IT was an era in rugby league when front rowers were enforcers. As such it was their job to control the ruck and look after their playmakers by fair means or otherwise.
Props were also expected to make life difficult for the opposition, again either within the rules or otherwise. Generally speaking, at least on the field, front rowers were surly, mean buggers.
Not Brian Eakin. He was one of the best front rowers to ply his trade in Group Three. Eakin was big and tough. But he played within the rules.
"I always thought a hard tackle was as good a way to stop an opponent. I wasn't interested in that other stuff,'' Eakin, now 75 and living in Lismore, recalled.
Eakin, along with former Taree Old Bar opponents Phil Amidy and John Adamson and Smithtown's Ken 'Snow' Clarke, will be inducted into the Group Three Hall of Fame on Friday August 29 at the Wingham Services Club.
Eakin hails from Kempsey and had his first game of league in the 5 stone 7 weight division as a second rower. He eventually progressed to grade with Kempsey CYMS, where he was mentored by Lloyd Hudson, a towering figure in the Macleay and also a Group Three hall of famer.
His time at Kempsey came to an end when he joined the police in 1965, where after graduating he was posted to Canowindra and his association with Ron Boden began. Boden was captain-coach of the town's league side. Eakin's form was good enough to earn Group 11 selection.
Boden took the reins at Taree United in 1968 and pounced quickly when Eakin transferred to Taree in 1970.
"They had some top young players coming through, it was a good time to join them,'' Eakin remembers.
Eakin said clever five-eighth Kevin Hardy was a standout, but added that lock Max Coggan was an underrated player.
"He could set players up and give his outside players room,'' Eakin said.
The year 1971 was marked by highlights and disappointment for Eakin. His form ensured selection in the Group Three and then North Coast teams.
From there he was named in a Country squad to tour Queensland as a prelude to naming the Country Firsts and Seconds teams to meet City at the SCG.
Eakin impressed for Country but broke his scapula (shoulder blade) in a game in Townsville. He was subsequently selected to play for Country Firsts, but knew he was no chance.
"When I hurt the shoulder I knew I wouldn't be playing. There was nothing I could do about it.''
However, he recovered in time to be involved in United's charge to the club's maiden premiership. Minor premiers, the Greens stormed into the grand final, where they met bitter rivals, Taree Old Bar before a full house at the Group Three Leagues Ground (now Jack Neal Oval).
"It was a bit one-sided,'' Eakin said of the match and even that's kind, as United won 44-8 after being behind 5-0 early.
"We had it won by halftime,'' Eakin said.
The Greens had much the same roster in 1972 but endured a stuttering campaign.
"A few of the players weren't pulling their weight,'' Eakin said.
"Towards the end of the season we played Wauchope and had a draw with them. They went on to win the grand final, so it showed we had the players.''
This also marked the end of the Boden-era.
"He was a great coach,'' Eakin said.
"Bodey had a lot of knowledge. He was also a great motivator.''
Eakin decided to have one more for the road in 1973 with Kevin Hardy returning to the club as captain-coach after a successful season in 1972 with Western Suburbs in Newcastle.
United again dominated the season-proper, winning the minor premiership and then the major semi-final. Old Bar were again their grand final opponents.
However this game was nothing like the 71 massacre. United toughed it out against a determined Old Bar, finally getting the result 8-3 after a gruelling and brutal contest.
There was a major turning point. Match winning Old Bar five-eighth Phil Amidy split the line late in the game and was odds-on to score. Eakin gave chase, lunged out and dragged him back.
"I had to get him somehow,'' Eakin smiled.
"But I knew he wasn't going to score once I grabbed him.''
So at 29 and with two premiership wins in three years, Eakin retired.
He enjoyed his time in Group Three, especially packing into scrums against Wauchope's captain-coach John Wittenberg, a former international.
"It was interesting,'' Eakin said of packing down against the likes of Wittenberg or Wingham's Jake Kennett.
"It's a shame scrummaging has gone out of the game. I always enjoyed packing down and making sure your hooker had every chance to win the ball.''
Jake Kennett was inducted into the hall of fame in 2017. He singled out Eakin when speaking to the Times leading into the induction night when asked the best props he played against.
"Brian Eakin was a top bloke and a top footballer, although not fiery, just hard - he probably should have played for Australia,'' Kennett said.