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Bingara football, Walter Greenlands the greatest!


Bingara football, Walter Greenlands is the greatest. What a bold statement that is, so I better explain.

If I was asked to nominate the best football player Bingara’s has ever had? Walter (Wally) Greenlands would be well in the running.  If I was asked who was the best coach? Wally would also be in the mix. But, if I was asked, who was Bingara’s greatest rugby league Captain/Coach, Wally would reign supreme! This grand statement is based on the strength of the competition he faced, anecdotal evidence and his team’s performance. However, in saying this, he just nudged out my second favourite, Bob Reading of the legendary 1949 Premiers. But, by now most modern day Bullet’s supporters are thinking:  “Wally who?”  Adding, “Obviously, the old boy has finally lost his marbles”, so I better explain. 


About six years ago during some research Wally’s name came up and when I asked around, no one had heard of him, except Graeme (Bill) Dixon, the old warrior from the fifties and sixties. Bill, who has a wonderful memory of past players, had heard of him, but that was about all, however, we both suspected he was someone special. 

Moving on about three years to when I was researching the holy grail of all football cups, the Spicer Cup, I found a 1932 preview of the teams involved in that season’s matches and, Wally was listed as Bingara’s new coach. He was transferring from East Tamworth to Bingara and later the reason became very clear, he wanted to play Spicer Cup football and the Tamworth clubs were never involved in the Cup’s challenges.

Spicer Cup

When Moree bookmaker Bill Spicer donated a cup to the Moree Rugby League Club in 1922, he requested that it be a challenge cup, meaning the cup holder faced weekly challenges and from this humble start, the lure of winning grew with the years. Played on Saturdays, the crowds were huge, often special trains were run and all clubs from Gunnedah to the border were involved at various times. Wally wanted a piece of the action and Bingara, who it seems had never challenged for the cup, but was  a club on the rise since transferring from rugby union in 1928, wanted a coach, it was a match up made in heaven.

I am sure when Bingara realised his background, the whole town would have been embroiled in anticipation of his arrival and at long last, Bingara would challenge for the Spicer Cup. Despite being in the depths of the depression, with swaggies on the road, many unemployed, food scarce, money even scarcer; the Bingara footballers would have provided relief from the despair. While Bingara was on the ascendency, the opposition was immense, like today the club was taking on far bigger towns, but it was not alone, Tingha, Warialda, Mungindi and Boggabri were also chasing the cup at various times. 

Wally was born in Corrimal, obviously a very good player as by 1928 he was signed by St. George and in 1930, he played centre in the club’s first grade grand final loss to Western Suburbs. He had also represented city seconds in the annual clash with country. However, the depression and lack of jobs interrupted his Sydney career and like others, he went bush where clubs were paying coaches.

By the time Wally arrived in Bingara in 1932 he was playing in the forwards and almost immediately he was selected in the northern area representative team to play southern Queensland. They lost the game, but he was named as one of the best players and this performance would have increased the excitement in Bingara. But, an additional excitement machine had ventured in from Gunnedah.  Bingara suddenly had a star winger, a teacher by the name of Cecil Quinlivan, who had been transferred to Cobbadah. Cecil was signed and with powerful forwards, slick backs, just perhaps a winning cup challenge.

Inverell, the cup holders had successfully defended it five times during 1931 and, they carried their form into the 1932 with wins over Tingha (16-10) and Moree (16-0). They were obviously hot favourites to defeat Bingara. However, a journalist writing in the Inverell Times must have sensed an upset could occur when he said of the “Blue and Golds”:

‘Great interest centres around tomorrow’s match with Bingara for the Spicer Cup, particularly as the challengers are fielding five new reps in a determined effort to lift the trophy.’

In the end, Bingara won 13-2 on the back of a great forward effort led by Greenlands, and a magical effort by Quinlivan, who scored three tries. The Times reporter in the game report said: 

‘Inverell had nothing to match Quinliven, the speed merchant from Cobbadah who won the open 100 yards championship of the north and north-west, the hop, step and jump, the broad jump, the high jump and a gold cup for the best all-round athlete at the Gunnedah sports on the King’s Birthday; left the opposition standing on three occasions, when he streaked away.’ 

The Team

The team was George Howson, ‘Bluey’ Robinson, Ron Reece, Eric Scutt, Jim Smith, Reg Sorby, Jack Wilson, Bill Reece, Vince McTaggart, Luke Armstrong, Cecil Quinlivan, Russell Anderson and Jack Armstrong – all household names in those days. The two reserves were not in the photo that accompanies this article, and were not named in the game report. 

Greenlands stayed on and coached Bingara in 1933, and although the players were very competitive, it appears that a second successful may have eluded them, further research will determine this. However, Wally then moved on to Queensland as coach of Yelarbon. Next he returned to Corrimal as coach, however, it seems he returned to St. George at some stage, as his name was listed in a playing squad. 

In 1940, he again coached Corrimal and the Illawarra Mercury (Wollongong) reported on April 5 1940:

‘After an absence of several years, front row forward Wally Greenlands, has returned to the Coast. Now in the veteran stages, his knowledge of the finer points of the game should considerably benefit Corrimal’s young players. Corrimal’s prospects of annexing the first grade competition appear very bright this season.’ 

The prediction by the Mercury was almost correct, as the first grade team lost 3-4 to Thirroul in the grand final.

I will leave the final word regarding Wally to Richard Scutt, the son of Eric Scutt who played Spicer Cup with him. Richard said:

‘Dad told me a lot of things about football and he said that Wally was the best forward he had seen in the bush, he also spoke of the Armstrongs as great players. Once when passing by the Narrabri football ground he mentioned playing Spicer Cup there, and while I am not one hundred percent sure, I think he said Bingara won the Cup.’

Richard was also told that transportation to Narrabri was on the back of trucks in stock crates, with bales of hay to sit on. This highlights a disadvantage Bingara had in those days, as most other clubs were on the railway line with special trains were put on for Spicer Cup games. Some of the other clubs were Tingha, Inverell, Warialda, Moree, Mungindi, Goondiwindi, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Boggabri and Wee Waa.  

Looking back some ninety years, one cannot be too certain of any opinions expressed, however, for me, a number of things can be said with confidence. Wally Greenlands played rugby league at the top level, first grade in Sydney, he coached for many years and finished his career in the very strong Illawarra competition. 

As for Cecil Quinliven, he only stayed for twelve months, but what an impact.  Incidentally, the 1920s there were at least three Quinlivens recorded as playing for South Sydney and one, Oscar, at a very high level. Wikipedia records:

‘Born at Cundle near Taree, New South Wales and one of 12 brothers, Oscar Quinlivan was a wingcentre or lock who played for South Sydney for eight seasons between 1923–1930. He featured in four grand finals during his career, winning two of them in 1928 and 1929 and losing two in 1923 and 1924.

He was also a member of the squad that won the 1925 Premiership. He also represented New South Wales in 1922 and 1924. His youngest brother, Alan Quinlivan also played for Souths between1938–1945. Three other brothers: Jack Quinlivan, Clinton Quinlivan and Leon Quinlivan also played with the club.’ 

Unfortunately, I have been unable to connect Cecil to them; however, considering Cecil’s ability, it is likely he is part of the family.

The 1933 Season

Bingara had another good year in 1933 and probably the best performance was at Collins Park Narrabri, before a reported 1000 spectators. While Narrabri won 7-0 and retained the Spicer Cup, the North Western Courier reported that Bingara was over the line twice, only to have tries disallowed, and had been reduced to twelve players.  With the loss of Quinlivan, who had been transferred to Mosman (Sydney) in February 1933, Bingara lost a great strike player.

In other “Cup” football, Bingara had wins over a strong Warialda team in the Ken Scutt Memorial Cup and also the Peter’s Trophy challenge, to cap the season off. However, it seems that after being very competitive for six years (1928-1934), the club faltered in 1935 and never really got into top gear again until after World War 11. In 1949 with Bob Reading at the helm, Bingara won the competition in 1949, defeating Inverell in the grand final.

After digesting Wally’s story, you may, or may not agree he was the greatest, but, that does not really matter, what does matter was what he did for our town in the depths of the Great Depression. Surely, he deserves and important place in our sporting history. That is what really matters. 

ImageBingara football, Walter Greenlands the greatest!
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