Canterbury Connection: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Despite being namesakes, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have recruited very few Canterbury Rugby League products – but a couple that did turn out for the club had a big impact.
Linwood Keas hooker-prop Bill Noonan represented his province 25 times from 1965-69, making his first appearance aged just 18. He played three Tests for New Zealand against Australia, debuting in 1967 and playing both matches against the touring green-and-golds in ’69.
Noonan was signed by Sydney club Canterbury-Bankstown ahead of the 1970 season for a $6,000 transfer fee after legendary secretary Peter Moore and captain-coach Kevin Ryan had originally travelled to New Zealand to run the rule over his provincial teammate Graeme Cooksley.
The move brought his international career to a premature end; the NZRL did not allow overseas-based players to represent the Kiwis until the late-1970s, which also cut the Test tenures of the likes of Henry Tatana, Oscar Danielson and Bernie Lowther lamentably short.
Nevertheless, Noonan was a hit on the Sydney premiership scene, playing finals football for the Berries – as Canterbury was then nicknamed – in his first season. By 1974, the rugged prop was a key figure in the Malcolm Clift-coached side’s line-up.
Teaming up in the front-row with Great Britain international Brian Lockwood and future Australian Test captain and hooker George Peponis, Noonan helped Canterbury reach the grand final, where the Berries faced off against star-studded minor premiers Eastern Suburbs.
Played in front of a 57,214-strong crowd at the SCG, the decider was an unhappy occasion for Noonan and co., as the great Arthur Beetson led a Roosters side containing Ron Coote, Russell Fairfax, Bill Mullins, Mark Harris, John Brass, John Peard and Elwyn Walters to a three-tries-to-none, 19-4 triumph.
But Noonan’s place in history was assured as the first Kiwi to play on Australian rugby league’s greatest stage; Tatana and Lowther were both on Canterbury’s books that season but were left out of the line-up for the Grand Final.
Noonan went on to play 161 games for Canterbury and 36 for Newtown in an 11-season career in Sydney, and is still regarded as one of the finest Kiwi imports to play in the premiership.
Goalkicking utility-back Marty Crequer featured in Hornby Panthers’ 1983-84 premiership-winning sides and made his New Zealand Test debut, before moving to Auckland club Northcote in 1986. He got a chance in the Australian premiership via the Newcastle Knights, playing 11 games for the Kiwi-heavy club in 1990, before moving on to the Bulldogs in ’91.
Crequer kicked five goals in his first outing for the club at fullback – a 22-12 win over St George – but made only two interchange appearances in the top flight thereafter, with the arrival of Welsh superstar Jonathan Davies thwarting his designs on the blue-and-white No.1 jumper. Crequer returned to his home region, featuring in Canterbury’s famous win over Auckland in 1993 and turning out for the Christchurch City Shiners and Canterbury Cardinals in the Lion Red Cup.
Christchurch-born Jason Williams headed to Sydney at the age of 15 and made his first-grade debut for Western Suburbs as a 19-year-old in 1987, before spending the following season with Eastern Suburbs.
He returned home in 1989 and debuted for the Canterbury provincial side against Wellington, but after spending the next year with Sydney Metropolitan Cup outfit Guildford, he received his big break during a 1991 season with South Sydney that garnered 12 tries in 16 games – and a New Zealand Test debut in the famous 24-8 thrashing of Australia in Melbourne.
The wiry Williams linked with the Bulldogs the following season and became a regular fixture in first grade, despite battling countryman Daryl Halligan and Queensland Origin speedster Brett Dallas for a spot on the flank, while he advanced his Test tally to 12 appearances by the end of 1995.
Although he tasted bitter defeat in the 1994 grand final, he scored a memorable long-range intercept try in the loss to Canberra and clinched a premiership medal in the Bulldogs’ 17-4 boilover against Manly in the ’95 decider.
The journeyman played 73 games in four season for the Bulldogs and scored 34 tries, before finishing his colourful career with three seasons at Penrith (1996-98).
One of only two current teams (along with the Gold Coast Titans) not to feature a Canterbury product in their first-grade ranks during the NRL (post-1998) era, the Bulldogs broke that drought in 2018 when Hornby junior and former Cronulla utility Fa’amanu Brown linked with the club on a two-year deal.
Best suited to hooker or five-eighth, Brown made two appearances off the bench during the first month of the 2018 season but has been kept in the club’s InTrust Super Premiership line-up since.
The Bulldogs’ 2018 Jersey Flegg squad contains two promising forward prospects from the CRL junior ranks, Daniel Sakisi and Sua Ailoilo.