[Article 4005]The John Purcell Story.

john footie card photo

John on the run 1975.

John Purcell was born in May of 1952 which makes John the youngest Ex-Wests player (and closest to my age ) that I have had the pleasure to interview. I met John at his home which is not far from Wenty Leagues Club in November 2015.

He was surprised that I had wanted to interview him.

Every Wests player has a story to tell and I am very happy that John allowed me to tell his.

1976 story and photo changs last game

The story above is a point in fact.

The year was 1976 and  Graeme Langlands had lasted 6 rounds into the 1976 season well after the famous White Boot Grand Final v Easts of 75.

1976 JC scores try Chang retires

1976 photo Chang retires

Wests played St George at Lidcombe…John scored a great try…the rest is History.

John Purcell’s story begins.

John started playing Rugby League at a young age, so young in fact that the team was picked on weight.

The Marist Brothers Lidcombe 4st 7 lb team was John’s first team.

After leaving MB Lidcombe John attended Marist Brothers Auburn for his High School years.

For the next 3 years John played for MBHS Auburn both during the week against other schools and on the weekend against local sides.

1967 SG ball comp team

During this time John was picked to play for Wests in the S.G.Ball comp.

John left school in 1967 and played the next 3 years for Enfield Federals.

Enfield Feds badge.

During these 3 years John and the Feds won 3 comps and John played and Captained Wests Jersey Flegg Team.


           John was only 18 at the start of the 1971 season when he was graded to play third grade for Wests.

1971 JC frist third game.

John’s first game for Wests.

John  broke both collarbones and missed a lot of the 1971 season.

 John played in 9 games and scored 2 tries.


1972 third grade team

John played 18 games in Third Grade.


1973 under 23s team

1973 was the first year of the new Under 23 Grade.

1973 first reserve grade game

John’s first game in Wests Reserve grade.

Jim Cody and Geoff Foster a couple of good forwards helping John on the day.


Geoff Foster.

John played 4 game in Reserve grade and 18 games in the new Under 23 comp scoring 3 tries.

During 1973 John also played for his employer the Housing Commission in the Sydney Business Houses comp held at the Domain in Sydney.

1973 Business House comp

A NSW team was picked to play QLD in a game held at Lang Park before the 1973 NSW V QLD and John was the hooker.

NSW won of course.

One good story John told me was the time he busted his finger playing Fullback on Friday for the Housing Commission. John had not told Wests about playing in this game. Thanks to Wests trainer Doug Lucas and a sharp pair of scissors and a lot of pain the problem was fixed before John ran on to play on the weekend for Wests.


1974 was the first year since 1963 that Wests had made the semis.

 John was a major reason for Wests success in 1974.

1974 Johns first Wests jumper.

1974 Badge on jumper

John’s first First Grade Jumper has pride of place in John’s home.

1974 JC first 1st grade game

The first round of the 1974 season and John is playing his first First grade game.

1974 JC first 1st grade game results

What a score line.

NOTE: John was to play Reserve grade when the program was printed BUT played in First grade on the day.

1974 jc first grade try.

1974 proof of try

John not in program but as per the next weeks program he has scored a try. (which he did)

 Mistakes made in Rugby League Programs were common and it still happens.

1974 JC name in program first time 1st grade

First time John’s name appeared in the Official program as the First Grade hooker for Wests.

At the age of 21 John was up against some very good hookers and old hard head props.

Tommy and George Piggins photo

George Piggins being one of them.

1974 amco cup story

It was not all clear sailing for John in 1974.

1974 Wests for final story

A good win at the right time. Wests finish 5th.

1974 JC try game

The first of the semis Wests 24 beat Souths 2.

1974 wests team write up.

How Wests made it to the Semis.

1974 Wes  v manly programe

1974wests v manly photo geoff foster

Geoff Foster scores a try against Manly.

1974 Wests beat manly semi final story

Wests 23 beat Manly 20

1974 Wests v Balmain program

The great run comes to an end Wests 2 V Easts 25.

1974 Tommy and beetson photo after easts beat wests

Beaten by a better side on the day.

John told me that he had very bad bronchitis and Pat Hundy could not straighten his arm.

(Not excuses just two reasons.)

John’s record for 1974 was 23 First Grade games 1 try and  3 Reserve Grade games 1 try.


1975 magpie badge school case

Newspaper promotion 1975 style.

1975 photos of wests players.

What a fine body of Magpies.

1975 to Wests fans was the year of playoffs.

1978 photo SCG story

Due to a point being taken off Wests there was a three way playoff for the 5 th spot.

1975 playoff poster parr v wests.

Playoff game was played on Tuesday 26th August 1975.

1975 wests play off game story

Dallas was missed on the day. Wests 13 V Parramatta 18

1975 Parra team photo

Parramatta went on to beat Balmain then Canterbury before losing to Manly 22-12.

Just for the record Easts 38 flogged St George Zip in the Grand Final.

1975 story about JC in reserve grade.

Very good write up by Fred Nelson on John’s season.

John played 4 First Grade games scoring 1 try and 21 Reserve Grade games scoring 3 tries.


1977 JC photo

John looking all class !

John scored 4 tries in first grade in 1976 which maybe a record for a Wests First Grade hooker.

1976 JC scores try Chang retires

First try.

This is the famous last game of Graeme Langlands.

1976 story and photo changs last game

It was all John’s fault.

1976 JC try game

Second try. Wests 41 beat Norths 12

John scored his third try V Manly and his fourth against St George in the second round.

1976 JC try game 2

A very proud moment for John .

John was chosen to Captain Wests First Grade.

1976 JC capt of Wests v Cronulla

1976  John capt of Wests

Wests 23 beat Cronulla – Sutherland 10.

John played in 19 First Grade games scoring 4 tries and 1 Reserve Grade game.


Don Parish new coach of Wests Oct 1971

After 5 years as Wests coach Don Parish left the Magpies and headed further west to Penrith.

1977 Keith Holman photo

Wests new coach was Keith “Yappy” Holman.

Keith had already coached Wests way back in 1954-55. Yappy was Capt/Coach for those 2 years.

1977 for Wests was all about winning the Amco Cup.

(Spoiler alert) Which Wests did.

1977 Amco Cup pic

The Amco Cup.

1977 Les Boyd out for 4 games Amco cup

Les missed the Amco Cup Final.

1977 amco cup final story day out.

John told me that he only found out he was playing in the game shortly before the match.

1977 amco cup story final

Bad news is Shane Day out with a virus.  Good news is John Purcell plays.

1977 John in day out amco cup

1977 amco cup wests win story

Wests win the Amco Cup.

Tommy and Yappy Amco Cup photo

Two great Wests half backs holding the Amco Cup.

Amco Cup story and photo

The headlines say it all.

1977 amco cup story on john winning scrum in final

I recently watched the 1977 Amco Cup again . Not only did Purc win a lot of scums, the first 4 in fact.

His tackling and dummy half play greatly helped Wests win.

1977 Amco Cup and Tommy

Tommy holding up the Amco Cup 1977.


A new First Grade coach was chosen from the Under 23’s winning Team of 1977.

1977 undewr 23 team photo

Thats the new coach far right wearing the very red shirt. Roy Masters.

1977 under 23 names

Just for the record the complete list of players who won the 1977 Under 23’s Comp.

1978 Roy Masters photo

Roy Masters revving up the boys.

1978 JC try game

John scored his last try for Wests in this win over Newtown. Wests 25 Jets 7.

Note: Les Boyd playing in the centres.

1978 John last try for Wests

1978 story league a thon

1978 the year of League-A-Thon’s.

1978 photo SCG over flow

The crowds loved it.

1978 Wests V balmain at SCG story

1978 Wests v balmain program

1978 Larry Corowa picture.

The Black Flash loved it.

1978 West V balmain Larru scores 3 tries.

But not Wests.

1978 Wests v Croulla game before semis

This was the game where John broke his hand on Steve Roger’s head.

Unfortunately for John it was the last game before the Famous Semi Finals.

1978 programe

It was a sad end to the season for Wests and John Purcell.

Wests 7 were beaten by Manly 14.

1979 semi game sheet

There is a brilliant DVD about the 1978 season called “The Fibros and the Silvertails”.

It’s a must see for all Wests supporters.

John played 9 First grade games scoring 1 try and 10 games in Reserve grade.


Wests stars at Burwood advert

At the end of the 1978 season Shane Day retired from Rugby League which in theory made John Purcell the numero uno  hooker at Wests. John asked for $10,000 but was offered $7,000 then he found out that Wests had signed Jack Jefferies from St George and Country hooker  Ray Brown.

Seeing the writing on the wall when John was offered the job of Captain/ Coach of Yass Magpies he took it.

1979 Monaro v GB

To quote John ” Tony it was not the best decision I have ever made

Yass with a very limited talent pool finished just outside the top 5.

After one big loss John decided to extend training . As John and a couple of the players were doing a extra lap of Walker Park the other players were driving away to the pub in their cars and bikes.

1979 Monaro team.

John was chosen as hooker for the Monaro team to play the touring Great Britain side.

1979 Monaro V GB story

All sounds good before the game.

1979 Monaro v GB

Practice makes perfect. Maybe they should of been practicing their boxing skills.

1979 story GB v Monaro

Game report from the Canberra Times.

1979 Monaro V GB story about game.

The Pommies went mad they just bashed everything that moved.

1979 story about Monaro v GB

To make matters worse John received the grand sum of $10 for match payment and is still waiting for his petrol money for driving between Yass and Queanbeyan for training.

The Monaro officials also took his jumper and shorts and wanted his socks as well.

After a long year at Yass John decided to hang up his boots.


John had the complete year away from football.


After the year off John was missing the game of Rugby League and his mates so he played a few trial games back with Wests.

1981 pre season game JC reserve.

John was a reserve but got a run in the second half of this game.

1981 JC name in pre season game

John playing back in First grade.

1981 JC last game for Wests.

1981 JC photov Penrith.

Maybe the last time John was seen in a Wests jumper.

That’s John far left.

1981 John Farham story and pic

Another John was also making a comeback in 1981….but not his last.

When the list of graded players was posted John noticed that he was reserve for Reserve grade.

After talking to Wests officials he decided to take up an offer to play for Ryde Eastwood in the Metropolitan Cup.

Just for the record John was offered $1000 sign on and $600 a win if playing in First Grade from Wests.

Ryde – Eastwood offer was $3500 plus match fees.

A couple of ex First grade players that played for Ryde – Eastwood in 1981 were Tony Quirk and Garry Stewart.

1981 Tony Quirk

Tony Quirk playing for St George.

1981 Gary Stewart

Gary Stewart playing for the Bulldogs.

After the 1981 season with Ryde – Eastwood at the age of 29 and carrying a few injuries John decided to retire from Rugby League completely.

Johns game tally at Wests thanks to the Wests Archives is below.

Game Tally 1

Game Tally 2

John loved playing at Lidcombe Oval and he named it his favourite ground.

Liddy Oval front entrance

When I asked John who was the biggest influence in his Rugby League career  he said his dad Jack Purcell.

” Dad would keep stats about how many scrums I won, tackles made and missed and how many penalties I gave away in the scrums. Dad would always compare my game with Shane Days. He was a great help to me in my Rugby League career” 

While on the subject of people helping John one person stood out as well as John’s dad and that was Ken Stonestreet. Nebo was John’s coach in 1973.

Ken Stone street pic

 Ken Stonestreet playing for Wests.

I had to ask John a few questions about his time at Wests and Rugby League.

Best Player ever.

Johnny Raper.

John Raper photo

As a child John remembers JR tackling Peter Dimond at the SSG and PD not getting up.

Best Player you played with or against.

Tommy Raudonikis.

Tommy R photo color

Other players John mentioned were.

Artie Beetson.

Artie beetson easts

Max Kilrich and Terry Randall.

terry randall and max kilrich

“Terry Randell was as hard as a brick wall”

terry randell photo

Terry Randall and Big Bill Hamilton in the back ground.

Best coach.

Roy Masters.

roy masters.

Tom Keneally and Roy Masters.

Hardest player to tackle.

Bob Fulton.

Bob Fulton in east  jumper

Bob Fulton playing for Easts.

Toughest Hooker.

George Piggins.

george piggins

George Piggins chatting with the ref 1971.

Favorite front row combination.

Dallas and Pat Hundy.


Dallas either going to Church or Phillip St. (again)


Pat Hundy and John at the 2012 Pratten Park reunion.

John now works at Manildra Flour and looks back at his Rugby League career as very happy times.

Having played with and against so many great players John feels he was “just lucky” .

John from someone who watched you play for Wests for most of your career there is a lot more than luck involved.

John now photo happy.

John standing in front of his first First Grade jumper. 2015.


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