Bruce Walker to speak at Port Stephens Men of League charity bowls day

SPECIAL GUEST: Bruce Walker (left) with Brian Lawrance at last year's Men of League bowls day held at Nelson Bay Bowling Club.
SPECIAL GUEST: Bruce Walker (left) with Brian Lawrance at last year's Men of League bowls day held at Nelson Bay Bowling Club.

On the football field Bruce Walker, a former rugby league international, was regarded as the quintessential team player who gave 100 per cent in every game.

The Brisbane bred back-rower who found a home at North Sydney initially then Manly, achieved almost everything a footballer could dream of - winning a grand final and representing his city, state and country. In fact, Walker was the last ever player to pull on both a NSW and Queensland jumper.

And while Walker has remained in the game of rugby league in some capacity since his retirement in 1983, off the field the life of the 68-year-old father of five has taken many twists and turns.

As the current NSW manager of the Men of League Foundation, Walker will be be guest at the Port Stephens branch when it conducts its annual charity bowls day on Sunday, September 29, at Nelson Bay Bowling Club from 9.30am.

Born in Brisbane, the son of Easts Tigers premiership winning captain coach Jim Walker was signed by the North Sydney Bears as a 19-year-old in rather fortuitous circumstances.

"Roy Francis [Bears coach at the time] came to Brisbane to watch Len Dittmar from Brothers but signed me instead after seeing me in a reserve grade final," Walker said. "I stayed at Norths for seven years before switching to Manly." And it was there that the player they nicknamed 'Goldie' starred.

He went on to represent City, NSW and Queensland and toured Great Britain with the 1978 Kangaroos. "I played in eight tour matches and each was as rough and tough as the previous. It was a different game back then ... late tackles, head high tackles and I copped plenty, but you just played on.

"I guess I was lucky that I never had any major injuries - a few broken bones and stitches in the head. I prided myself on my fitness."

It was a troublesome torn groin muscle which ultimately led to Walker walking away from the game in 1983. However, three years earlier tragedy struck the Walkers when his young wife Margaret was killed in a car accident, leaving Bruce a widower with three young daughters aged 6, 4 and 10 months to look after.

"I was fortunate to have close family and friends and the Manly club rallied around me and the children, organising a fundraiser which gave me enough money to hire a live-in housekeeper so I could continue working and playing." Coincidentally, this is precisely what Men of League was founded on.

Post football he has worked with TNT Transport, Pacific Gaming, and studied to be a wool classer before ARL chairman Colin Love offered him a posting in Adelaide as the general manager of the South Australian Rugby League.

"I spent four years there before returning to Sydney working as a community facilities coordinator with firstly the NSWRL and later at the NRL." In October 2017 he accepted the role with MoL.

Walker played with many of the greats in the 1970s-80s era. "The reason I joined Manly was that I was sick of getting crash tackled by Terry Randall and I was sick of getting run over the top by Graeme Eadie."

Cost for the bowls day is $80 per team of four, which includes two games of bowls and a roast lunch. People are urged to wear their favourite teams colours. Entries are available at Nelson Bay Bowling Club or by calling Richard Girvan 4981 1272.