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Interviews Rugby League

int05 - Interview with John Mowbray, an old West Legend from the 60's

Posted by... quigs eraofthebiff - on ... Saturday, June 02, 2012


From Tony Lewis off
Kelly's Kids
a tribute site to the Mighty Maggies




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Western Suburbs Magpies.

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Interview with John Mowbray,
an old West Legend from the 60's
suitably titled
"for the love of the game"

Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies. Click image above



As a young fan of West's I had my favorite players and one was Johnny Mowbray, Mowy to his mates. He was a winger, very quick, and looked like he enjoyed playing for the Magpies. I met Mowy at the Pratten Park Magpies reunion 3 years ago and I had the pleasure of sitting at his table, where he made me feel more than welcome. I had the idea of a web site in those days and I said to myself that one day I would interview Mowy and post it on Kelly's Kids. Three years later I sat down with Mowy at his home at Cessnock and spent two black and white hours with him, talking about the great players he played with and against, the highs the lows and of course the 1963 Grand Final. Well Mowy here goes.....

John Robert Mowbray was born in the year of 1940. He played most of his junior football for Guildford in the Parramatta district. While at school Mowy toured with the first schoolboys team to leave these shores. The tour was to New Zealand...the year 1953. His position in the team was fullback. Mowy even as a young player showed plenty of natural ability he scored over 300 points for Guildford in the years 1957 and 1958. He also represented Southern Districts both in football and sprinting.
In 1959 Mowy went along to trial with Balmain and was told by the late Norm ' Latchem ' Robinson, "Son come back next year your'e too small !!".
So Mowy went to a trial match between West's and Parramatta at the old Cumberland Oval and had a blinder and West's graded him. His first grade game with West's was at Pratten Park in 1959. Mowy was to play second grade that day but because Ian Moir was out with the flu he played first grade. West’s played Manly that day and Mowy scored two tries in West’s win. He also won the Sun Herald 'Man of the Match', as well as 'Man of the Match' in the two other Sunday papers. I quote from the Sun Herald paper.."Gave most attractive wing display. Scored try that proved turning point of the game" For the record the score was West's 24 Manly 13. What a dream start for a long and colourful career. On a sad note Mowy broke his collarbone with only a few minutes to go and was out of football for some weeks.

Mowy was very quick and was once recorded at 9.45 seconds over 100 yards......that's quick!! He played against some of the best wingers of all time players such as Ken Irvine, Johnny King, Michael Cleary, Bobby Landers and Eddie Lumsden to name a few. So I asked Mowy who was the best....his answer surprised me..."Bob Mara who played for Balmain was the most difficult player that I faced “ said John “he was quick and hard to read.."
I next asked, "Well Mowy, who was the best player at West’s during your 10 seasons with the Magpies?" Mowy thought for a while and said Dick Poole the Newtown and Australian centre. “He was great to play outside of. He had a great pass straight into your chest every time”.
How about the best player during the Kelly Kids era?... "Easy", said Mowy. "Noel Kelly. He was a great player and a very good coach”.
Mowy named a few more players that deserve a mention. John Hayes, Dennis Pittard, Kel O`Shea and one of the toughest players that Mowy played with, Jack Gibson.

John Mowbray playing for City Seconds -1962

We talked about the 1963 Grand Final and how West’s were robbed. Mowy told me he was there when Don Parish tackled Johnny King, heard the ref call tackled then saw King regain his feet and score the winning try. Heart breaking stuff. A lot has been said about this game and how Jack Gibson came into the dressing room before the game and said that West’s had no chance because the ref had backed Saints! Well Mowy told me that its all true.How does he know? Simple! Because he was there! My view is easy I just quote the penalty count 18-7 against West’s.


It's now 1968 and Mowy decides it's going to be his last year at Wests. He asks Billy Owens, the reserve grade coach, if he can play closer to the action. This move would make him more attractive to a country rugby league club. Bill agrees, so he gets a few games as five–eighth and captain of reserve grade and that’s how Mowy finished his football career at Wests.

John Mowbray and Billy Smith at SCG - 1966

Mowy is offered a captain-coach job in 1969 at Wollongong where he looked after all 4 grades for the princely sum of 3 thousand dollars per year. Mowy left Wollongong in 1970 and guess who the new coach was? Another old magpie…. Noel Kelly. After leaving Wollongong Mowy captain-coached Corrimal, also on the South Coast. He played and coached at Corrimal until 1974.
The only reason that Mowy retired from football was a broken jaw. It was broken in 3 places thanks to Hal Brown the ex- Balmain player.

Mowy has done many things since then; he became involved with the Surf Life Saving movement on the south coast. Owned a farm at Berry where his love of trotting began.
He moved to Cessnock about 8 years ago and has become very involved with the local trotting people. Mowy lost one of his legs 3 years ago but this has not stopped him from getting around. Mowy is a regular at the Pratten Park Magpies Reunion and can still carry beers back from the bar. He is a life member of Western Suburbs Football Club and was nominated for the West’s Tigers team of the century.

John Mowbray

Mowy played 10 seasons with West’s starting in 1959 when they were the millionaire club through to 1968. He played in 85 first grade games scored 40 tries and also played many lower grade games. Mowy was unlucky not to be picked in the 1963 Kangaroo Tour and when you think that his playing weight was only 9 stone he always played well above his weight.
I would like to thank John for his time and the loan of his scrap book and photos. It has made my job a real pleasure. Over 40 years ago I was a big fan of Mowy but now that I know the man I am an even bigger fan. Mowy thanks for the memories...Tony

THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW TONY......... "Quigs @ Era of the Biff"
Visit Tony's website for a great read and memories of the Mighty Old Magpies.
Click on image to visit


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