It is back again! NRL Interviews, this time with Mike Eden, the former Manly, Roosters, Eels and Gold Coast utility back.
We had a chat with him about footy, his greatest memories, life after footy and his current involvement in the game.
Here are our questions (red) and his answers (blue):
- What are your earliest memories of rugby league?
Around 1966/7, my uncle Harry lived at our 2 bed fibro joint in Rockdale. My brother & I had bunks and Harry a small single bed in our room. Harry played with Jack Gibson’s Roosters so we went to training with him often and watched every game (he played mainly 3rd Grade then) at the Sports Ground.
Kevin Junee, Johnny Mayes, Alan McKean, Larpa Stewart, Ronny Saddler and Johnny Walker were our heroes early.
When he went to the Dragons, it was Chang & Billy Smith. I was lucky to go to test matches and grand finals as a kid.
We were Rugby League people and it is in our blood. Although, I played soccer from the age of 4 until 16.
- You were a Manly junior and went on to play for the club in the 1981 and 1982 seasons; what did it mean to you to represent a club you had a long association with?
I played soccer at Beacon Hill after we moved in 1968 to the Northern Beaches. I filled in when the Rugby League team was short and played my first game at Brookie in 1969, a game we won 3-0; see attached photo.
I was captain of Manly Sea Eagles SG Ball & Jersey Flegg teams before being graded in 1979 from Presidents Cup. Even though I supported the Rabbits, Roosters and Dragons while Harry played, I was convinced I would play as many grade games for Manly as Maxy Krilich when I went to grade.
I told Ken Arthurson that I would be at the club long enough to be in his chair (after I finished my Law degree). It was very sad to be told I wasn’t wanted after the 82 season. I love the club and it would have been enough for me to play one u23 game.
It was a privilege and an honour to play grade football for the Eagles.
- You moved to the Eastern Suburbs side in 1983 in what was perhaps your best season in the top grade, winning the Rothman’s Medal; how would you rate that season and your success in it? I turned up to training at Centennial Park in the off season on crutches after a white water rafting acccident and was booked into get an operation in mid-march.
Luckily, the Roosters Doctor Neil Halpin sorted that out and I was able to get fit for the first game of the season against the Magpies. I played well in a basically new team after Bozo took a heap of good players to Manly.
It was a great thrill to win the medal. On the night, I sat next to Jack Gibson and Ron Coote which was very exciting. We went ok until the last few weeks when the players stopped playing for the coach I think. It was a tough year getting beat in the playoff against the Dragons.
I played most of the season with an AC injury requiring needles most games and an operation at the end of the season.
- In 1988, you signed for the Gold Coast Giants side and scored the team’s first try; just briefly describe the reception of a Gold Coast team in the competition at that time and your time there.
Bob McCarthy and John Sattler were good mates of my uncle and asked me to come and play for their team. We had some great players and characters in that first year or two. Hollywood Halliwell, Choppy Close, Rambo Gibbs, Neil Hunt, Truck Simpkins and Billy Johnston were good for the franchise.
I enjoyed my time on the coast but retired after headbutting Mal’s knee and arm guard in a game against the Raiders. Concussion is going to be an ongoing issue for our game.
- Your uncle Harry Eden also played rugby league; did you attend any of his games growing up and did his time in the sport inspire you in any way to play rugby league?
We watched most of Harry’s games including when he played in Wollongong for Collies and West down there. The 71 GF is still the saddest day of my childhood when St George lost all 3 grades.
- You’re currently a solicitor; was law always something you saw yourself getting into post-footy?
I went to Sydney Uni in 78 to do law. I didn’t look at doing anything else after football except maybe as an administrator in the game.
- Talk us through your time (still active) as a committee member of the Albury Thunder rugby league club in Group 9.
I was the waterboy until my knee gave way. I am a very passionate supporter of bush footy and am currently negotiating with the Melbourne Storm to host their feeder club to play in the NSW Cup competition.
David Trodden, CEO of NSWRL & Brian Canavan, the NRL’s Head of Football have been very supportive and will help fund the project.
I am also Vice Chairman of the Professional Rugby League Match Officials Inc (PRLMO) and am assisting with the negotiations with the NRL on behalf of the referees and touch judges.
- Finally, if you could give any advice to budding rugby league players, what would it be?
You are retired a very long time. Enjoy our great game and look at doing some training to assist grass roots when you finish, maybe as a ref, water boy, coach or something else. It is very rewarding. Get your referees ticket while you are a player. Pick up a whistle or a flag and do a junior game. You will understand how hard it is and how rewarding it is to be part of the greatest game of all.