Maitland Pickers legends acclaimed at gala dinner

MAITLAND PICKERS TOP 20Front: Terry Pannowitz, Fred Brown, Merv Wright, Don Adams, Brian Burke, Brett Christiansen.Back: Robert Finch, David Trewhella, Barry Campbell (cousin of Noel Pidding), Gary Collins, Milton Burrows, Ray Wawskzowicz, PJ Ellis.The Pickers unveiled their top 20 players of all time at Maitland Leagues Club on Saturday night, but it uncovered much more than that.

Six Australian representatives, three Maitland premiership-winning captains and a countless number of grand final victories spread over almost a century of rugby league history in the city helped make up a star-studded list of individuals to represent the Pickers’ best.

But the event itself brought together families, friends and supporters from across the com­munity, many of whom hadn’t seen one another since their playing days in the famous black and white colours.

“It was a fantastic,” event organiser and Maitland Leagues Club general manager Glen Whaler said. “I was overwhelmed by the crowd and to have close to 300 in that room was really exciting.

“To think we had all those great players in the one room was amazing and for a lot of them it was the first time they had seen each other for 20 or 30 years or even more.

“There was a lot of emotion there, you could feel it, some of those players and relatives had tears in their eyes because it meant a lot to them.”

Don Adams, John Graves, Jim Morgan, Terry Pannowitz, Noel Pidding and David Trewhella were the Australian representatives leading the list, with NSW pair Brian Burke and Gary Collins not far behind.

Pannowitz (1965, 1969, 1971, 1973) doubled as one of three premiership-winning captains to get the nod alongside Robert Finch (1983)and PJ Ellis (2011).

Multiple premiership-winning Maitland captain-coaches Paddy Maher (1933-1934) and Fred Brown (1956-1958) were named asco-coaches of the side.

The 1960s and 1970s were heavily repre­sented with the likes of Max Bailey, Warren Bell, Max McMahon, Ray Wawskzowicz and Merv Wright among familiar faces.

Maitland Pickers name their top 20 players | PHOTOS Don Adams: Barnstorming premiership winger, better known as “Bandy”, played 191 games for Maitland in the 1950s and represented Australia from Country.

MAX BAILEY: Policeman at Tarro who delivered an ­outstanding performance at lock to help a depleted Maitland side claim the 1965 grand final over Souths.

WARREN BELL: Better known as “Dinger”, Bell scored a try in the winning 1965 decider and was part of Newcastle’s famous all-conquering State Cup side from 1964.

BRIAN BURKE: Pickers halfback during five straight grand finals between 1969 and 1973 after debuting in 1965 premiership, also four-time NSW representative.

MILTON BURROWS: An uncompromising front-row forward who played 208 games for the Pickers, including the 1983 grand final triumph, and represented Newcastle.

BILLY CALLINAN: A fleet-footed winger who played during golden era of 1950s, long held Newcastle try-scoring record, Western Suburbs Magpies premiership winner 1952.

GARY COLLINS: Better known as Bimbo, a fullback with a long stride and ability to kick long-range field goals, played 158 games for Maitland and represented NSW in 1967.

BRETT CHRISTIANSEN: Better known as “Critto”, represented Newcastle, Country and NSW during ­some of the club’s darkest days in the 1990s.

PJ ELLIS: Frontman of Pickers most recent success in 2010 and 2011, an NRL journeyman who has been inspiration both on and off the field as a player, captain and coach.

ROBERT FINCH: Australian Schoolboy, first grade at Maitland when 16, played 118 games for St George, including two premierships, and 1983 Pickers premiership captain-coach.

JOHN GRAVES: Better known as “Whacka”, a Maitland winger who scored 553 points in six ­seasons at Souths between 1947 and 1952, represented both NSW and Australia.

GORDON HARLEY: An uncompromising forward who played 122 games for Maitland, which included a premiership treble between 1956 and 1958.

MAX McMAHON: Western Suburbs junior who played during successful period of 1960s and 1970s. Honest second-rower who later received life membership at the club.

JIM MORGAN: Maitland junior who played in Newcastle’s famous 1964 State Cup win, contested Sydney grand finals at Souths and Easts, represented Country, NSW and Australia.

TERRY PANNOWITZ: Played 270 times for Maitland in a career that included five straight grand finals as captain-coach between 1969 and 1973, Country, NSW and Australian representative.

NOEL PIDDING: Maitland fullback/winger who went to St George in 1947 and set several point scoring records at club and representative level. He was a World Cup player in 1954.

FRANK THRELFO: One of the city’s greatest products, a talented centre who went on to play for South Sydney in the 1953 premiership. He returned for more grand final success at Maitland.

DAVID TREWHELLA: An East Maitland junior who played at lock in the Pickers 1983 title. He went to Sydney where he played 66 games for the Roosters and represented NSW and Australia.

RAY WAWSKZOWICZ: A long-striding and outstanding second-rower who was part of the 1973 grand final success against Wests. He also represented Newcastle.

MERV WRIGHT: A household name during the 1960s, he arrived in Maitland for the 1965 premiership and never left. He was a winger with a wonderful ability to score and tackle front on.

FRED BROWN (Co-coach): A NSW representative who led the Pickers to three consecutive premierships between 1956 and 1958 after 116 games for Manly, including the 1951 grand final.

PADDY MAHER (Co-coach): Strapping centre who arrived in Maitland in 1933-1934 after playing for South Sydney and representing Australia. He guided the Pickers to their first premiership.


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