Sometimes, it’s just one NRL game that a player plays but it means everything. Context and history are everything. That was the case for Tony Duggan.
We had a chat with Tony Duggan as he looks back at his Broncos game and sole debut, his successful time at the Crusaders and his career in France.
Plenty to read over so here we go; our chat with Tony Duggan here for all to read:
1. What is your earliest rugby league memory?
My earliest memory would have to be my first game for Wattles Warriors under 8’s.
First touch of the ball, I caught it and started running and someone was yelling, “run around them, Tony”, so I did.
I ran straight out over the sideline and around all the parents standing there watching before coming back into the field of play and scoring under the posts.
I was very proud and couldn’t understand what the problem was.
2. Your sole NRL appearance came with the Brisbane Broncos; did you know your debut was coming and what was the experience like?
Yes, I knew my debut was coming for a while. It was in the baby Broncos era when Brisbane players made up the majority of the QLD team.
I had been picked the year before (the famous victory over West Tigers) but ruled out with injury and I had been close a few times.
Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of opportunities because Darren Lockyer was still playing fullback. I’d known from the start of the season if I stayed healthy and in form, then I would get a run around origin time.
In the end, it was amazing. I had been a Broncos fan since 88 and to play for them was something I’d always dreamed of.
It took me a long time to get there and to have my family with me to share it meant the world.
3. It was at the Celtic Crusaders where you excelled, scoring tries galore and setting numerous club records; just describe what it was like for the club at the time.
The Crusaders was an amazing experience. Rugby union is a religion in Wales so to start a professional league team from scratch was a huge task.
I was lucky that I had known and worked with coach John Dixon for a long time and was already friends with most of the other imports so we had a very close playing group.
The lofty goal was to win our way into Super League in 3 years and we achieved it.
The Welsh public were amazing and it was a hell of a ride going from playing in tiny Welsh fields in front of very few spectators to playing at packed out Headingley.
We played a very expansive brand of footy and scored a lot of points which helped covert the union fans. The atmosphere at the games is very festive and the crowds are very vocal and sing non stop.
They had individual songs for every player that they used to sing every time the player got involved which made it a lot of fun.
John was a very smart coach and we had a side brimming with quality which helped me play some of my best footy over there.
As a fullback, I was involved in most of our structures and I liked to stay around the ball which opened up a lot of opportunities.
Dad had always told me to push forward in support play which I did and it allowed me to capitalise on the good work of the players around me.
We had a lot of success and I loved every minute.
4. You were close to playing for Wales before you were told you were being deported because of incorrect visas; what would it have meant to you to play for Wales?
Yes. We had qualified and probably would have played for Wales in the end of season European cup except for the visa issues.
Being Australian, I thought about it for a while but I would have proudly pulled on the jersey after what we had done to develop the sport.
It was very disappointing it ended the way it did.
5. A lot of your rugby league was played in France; did you know much about French rugby league when you signed and how did you accustom yourself to it?
France was another experience altogether.
In Wales, we were trying to convert union fans. In France, they are very loyal and passionate leaguies.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night to watch the Kangaroos play against France in the Kangaroo tours and I had always wanted to play there.
I signed for Football Club Lezignan for 1 year on my way back to Australia after Wales.
The first year went well and we won the first championship and cup double in the 100 odd year history of the club so I re-signed.
The second year, we won the double again so I re-signed and in the end, I played for another 7 years.
FCL is a very proud and successful club and we had a good run.
French daily life is very different and takes a bit of getting used to especially the language barrier.
I did 6 months of French in Year 8 but when we arrived, I could only remember how to count to 7, haha.
Simple things like getting a haircut became an adventure.
The French people were very accommodating and most have a bit of English so you can get by but there were some funny times at the start.
6. Post rugby league, how are you keeping yourself busy? Do you still have a role within the game?
Post footy, I am still in France.
I met my French wife Marine in 2011 and we have a 2 year old daughter Ruby who keeps us busy.
I am working as a personal trainer and at the moment I don’t have anything to do with footy except for training players individually.
After my last season, the club wanted me to sign for one more but I knew it was time for a change.
After being involved for so long, I needed to step right away for a while.
I will get involved again at some stage but at the moment I am enjoying my free weekends.
7. If you could give advice to any budding rugby league player, what would it be?
It would be if you’re really passionate about making it, then just keep working hard.
Everyone has set backs and challenges to overcome but you can’t get disheartened.
It’s the players who keep trying to improve each day and get better each year that will have the best careers, not the most talented.
Talent will only take you so far and alone it’s not enough to make it to the NRL.
A growth mindset and a will to learn and improve will help you achieve your dreams.