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Interviews Rugby League

int06 - Interview with Mr Western Suburbs Keith Yappy Holman from the official website of the Western Suburbs Magpies

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

Interview supplied by Andrew Waite of The Official Western Surburbs website
Dont forget to visit the site and find out all about the Mighty Maggies.


February 18, 2000 - Keith Holman Interview

There are few players that can compare to the great Keith Holman. One of the finest halfbacks ever to play the game, and a true Magpie legend, "Yappy" gave this exclusive interview to the Western Suburbs Magpies Supporters Club.

Keith, how did you get the nickname "Yappy"?

Well you won't believe it, I was captain of Western Suburbs and naturally being the captain, when a decision was made by the referee I'd say "excuse me sir, what was that for?, excuse me sir, what was that for?". The bloke that gave me the nickname "Yappy" happened to be Darcy Lawler. I don't think I can say what he told me, he said "for Christ's sake Yappy shut your #%$*&@ mouth" and that's how it stuck.

My nickname before that when I came to Wests was "mouse". I was a little fella, and I'd get in and out like a little mouse, and that's how my nickname came. But Darcy Lawler, God rest his soul, he was the one that gave me the name "Yappy". I don't mind it being "Yappy" because there's worse bloody names than "Yappy".

You were orphaned as a child and had an unsettled childhood until you were fostered by Ruby and Horace Schofield. How did you come to live with them, and how much of your later success do you think is due to them?

Well it goes back a fair way. Mr and Mrs Schofield lived at Yarra Bay and I lived down there in a tin shed during the depression. I had this chap looking after me, I think his name was Holman. It was just one of those things, that my name wasn't Holman. When I found out what it was, it was something else, and I had it done by deed poll. I changed it to Holman. I don't even remember my mother or father, I'm not too sure if he was or wasn't.

But Mr and Mrs Schofield, once they took me I never looked back. She sent me to De La Salle Brothers school in Surry Hills. That's where I met Bernie Purcell. I never looked back from that day. They gave me a home, they looked after me, and that was it.

He was a Goulburn to Sydney bike rider, not many people realise that, he won that many years ago, just prior to the war I think it was.

You served in the Air Force during the war.

I was lucky. I was in Ipswitch in Queensland. I was only ground crew, you'll never believe what I was, I was a chef with 82 Wing. I went into town one day and I said to the CO, Group Captain Douglas I think his name was, I said "excuse me sir, I'd like to be able to play football sir on a Saturday with CYM in Ipswitch First Grade". He said "I'll tell you what I'll do son. You can play on the Saturday, but you've got to double-up again on the Sunday and play for RAAF against the Army and Navy". You beaut! I thought. I had every weekend off.

You did have a close shave in Borneo didn't you?

Yeah, I was in Morakai and Balikpapan. We went over there with our heavy bombers, 82 Wing, Liberators. 23 Squadron was our unit. And unfortunately I got blown up.

My arms were burnt, my chest, everything. It was in the kitchen. We used to have petrol drums, with a pipe going in to the kitchen to what they used to call a "choofer". You'd put a match in and it'd go "woof" and it would cook the meals. But unbeknowns to me, I'd cleaned the kitchen up, and I was walking out and there was a leak. One of the natives had his hand on the pipe whilst they were fixing it and the petrol was leaking out of his hands and on to the floor. Of course when they lit it I was in the middle of the whole damn thing.

The first word I learnt in Indonesian was "chitti barguse". That means "no bloody good", I can tell you I went out of there like a rocket. Anyhow I was burnt, on my hands, luckily my face didn't get any, but my stomach, and my legs.

I had a good CO, Wing Commander Dunn, Archie Dunn, he lives at Cronulla, he's a lovely bloke. A little short-arse, sorry, a little short bloke. I often see him when we march on ANZAC Day. My life seemed to change when I played for Wests in 48.

How did you end up at Wests?

In 1946 I tried out for Souths, they told me to come back as a Ball Boy they thought I was that small. Cecil Blinkhorn sent me to Manly in 47 and they graded me in Reserves for Thirds then I got posted to Dubbo. Now I class Dubbo as home, because I've got such fond memories. The bloke that bought me back to Sydney was Eric Bennett, he played 5/8 and centre for Western Suburbs. He said "what about coming to Sydney and playing for Wests, I'll look after you". Beauty! it'll do me.

You stayed a Magpie for the next 14 seasons.
Were you ever tempted to leave?

Well I was offered something, but I wouldn't leave the Maggies, no chance in the wide world would I ever leave the Maggies.

What was it that made you stay?

Oh loyalty I suppose. You had all of your mates.

In 54-55 I took up as Captain-Coach. I got all the fellas together and I sat em on the seat and I said "right-o fellas, this is it. I'm Captain-Coach, I'm on such and such a figure. I'm getting my payment, I know what I'm getting. But we've got to win matches for you to get your winning bonus". I said "I'll promise you one thing. I'll bust my guts for you, but I'm going to have my good days and my bad days. If I have one of my bad days you've got to accept that, but I'll bust everything for you", which I did, and they backed me. That's why we, the boys that played with me, all those blokes it really turned out real good.

During your time as a player you had a reputation as one of the hardest trainers in the game. Why did you train so hard?

I always believed you had to train hard. Being small you had to. I was pretty lucky. I used to get in the ring with Georgie Barnes the boxer, and I'd go down to train with him in the boxing gym, and I trained just about five nights a week I think.

To me you've got to be physically fit to be mentally fit and if you're mentally fit you're alert. That's the secret of why I kept it going.

So you think it gave you an edge as a player?

See the thing was with me, if I got a setback, I'd try twice as hard. The trouble today, I think a lot of blokes get a setback and they get the sulks and they go and get in the corner and they don't do a damn thing about it. To me, the only way you're going to overcome an obstacle is to challenge it, to have a go at it, and that's what I did.

Do you think being so fit was a major factor in you being able to keep playing for 14 years?

I think that was the secret of it. I played hard and I trained hard. At Western Suburbs they used to come and get me off the ground at the end of the training session, I was still going. I always believed that if something was worth doing you gotta do it properly. There is no good in half doing it. I trained in the gym with Georgie Barnes, and I used to do skipping and unarmed combat, I'd do anything. Of course I learned that in the Air Force, unarmed combat, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Apart from the boxing, you also used to do sprint training with the likes of Olympic sprinters Marlene Mathews and Gloria Cooke. How did that come about?

That was funny. I was with Marlene last week. We were made life members of the Sydney Football Stadium. I'm a life member of the Cricket Ground, they also made me a life member of the Stadium along with Marlene Matthews, and Alan Davidson. I'll never forget those two because we used to train down at Pratten Park. Davo came down, and I said "I'll train you", and he said "right-o". I used to say to him "come on you big bludger" I used to call him all the bloody names, and say "you're bludging". Marlene Matthews, she was running like a rocket, I couldn't catch her.

You wouldn't believe it, at this function last Friday Alan Davidson said "you little bludger, you got stuck into me didn't you?", and I said "yes, you were bloody well bludging!".

You were pretty lucky during your career with 5/8s. You had Australian Rep's Frank Stanmore, Darcy Henry, and Arthur Summons playing alongside you at Wests. How do you think playing with those players helped your game?

Well Frankie Stanmore was the one that we had a good combination. Frank and I, if he looked sideways, I knew there was a move on. We didn't have to talk, we just had certain signals. Frank and I we were the best of mates. Even in England we played all the tests together. I played with Darcy Henry. He was a little bit different to Frankie. He wasn't as robust as Frankie, but he was a good little 5/8. And of course Arthur Summons, I played 5/8 to him. He played 5/8 to me one year then I went to 5/8 in 61 and he took over from me as the halfback.

What was the best thing about each of those players?

Well Darcy Henry was very fast, very nippy, but you had to look after him. He was a bloke, how'll I say it, he wasn't robust. He wasn't a bloke like Frankie that would get up and knock you head over turkey, or Arthur Summons was another one, something similar. But Frankie, we were a terrific combination, great mates, we still are even to this day.

Arthur joined Wests from Rugby Union. How much did you help him make the transition to league?

I don't know if I helped him or not, I'll be quite honest about it. But I did used to say things to him and talk to him, and explain things to him, and we had a pretty good combination.

Talking about great 5/8s, you had Vic Hey as a coach with Australia in 1950 and then at Wests in 58-59. What was he like?

He was great. He was a good footballer. He was down to earth. He helped Frankie and I. We won the ashes with him, he was a terrific bloke, lovely bloke. I had a lot of time for him. Frank and I, both of us had a lot of time for him. And then when he coached Wests that was even better. I knew what he wanted, he didn't have to tell me what to do, all he had to do was concentrate on his forwards.

Vic Hey to me was a great influence, but the greatest influence on me was Eric Bennett. He was the one that really got into me. When we'd come off after a game, he'd sit down and say you did such and such. The one thing I never did was make excuses. If I made a blue, if he said something to me, I'd say "I made a bloody blue". I'd say it straight out, I wouldn't argue, I wouldn't um and ah, because I think once you do that you lose the friendship of your mates, and you lose the confidence of the bloke you've got as a coach. But I never had much trouble with coaches, I was pretty lucky.

You missed the 1952 Grand Final because the Kangaroo tourists left mid season. Do you have any regrets about missing out on playing in a winning Grand Final?

Yes, I probably would, the only thing I ever did is play in a losing one. In my last year in 1961 against St George and 58. I would have loved to have played in a winning Grand Final but it's the only thing I haven't achieved. We left for England half way through the season. In those days you had to go by boat. Six weeks on the boat and six weeks back.

As I said to Gasnier, I said the last time I played in 61, we were playing and he threw a coathanger at me that missed and after the game I said "I wish to Christ you'd have hit me". He said "why?", I said "I'd rather get carried off than walk off, we got beaten 21 to nil". You've got to have a funny side I suppose.

In 1953 Wests went from Premiers to wooden spooners in one season. What happened?

Well I think everybody left us, we never had the same side. We had to build up again, we had to get juniors and teach them.

After a playing career with so many highlights do you have one special memory?

Oh God yes, playing for Australia and winning the Ashes in 1950 alongside me little scooter mate of mine Frankie Stanmore, and Arthur Collison was there. Bernie Purcell was there too, I went to school with Bernie. 1950 was the year Frankie and I got together and we killed England.

Why did you decide to take up refereeing?

Well I think life's a challenge. Once I walked up to Col Pierce. I said to Col "if we've got you next week I'm not playing". He said "what do ya mean?" I said "well I just can't figure you out". He said "Yappy, you can give it, but you can't take it". I said "Mr Pierce, if I open my mouth to a referee or a touch judge from this day on, and you hear of it, I'll retire on the spot, but I'm captain of the side, I am entitled to ask a question". He said "fair enough". So when 61 came and I was giving it away Col Pierce come up to me and said "so, are you going to be a referee?" I said "yeah". He said "right, I'll coach you", and he coached me. I give him full credit for everything that I achieved.

What was the highlight of your referreeing career?

Oh referreeing the Grand Final. Souths and St George. What year was that, 1971?

What was harder, playing against the poms or refereeing?

Oh playing against the poms was terrific. Refereeing was hard because you're on your own. You've got no one to turn to.

Strange as it may seem, I don't know what religion you are and I don't give a stuff, I'm a tyke and proud of it, but there used to be Masons and the Catholics in those days. I remember one day I was refereeing Easts and Souths and Samuelson was on the appointment board. Anyhow, I thought the game was alright. Piggins did something, and I cautioned him for it. I didn't think it was worth sending him off for it, but I did call him in and gave him the benefit of the doubt, gave a penalty and that was it. When I came off Les Samuelson he came to me and said "I'm giving you a bad report". I said "Les, that's what you're here for. I'm not going to argue with you." You argued with the appointments board and they'd think you were a smartarse, and you're down to reserves. I said "that's you perogative, but I thought I had a reasonably good game, I thought it went well". Lucky for me, Joe Macauley, Vic Brown, and Les Williams, all on the appointment board were at the Sports Ground when this happened. I got the 'Match of the Day' the next week. So politics used to play a little bit with it. Not with me, but it used to play a little bit with the football and that.

Do you think more ex-players should take up refereeing?

Well, I think they should but they don't get the encouragement.

You coached Wests in 54-55 and then in 1977 you took up the reigns again and coached Wests to their last First Grade title in the 1977 Amco Cup. Did you enjoy coaching?

Yeah, I enjoyed it. I had a good little team with Tommy Raudonikis and everything, but I just felt when I was out there coaching I didn't know what I wanted to damn well do. It was taking up a lot of time and I didn't want to make the wife wait all the time so I finished up being a selector. So I took up being a selector the next year, a city versus country selector.

Even today after 50 years you continue to give your time and efforts for the club. What is it about the Magpies that inspired a lifetime of loyalty?

Well I'm a funny bloke, I was an orphan and people gave me a chance, and I want to give the kids a chance. I think that's the beautiful part of it. Mr and Mrs Schofield gave me a home, I've got a wonderful family, I've got two daughters and a son, I've got seven grandchildren and everything I do I want them to be proud of me. Over the last couple of months all the fame and the Stadium and what's been on just recently, I wake myself up I nearly start crying.

I'm a sentimental old bugger I suppose. When they turned around and presented me with my badge just recently at the Cricket Ground last Friday, I got up there, and Hazel said "don't you cry". I said "no I'm right". Then they read out something about me and I turned to thank everybody and it just came, then I started crying. Because I feel that to achieve these things, for people to think that well of you, to give you those rewards, I couldn't believe it. I had the arse out of my pants as a kid, now I've got a lovely home and a lovely wife. I couldn't wish for anything more.

I'm patron of the supporters club, I'm life patron of the junior league, and I'll do anything for them. They know that. They've only got to ask me and I'll do it. I'd never leave Wests. No chance in the wide world would I ever leave Wests.

Keith Holman played 203 first grade games for Western Suburbs between 1948 and 1961. He also played 35 tests for Australia, coached the Magpies and refereed a First Grade Grand Final. He continues to offer his services to Wests and the game of Rugby League.

(thanks Andrew for a great interview - Quigs)


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