Barrie ‘Carrots’ Morrison had his own theory on front row play in rugby league.
Morrison, who with Keith Tull, Gary Bridge and Barrie Smith will be inducted into the Group Three Hall of Fame Friday night at the Wingham Services Club, played in an era when props usually did the hard slog in the centre of the ruck. However, Morrison was mobile for his size. As such he used to scout a bit wider in attack and it wasn’t unknown to see him running out with the outside backs.
“I looked at it this way, out wide you only had to beat one tackle and you were in the clear,’’ Morrison reasoned.
“In the middle you had to beat six or seven tackles.’’
He may have been unorthodox but he was effective. His career started with Taree Old Bar under 18s in 1961 and finished at Wingham in 1982. In between he won a player of the year award in Newcastle, was a Newcastle and North Coast representative, played first grade with Macquarie United in Newcastle and had a brief stint with St George. In Group Three he played for Old Bar, Wingham, Taree United and Gloucester.
Morrison, originally from Lansdowne, had played little football before he started with Old Bar 18s.
“My brother Darryl was with Old Bar and so was Fred Atkins, that’s why I went there,’’ he recalled.
Morrison won an under 18 premiership with the Lifesavers in ’63, but they were generally tough times for the club.
“We’d go to Gloucester and some of the first graders wouldn’t turn up,’’ he said.
“So we’d have to back up. And there were some big buggers in the Gloucester side – 6 foot 6 some of em.’’
And the Magpies were powerful so this generally meant a long afternoon for the Old Bar youngsters.
He graduated to first grade with Old Bar, playing in the 1965 grand final, before heading to Newcastle, initially for work in 1966. He trialled successfully with Macquarie and stay with the club until 1970.
His form was good enough to win the Newcastle player of the year in a competition that included internationals Terry Pannowitz and Alan Thomson. Alternating between prop and second row, Morrison gained a place in the representative side that beat New Zealand 16-14. Saints came calling in 1970.
He was signed on a two year deal with an option for three. Morrison played some first grade, but a dispute with legendary coach Jack Gibson ended the arrangement.
“I told Gibbo to get nicked, took the $3000 they owed me and went back to Macquarie,’’ he said.
Morrison eventually returned to Group Three and Old Bar in 1972 before switching to Wingham in 1973. Gloucester, after some years in the doldrums, approached him to switch camps in 1974.
“They offered me $200 a game,’’ Morrison explained.
He stayed at the Magpies for three years, Gloucester under captain-coach, a former Western Suburbs Magpie Barry Bryant making the semi-finals in ’74. Morrison enjoyed his time there.
However, props were in short supply in Group Three, particularly those with Morrison’s menacing aura. Morrison was approaching the veteran stage, but he was still in demand and he signed with Taree United in 1977.
It was here Morrison won his first first grade premiership and he was among United’s best in their bruising grand final win over Forster-Tuncurry, setting up the winning try. He was later to win consecutive premierships at Taree Old Bar in 1979/80.
“I wasn’t that worried about premierships,’’ he said.
“I just enjoyed playing football.’’
Indeed the older her got, the better he seemed to play – his form for Old Bar in ’79/80 was as good as any time in his career.
Morrison rates Errol Ruprecht, John McKeough and John Sullivan as among the best footballers he played with or against around here while Wingham hardman Jake Kennett was an imposing figure.
On the bigger stage towering Manly prop Bill ‘Herman’ Hamilton caused him some problems while ex-international Peter Dimond, who Morrison encountered while in Newcastle, was another standout.
*Former international prop and now Fox Sports commentator Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach will be special guest at the hall of fame function.