TWO of Wingham Rugby League's finest, Harry Smith and Bruce 'Porky' Slater will be inducted into the Group Three Hall of Fame at a function to be held at the Wingham Services Club tonight.
Wingham life member Alan Skinner was a a boy when he saw Smith play for the Tigers in games at Central Park. He was later coached by him when he came into first grade. He played 'many, many' games with Slater.
A school teacher, Smith came to Wingham in 1948 after formerly playing minor grades at Balmain.
"Harry generally played halfback,'' Alan recalled.
"He was a very tactical player as well as being a strong defender. He could read a game very well.''
Alan said Smith built the Tigers into a powerhouse in the early 1950s, when the club won three premierships.
"Some good players came into the club like Johnny Rouse, Cliff Smailes and Kevin Geelan and Harry moulded Wingham into a very strong team,'' Alan said, noting the Tigers won back-to-back premierships in 1952/53 with Smith in charge.
However, he had his detractors. Smith was known as a strict disciplinarian and this didn't always sit well. The results, he added, remain Smith's legacy.
Alan came into grade in the mid-1950s when Smith had retired as a player, but continued as a coach.
He said Smith was very set on the way he wanted his teams to play.
"You'd get a kick up the bum if you didn't toe the line,'' he said.
The Tigers were runners up in 1955 to Taree Browns Creek under Smith and again in 1960, this time to Gloucester. However, in his last year of senior coaching in 1961, Wingham won the premiership.
'Porky' Slater was a member of that team, as was Alan.
Alan remembers Slater as a 'well built type of fellow' who was a 'powerful runner.'
And versatile. He represented North Coast in 1962 against the powerful touring Great Britain side as a winger. In 1964 he took on the touring French team with North Coast as a second rower.
"He had a great, long stride and was difficult to tackle,'' Alan said.
"And he was also a good defender.''
City talent scouts came calling, but Slater wasn't interested. He was a country boy.
"He was just as happy riding a horse as he was playing football,'' Alan said.
"And a laid back type - he'd turn up on horseback for training - but he was a good clubman, he never missed a commitment.
"I'd rate Porky in the top five players I've seen locally,'' he added.
Smith and Slater will join Kevin Hardy (Taree), Warren Kimberley (Wauchope/Taree), Gary McQuillan (Forster-Tuncurry), Wally Sneddon (Taree/Wauchope), Tony Paskins (Forster-Tuncurry) and Errol Ruprecht in the hall of fame that was inaugurated in 2014.
Wingham product Mitch Barnett, now with the Canberra Raiders, will be a special guest tonight.