Wanderers' Gibson ready to join 500-game club

RUGBY balls were made of leather, lifting in the lineout was illegal and Skins were what players grazed if they had the misfortune of being tackled on the cricket pitch.

The year was 1985 and it was Greg Gibson’s first season with Wanderers.

The evergreen centre will notch his 500th senior game for the Two Blues when they take on Maitland in C-grade at Marcellin Park on Saturday.

The 58-year-old South African will be the third Wanderer, after Steve Lee (513) and Andrew Macansh (510 and counting), to reach the milestone.

‘‘It’s not something that you set out to achieve, but I just love playing rugby,’’ Gibson said.

‘‘I started when I was eight years old. There was one year, when I was 18, that I played one game and then I got called up for national service. ‘‘Other than that, I have played every single year.

‘‘I enjoy the training, I enjoy the games. I don’t know what it is. I never miss training and just enjoy it, especially the camaraderie.

‘‘Some of the guys I have been playing alongside for 27 years. I have only been married a few years longer.’’

Gibson, a quantity surveyor, migrated to Australia in 1984.

He had 10 seasons, highlighted by four in the Border provincial side, under his belt when he arrived in Newcastle.

After a short stint for Mayfield-East at the end of the 1984 season, he joined Wanderers the following year.

He played 141 first-grade games and has since filtered down the grades.

The fierce competitor, known as ‘‘Elbows’’, has ‘‘about 15 premierships’’ to his name, but mateship is what keeps bringing him back.

His eldest son, Brad, who turns 26 on Saturday, will be alongside him at Marcellin Park. Second son Mitch, 22, plays second grade for Manly.

‘‘It will be nice to play my 500th game alongside Brad,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘I had a few games with Mitch when he was younger but I don’t think there will be many more opportunities.’’

Former Wanderers president and long-time teammate Angelo Agresti, who is closing in on 475 games, is amazed by Gibson’s longevity.

‘‘On the field he is a very focused individual,’’ Agresti said. ‘‘I didn’t realise how high a level he had played at until I saw a couple of old clippings from newspapers in South Africa.

‘‘To have played 141 first-grade games for Wanderers, not many guys in the club have achieved that.

‘‘If you watch him play, he wants to compete like he did 20 years ago. One year he played 42 games.’’

The 500 club is rarefied air in Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union.

Apart from the Wanderers trio, Maitland’s Grant ‘‘Bonehead’’ Mahony and Singleton stalwart Garry Buckton are the only other members.

‘‘If you look at Wanderers, there will be three of us come the weekend. That says a lot about the club,’’ Gibson said.

As for retirement?

‘‘Not yet,’’ he said. ‘‘I’d like to go another year or two.’’

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