‘Poppa’ to play in South Africa
BRUCE ‘Poppa’ Gallaher will live up to his nickname when he competes in the fourth World Vintage Rugby Carnival in Cape Town, South Africa, from August 29-September 4.
Poppa and teammate John McKee, both aged 76, have been identified by tournament organisers as being the oldest participants, edging out a couple of South African players aged 75.
Poppa plays regularly for the Ballina Battered Prawns in Golden Oldies rugby but is turning out for the Burleigh Bodgies in the South African event because no local teams are competing.
While he is not expecting any roughhouse tactics from his opponents – who range in age from 35 upwards – he is still going well-prepared, thanks to local businessman Jason Conte.
Jason, manager of Summerland Independent Sports, is kitting Poppa out in head-gear, Body Armour gear and boots.
“I saw his picture in the paper last year and myself and Optimum (a sports good manufacturer) got together to help him out,” Jason said.
“They are happy to sponsor a person like Poppa who has done great things in rugby.”
Poppa certainly has a rugby pedigree.
He played rugby in the Northbridge Primary School team, and went on to play with the Northern Suburbs club, with 105 first-grade class appearances as breakaway or five-eighth.
On his way up the amateur rugby ladder, he was doing the cheeky thing of playing rugby league in feeder teams for the North Sydney Bears Rugby League Club.
The union found out, and he was told to choose – so he picked rugby because the Bears had knocked him back for a promotion to higher ranks, and he was playing third grade with Northern Suburbs.
Poppa played for NSW against Queensland in 1956 and, in 1957, was in line for selection for the Wallabies’ tour of the British Isles, but missed out, with a knee injury not helping his cause.
Poppa, who says he still has ‘quick hands’ and a good passing game, in the past has refused to wear the red shorts which signify a player is over 60 and can’t be tackled.
But this time he is taking red shorts to South Africa, ‘just in case the opposition gets a bit heavy’.