Peter’s natural ability and physical strength immediately marked him for representative honours. He was selected for the Townsville Brolgas on the strength of a small number of games. At this stage Peter was playing Rugby Union with Teachers West on Saturday and Rugby league with University on Sunday. His employer and others pointed out that this regime, particularly given the whole-hearted manner with which he threw himself into the fray, was not allowing time for recovery and could ultimately cut short his football career. They urged Peter to make a choice. His mates from Ravenshoe urged him to stick with Teachers West. Selection in the Queensland Country Team probably helped seal the deal and Peter Grigg stayed where he belonged, in the bosom of Rugby Union. His career never looked back.
The Australian Rugby Union Website tells us his Senior Clubs were Teachers West and Brothers in Brisbane. This is accurate as far as it goes. However, sometime after completing his apprenticeship, Peter was appointed as Manager of the newly established Rugby Club. This meant Peter was making decisions that were of great interest to everyone associated with the game in Townsville. Eric Priory, President of Teachers West took exception to something Peter did and in a less than diplomatic, Thumper-like manner told Peter off. Sadly, before he left Townsville for the Big Smoke Peter severed his ties with Thumper and Teachers West and played his local Rugby with City Club.
By this stage Peter was a regular Queensland representative. His legendary defence and ability to score tries against the best defenders in the world are still valuable exemplar videos for aspiring backline players.
Peter Grigg was the 619th Wallaby. His debut was against the All Blacks. He played 25 tests and scored 12 tries for Australia. The Australian Rugby Union website records this tribute to Peter Grigg.
“Deep down he was probably proudest of the tribute paid about him by the celebrated and very successful coach Alan Jones who in answering a question re what type of team he would like before the inaugural World Cup in 1987, stated: “Give me a team of fifteen Peter Griggs. I want a Peter Grigg in every position in the forwards including the front row and every position in the backs.” It was wonderful tribute to a great player who never took a backward step to anyone. He smiled when he was compared to great props like Stan Pelecki.”
His team mates at Teachers West smile when they think of the opposition forwards stopped in their tracks by Peter. Even Stan Pelecki would have needed all his strength and guile to better Peter on the field.