The Sydney Roosters wish to announce an audit of its Men’s Honour Roll – the historical list of all first-grade players – has been recently completed, with a number of omissions and errors rectified.
Last July, Roosters Club Historian Alan Katzmann began a process of cross-checking internal Club records with the fine work of the team at Rugby League Project (https://www.rugbyleagueproject.org), who have been tirelessly compiling data on all players and Clubs who have participated in the history of our great game.
During this process, Alan worked closely with Shawn Dollin from RLP and the esteemed historian David Middleton from League Information Services to agree on the final list of Roosters first-grade players and the debut match of each player.
After an exhaustive search of sources, which included Club annual reports, NSW State Library archives and even personal contact with players and relatives of deceased players, the primary findings are as follows:
Players Removed from List
Player no. 34 – E. Russell: When the list was first compiled it was believed that a player identified only as ‘E. Russell’ had played as a replacement in one first-grade game in 1909, and thus was assigned player no. 34. However, it appears he did not appear in any first-grade match.
Player no. 836 – Cam Cherry: Cam Cherry joined the Roosters in 1988 from Brisbane and played reserve grade but was believed to have been one of four bench players in the Round 4 clash with Cronulla-Sutherland.
However, the audit uncovered that only three subs were used in the match and Cherry himself confirmed later that he did not play a first-grade match for the Roosters during his stint at the Club.
Players Added to the List
Player no. 34 – Billy Flegg: The Sydney Roosters' first Captain and Life Member, Harry ‘Jersey’ Flegg (Rooster #1), played ten matches for the Club in 1908 and one in 1909, with historians originally recording him as playing three matches in 1909.
The audit determined that two of those three games had been incorrectly recorded against Harry Flegg. The findings determined that it was his younger brother Billy who played in the 1909 Round 5 match against Newcastle and the semi-final against Balmain in the same year.
These were Billy Flegg’s only two first-grade games. The Club has now allocated Billy Flegg the no. 34 that was originally given to ‘E. Russell’.
Player no. 836 – Alex Barnetson: Whilst replacement players were not allowed between 1926 and 1962, they were allowed in the first eighteen seasons of professional Rugby League in Australia.
However, the recording of replacements in those early days was sometimes inexact, and when the original players' list was compiled, the injury to Sandy Pearce in the Round 4, 1915 match against Newtown, and his subsequent replacement by Alex Barnetson, was missed.
Barnetson has been allocated the no. 836 player number originally given to Cam Cherry.
Player no. 1220 – Bob Thomas: In most instances, the recording of player names in publications in the first 50 years of professional Rugby League in Australia was by first initial and surname only, leading in several cases to the incorrect recording of matches against players.
One such instance was the three matches played by fullback Bob Thomas in 1956 that were originally recorded against former NSW and centre Ray Thomas, both referred to as R. Thomas.
Once it was determined that Ray Thomas played in Rockhampton in 1956, it became obvious that it was Bob Thomas who had played those three first-grade matches in 1956. Bob Thomas has been allocated player no. 1220, the number immediately following the last Rooster debutant of 2023, Siua Wong.
Player no. 1221 – Les Robinson: A copy of the 1939 Club Annual Report was not available when the original Roosters player list was compiled. That report, a copy of which was only recently located, indicated that ‘L. Robinson’ played one first-grade game in 1939.
Further investigations indicated that an ‘L. Robinson’ was in fact listed to play halfback for Eastern Suburbs in the Round 8 match against St George, but historians had presumably seen that listing and concluded it was typo and it must have been regular half back ‘F. (Fred) Robinson’ who played that day, as he had in thirteen of the other fourteen premiership games the side played that year.
‘L. Robinson’ was in fact not a typo, found to be Les Robinson - Fred’s younger brother. Les played a number of lower-grade games for the Club at halfback and deputised for his brother that day in 1939. It was his only first-grade game.
Player no. 1222 – Michael Windeatt: A Bondi United junior, Michael Windeatt played on the wing when the Roosters won the Under 23s premiership in 1976. Earlier that year in first grade, Windeatt was a second-half replacement in the Round 6 match against Cronulla-Sutherland, his sole game in the top flight.
His involvement had not previously been acknowledged and he is now Roosters player no. 1222.
Players 1223 – 1227: The Club Annual Reports of 1984 and 1985 were, unfortunately, compromised due to the fact that between 1981 and 1987, clubs could use up to four replacement players per game. This was only possible if the player in question had played at least half a lower-grade game earlier that day, so they were only retrospectively identified as replacement players by the tackle counts in the Monday afternoon newspapers.
Because of this, the involvement in first-grade from several players was easily overlooked and subsequently five new debutants have now been found. These also happened to be their only first-grade appearances at the Roosters.
Player no. 1223 – Phil Dotti: A light-stepping winger who wore head gear, Phil Dotti was a replacement player in the Club's last round (Round 25) clash against Illawarra in 1984.
Player no. 1224 – Bibi Edgerton: Like Phil Dotti, Bibi Edgerton’s only first-grade appearance was as a replacement in Round 25 against Illawarra. Edgerton did not play first-grade for any other Club.
Player no. 1225 – David Cruikshank: The younger brother of Matt Cruickshank, who played first-grade for the Roosters in 1983 and 1984, David played his only first-grade match in the Tricolours as a replacement player in a Round 18, 1985 match against Manly-Warringah.
Player no. 1226 – Mike Ford: A future English and Great Britain international, Mike Ford joined the Roosters as a 19-year-old from Wigan in 1985 for a short-term stint as a back-up halfback to Laurie Spina. He was a replacement in the 1985 Round 23 clash against Canberra in Queanbeyan.
Player no. 1227 – Roy Robinson: Outstanding as a lower grade half, Roy Robinson, the brother of former Balmain player Clint Robinson, was handed the opportunity to come on as a replacement in the 1985 final round (Round 26) clash against Penrith at the Sports Ground.
Changes To Debut Games
The debut games of all 1,227 Rooster players have now all been reconciled. A number of players have had their debut games adjusted based on the audit but, in four cases, the debuts of a number of players are in a different season compared to what was known when the original list was compiled.
Eddie White (Player no. 53) – It was originally recorded that dual premiership and NSW winger Eddie White made his debut in 1911, but in fact, he made one first-grade appearance in 1910 in the centres in round 13 against Balmain. White played a total of 30 games for the Club.
Harry Thompson (Player no. 223) – Harry Thompson played fifteen matches for Eastern Suburbs in 1933 and 1934. However, a one-off appearance in 1929 playing on the wing against St George in round 17 was missed. Thompson was a regular third grader in those days but was needed in first grade on that day when four regulars had to withdraw in the hours just before kick-off.
Jim Harvey (Player no. 789) – A back-rower who played sixteen first-grade games for the Roosters in 1985 and 1986, Jim Harvey (not to be confused with John Harvey), also played a game as a replacement in the 1984 Round 19 match against South Sydney, which was previously missed.
Brendan Hall (Player no. 813) – Roosters 1986 Player of the Year Brendan Hall had a stellar career at the Club, however, his three appearances off the bench in 1985 weren’t recognised in the Roosters Honour Roll, with his player number reflecting a player who made their debut in 1986, instead of 1985.
The first of Hall’s 1985 appearances was the Round 11 match against Parramatta, which we now acknowledge as his debut. His 159 first-grade games is equal 21st in Club history.
Changes To Player Names
During the auditing process, we were able to correct the spelling of a number of first and surnames of players and change, where necessary, the first names of players to those they were best known by, or correct them for those who had been incorrectly listed all together.
We were also able to find first names for players where they had previously only had an initial assigned. There were four players who had names changes of note.
Player no. 16 – There was a myriad of ‘H. Thomson/Thompson’ in the first 30 years of Rugby League in Sydney, causing great confusion among historians.
Rooster player no. 16 was originally listed as ‘H. Thompson’, but it has been determined, and with great assistance of the historians at the Western Suburbs Magpies, that Rooster player no. 16 is in fact Harry Thomson, who debuted in 1908.
He played at both South Sydney and Western Suburbs after leaving the Roosters, where he played five games in 1908.
Player no. 46 – Previously Roosters Player no. 46 was listed as ‘Lesley Wylie’. However, listings varied between ‘L. Wylie’ and ‘L. Wiley’ and after establishing the player’s surname was in fact ‘Wiley’ it was also discovered his first name was “Lindsay” and not “Lesley”. Lindsay Wiley played eleven games for the Roosters in 1910.
Player no. 71 – Previously Roosters Player no. 71 was listed as ‘G. Redman’. However, the player who was previously recognised as ‘G. Redman’, having played one game on the wing for the Roosters in 1913, was, in fact, Sylvester Redmond (player no. 71).
Player no. 215 – Previously Rooster Player no. 215 was listed as ‘J. Spence’. However, the player who was previously recognised as ‘J. Spence’, having played one game on the wing for the Roosters in 1932, was found to be Jack Gray-Spence.
The Sydney Roosters apologise to those former players and families who were either not recognised previously or where incorrect names were listed or misspelt, as the information collected previously was the best available at the time.
The Club is grateful to all those involved in the detailed process which has led to the publication today of the amended Sydney Roosters Men’s Honour Roll.
It was not practicable to reallocate player numbers, given the attachment many have to those numbers and the possibility, albeit unlikely, that additional information may be found at a later date.
However, the Club will display the Honour Roll going forward in the order of the debut game date of each player and on roosters.com.au, it will now include the total first-grade matches, tries and points scored for all players without a current NRL contract with the Club.
The amended list, shown in debut match order, can be found in the card below:
With the ten players now recognised and allocated Club player numbers, as detailed above, the first Roosters' NRL debutant of 2024 will be allocated player no. 1228.