Terry Lamb

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Terry Lamb OAM, (born 15 September 1961) is an Australian retired professional rugby league footballer and coach. He played 349 games, with Wests (1980–1983), and Canterbury (1984–1996). Lamb was known for his support of the ball-carrier - his ability to be in the right place at the right time netted him 164 tries. This earned him the moniker of "The Back-up Man". He also kicked 386 goals and 44 field goals, for 1,442 points in first grade. He played for New South Wales in State of Origin and Australia. Lamb holds the distinction of being the only player to appear in every match of a Kangaroo Tour.

Junior career

Lamb grew up in Chester Hill, a suburb in the Bankstown area and attended Sefton High School. Lamb played all his junior football for the Chester Hill Hornets club during the years 1967–1979 where he won multiple Best and Fairest awards. He only played in one Grand Final when he filled in for a side above his age group. Lamb is the only International to come from the Chester Hill Hornets club and the ground is now named the Terry Lamb Complex in his honour. Lamb represented Canterbury in junior representative sides, but signed his first professional contract with Western Suburbs Magpies.

Western Suburbs Magpies career

Lamb was a non-playing reserve for the Canterbury Third Grade side in 1979 and was hopeful of a contract with his junior side in 1980. Lamb was told the best he could hope for was a position in the Presidents Cup (Under 21's) side. Lamb believed he could play first grade and signed when Wests gave him the opportunity. Lamb impressed in the trials to win himself a contract, however he started off in Third Grade where he played six matches. Lamb only played one Reserve Grade match where he was called up to play halfback in the Amco Cup. Lamb was Man of the Match.

On 18 May 1980, Lamb made his first grade premiership debut for Western Suburbs against Balmain Tigers at Lidcombe Oval. Lamb scored two tries in the Magpies' comprehensive 26-4[1] victory. Lamb scored 9 tries in his debut season and was edged out for the innagural Dally M Rookie of the Year award by team-mate Jim Leis who would go on the Australian 1980 Tour of New Zealand. Lamb formed a great scrumbase combination that season with Alan Neil (brother of Michael Neil).

Lamb's form in the early stages of the 1981 season was outstanding and he was selected in the NSW State of Origin side. Lamb was called in at the last moment for Mick Pattison and only arrived in Brisbane on the day of the match. The 19-year-old Lamb however, was up against opposite number Wally Lewis, with Queensland coming back to win 22-15.

The 1982 season was a successful one for Wests and Lamb where his end of season form caught the eyes of the Australian selectors and he was selected for the 1982 Kangaroo Tour. Lamb ruled himself out of the tour as he already planned to marry his partner Kim. Australia swept all before them on the tour going through undefeated for the first time and becoming known as "The Invincibles".

Lamb's final season with Wests was in 1983 where the Magpies won the dreaded wooden spoon prize. In spite of this, he was awarded the Dally M Player of the Year Award. His prize winnings of $9,000 that night was $500 more than his contract that season. Lamb was on a contract of $17,000, which didn't compare to other players in Sydney at the time and it was slashed in half due to Wests poor financial situation.

Terry Lamb made 88 appearances for Wests, Lamb was later named as halfback in the Western Suburbs Magpies Team of the Eighties.[2]

Joining the Bulldogs and early success

The news that Lamb's Dally M winnings was more than his contract ensured that he would be in hot demand from the richer Sydney clubs now that he was out of contract and that Wests were at first expelled from the premiership. Easts and Balmain both showed interest but eventually Lamb chose the Bulldogs, joining in 1984.[3]

Lamb settled nicely into Canterbury under the coaching of Warren Ryan and playing outside Steve Mortimer. Lamb's arrival did cause initial controversy when long-serving five-eighth Garry Hughes was dropped to reserve grade in what was to be his final season. Lamb's ability to back up the ball-carrier came to the fore as he was the Sydney Premiership's joint leading tryscorer with 17.[4] Lamb won a recall to the New South Wales State of Origin side for the 2nd match. He played well enough to be retained for the 3rd match despite the Blues losing, but withdrew due to injury. Lamb never won a junior premiership and he was closing in on one at senior level when the Bulldogs made the 1984 Grand Final against arch-rivals Parramatta Eels who were looking to win their fourth successive title. Canterbury took out the Grand Final 6–4 in a bruising game of football. Lamb was replaced with five minutes remaining due to a nasty gash above his eye.[5]

In 1985, Terry Lamb played 22 games for the Bulldogs, but was forced to miss the 1985 Grand Final due to a groin injury. Michael Hagan was named as his replacement.[6] Canterbury defeated St. George Dragons 7–6 to make it back-to-back titles.

1986 was an eventful year for Lamb. He played much of the opening rounds at halfback with captain Steve Mortimer suspended, and was recalled to the New South Wales State of Origin side. He was selected in all three matches from the bench{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=citation |separator=, |ref=harv |postscript= }} and went on to be selected in the Australian Test side for the opening match against New Zealand. Lamb came on from the bench as a replacement for Dale Shearer. Lamb got more time in the 3rd Test when he came as a replacement for the injured Wayne Pearce playing lock forward. His good form at Canterbury continued with the Bulldogs making a third successive Grand Final, once again playing Parramatta Eels. Lamb was the leading pointscorer for the season, and he would end up scoring 210 points.[7] However, he missed a difficult penalty goal attempt in the final three minutes of the 1986 Grand Final. The Eels won 4-2 in an absolute gripping game. Lamb was then selected to go on the Kangaroo Tour.

In March 1987, Lamb scored all of Canterbury's 26 points as they beat Wests 26-16 in round 4.[8] Lamb's points haul were made up of four tries and five goals. He again finished the season as the leagues leading try-scorer[9] however, the club failed to make the finals, finishing 6th in what would prove to be Warren Ryan's last season as coach.

Hanley Incident and the World Cup

Warren Ryan departed Canterbury at the end of 1987 with reserve grade coach Phil Gould taking over the reins in a caretaker role with Chris Anderson being groomed for the top position.[10] The 1988 season was Lamb's fifth at Canterbury and the first he wouldn't cross the line at least 10 times. Lamb played a very important role in Canterbury's season as former captain Steve Mortimer missed a large chunk of the season due to injuries.

Canterbury defeated Canberra and Cronulla to make the Grand Final where they earned a week off as first qualifiers. Balmain, influenced by Great Britain captain Ellery Hanley made the Grand Final coming from a playoff for 5th position to make the decider. Controversy struck in the 26th minute when Hanley was taken out in a tackle from Lamb and Farrar.

Balmain led 6-4 with the Tigers scoring thanks to a mistake from Bulldogs fullback Jason Alchin. Hanley was wrapped up low by Andrew Farrar and as he went to offload the ball Lamb finished off the tackle. He hit the ground in an awkward position and was out concussed. Lamb denied he deliberately took Hanley out and denied Canterbury went out of their way to target one individual. Lamb commented in his 1992 book that Balmain had other important players such as Wayne Pearce, Ben Elias, Paul Sironen and Garry Jack.

Speaking to Inside Sport Magazine in August 2005, Hanley was asked:

What do you remember about that infamous tackle by Terry Lamb? "I don’t know if it was caused by Terry Lamb, or if it was just my head hitting the ground. I couldn’t tell you because I have never looked at it since. Some people have said Terry got a good shot on me. I suspect, however, it was more a case of my head hitting the ground. I like to think it was accidental. Afterwards, I was concussed and didn’t know where I was. I didn’t regain all my faculties immediately so, from a safety point of view, I had to come off the football field. It was a shame, but it is a physical game and sometimes things like that happen."

Have you spoken to Lamb since then? "No, I never have. I have never bumped into him. I have to say I respect him as a footballer. I don’t know him as a person, but by all accounts he is a good guy. Let me be clear that I have no malice towards him, none at all, regardless of the incident being deliberate or accidental."

The New South Wales Rugby League despite all the media pressure backed up Lamb's version of events and deemed he had no case to answer. Lamb was later selected in the Australian squad for the World Cup Final against New Zealand at Eden Park. Lamb was again selected as a replacement and came on the field after 20 minutes when captain Wally Lewis broke his arm. It was to be Lamb's last match in Australian colours.

Canterbury endured a tough year in 1989 as the 'Wozzaball' era out Belmore way was coming to a rapid close. Lamb didn't have his best season where it was affected by injuries and off-field dramas. He played one final match for NSW with the Blues going down 36-6. He was out injured for the middle part of the season and missed selection for the New Zealand Tour.

After the 1989 season, Phil Gould was removed as coach with Chris Anderson taking over.

Captain of the Bulldogs

One of the first jobs that new coach Chris Anderson did was appoint Lamb as captain ahead of Paul Langmack and Andrew Farrar, who were commonly the deputies when Peter Tunks (who joined Penrith Panthers in 1990) was unavailable.

The Bulldogs had a good start to the new season, taking the top spot in Round 6. They faltered away after a win over Penrith in Round 9, and although Lamb was back on the bench for the Round 13 game against North Sydney, Canterbury had slipped to 7th and did not regain a Top 5 spot for the rest of the season.[11]

As feared the Bulldogs lost Paul Langmack, Andrew Farrar, David Gillespie and Joe Thomas to Wests under former dual premiership-winning coach Warren Ryan. The club also lost Paul Dunn to Penrith and Jason Alchin to St George.

Lamb made himself unavailable for the 1990 Kangaroo Tour despite the controversial omission of Wally Lewis. Cliff Lyons and Kevin Walters were both selected once Lamb confirmed his unavailability.

On a personal level, a chronic groin injury would dog Lamb for the next few seasons.[12] Lamb would be a week-to-week proposition throughout the 1990s.

Despite the departures from Canterbury at the end of the season, in 1991 they qualified in equal 5th position but went down 19-14 against arch-rivals Wests. The club under the leadership of Lamb developed as a competitive force. Lamb was captain to a new generation of players coming through the club who would play a big part in the club's successful years ahead including Darren Smith, Dean Pay, Simon Gillies, Matthew Ryan and 1991 Rothmans Medal Winner Ewan McGrady. The 1991 season was the only time Lamb would be suspended throughout his career when he was sent off for an alleged headbutt on Manly's Geoff Toovey. He received four weeks for the offence.

Lamb missed the first five matches in 1992 but when he returned he enjoyed one of his finest individual seasons where Canterbury started to be tagged a 'one-man team'. Lamb lifted the Bulldogs to the brink of the semi-finals before once again making himself unavailable as the 1992 World Cup loomed. Lamb came 2nd in the Dally M Awards for 1992.

A new wave of signings joined the Bulldogs in 1993 and the team that Lamb and Anderson moulded was coming to fruition. The Bulldogs won the Minor Premiership with Lamb making it a hat-trick of Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year awards and Anderson winning Dally M Coach of the Year. Canterbury crashed out in the semi-finals but it was a great effort by the club to get to a position of strength after being warm favourites for the 1991 Wooden Spoon.

Lamb broke his arm in 1994 when playing his 299th first grade match against Wests. Lamb would return to play his 300th match against Souths playing at Concord Oval and wearing the No.55 jumper. Concord was only used for three League games and Lamb wore No.55 as he was a late inclusion into the side. Lamb broke the record previously held by Geoff Gerard in the final round, which ironically was against his former club Wests at Campbelltown with both Canterbury and Wests jointly celebrating the occasion. Canterbury with their victory in Lamb's 304th first grade game won the Minor Premiership and defeated Canberra in the Major Semi-Final. The Raiders however won the Grand Final 36-12 in a big disappointment for Lamb and the Bulldogs.

1995 Grand Final

The 1995 season was to be Lamb's last season and the Bulldogs were keen to send him out a winner but it all went wrong early when the Bulldogs were caught up in the firing line of the Super League War. Lamb's strength and character as a captain shone through when he held the club together and rallied everyone (bar one) in the latter half of the season. Canterbury qualified in 6th position for the ARL Finals Series. The Bulldogs defeated St George, Brisbane and defending premiers Canberra to make the Grand Final against Manly.

Canterbury were never headed in the Grand Final defeating Manly 17-4 in the decider with Lamb plotting a crucial drop-goal to give them a seven-point lead. Lamb spent 10 minutes in the sin bin but that didn't stop his performance as he steered Canterbury to an impressive victory.

It was a sweet moment for Lamb and coach Chris Anderson after five years of planning went into this moment. The 1995 Grand Final was also the swansong for Chief Executive Peter Moore who retired from his post after 26 years of service. Moore would remain a member of the Canterbury Leagues Club board until 1998.

Lamb's planned retirement was shelved as he helped his beloved club for one more season to get through a sudden player departure caused by the Super League War. Lamb didn't seek the captaincy with Simon Gillies taking on that role and when Gillies was injured for the second half of the season, Lamb again opted not to be captain with Darren Britt taking the reins (in a sign of things to come). Lamb's career wound down on 25 August 1996, when Canterbury defeated North Queensland 50-22 at Belmore Sports Ground. Lamb scored two tries and it was ironic that the start and end of his career saw him score a double.

The finest support player the game has seen played a record 349 first grade games (88 at Western Suburbs, 261 at Canterbury-Bankstown). He also scored 164 first grade tries, a mark bettered only by Andrew Ettingshausen (165), Steve Menzies (180) and Ken Irvine (212).

In a strange twist, with Manly having reached (and won) the 2008 NRL Grand Final, Menzies ended his career in Australia having equalled Lamb's league record of 349 games in his final match. The 34 year old veteran of 15 NRL seasons then signed a contract to play the 2009 season and beyond with European Super League club, the Bradford Bulls.

In anticipation of equalling Lamb's record with his final appearance, Manly was reported to have made Menzies an offer to make a cameo appearance in 2009 to break the record. Menzies' response confirmed his and Lamb's standing among the greats:

"I wouldn't consider coming back for one game and cheapening the record or anything," said Menzies.

"If I fell one short or equalled it or whatever then that's my career and the way it finishes.

"(Lamb) was such a great player ... I'm very honoured to stand next to him.[13]

Menzies' equalling of Lamb's record has been described by many (including Lamb) as the rugby league equivalent of Mark Taylor retiring on the same score as Don Bradman's Australian test batting record (334 not out) in a 1998 cricket test against Pakistan. Lamb was quoted as having appreciated the gesture. Lamb set many records at Canterbury with the last one, a landmark of 123 tries being broken by winger Hazem El Masri, against the Newcastle Knights in 2006.

Lamb would be acknowledged in 2004 as the Canterbury five-eighth and captain in their 70-years greatest side.

349 or 350?

In August 2011, Darren Lockyer played his 350th game and was awarded with breaking the record (349 games, jointly held by Lamb, according to the NRL) for most games played. However a website which compiles player and team statistics, RugbyLeagueProject has checked the list of games played and found that while the numbers for Wests tally, it appears that Lamb played an additional game in 1986 (it is thought to be the Major Semi Final that the NRL statistics have missed). This would bring his total to the season to 24 (from 23), his total for Canterbury to 262, and his career total to 350. Although Lockyer would still hold the record for most games, it would have been broken a game later.[14]

Coaching career

Lamb went straight from playing to coaching immediately after his retirement. Lamb was trainer in Chris Anderson's last year at Canterbury and took on the reserve grade position in 1998 with Steve Folkes promoted to the top grade side. Lamb immediately tasted success steering the 1998 reserve grade side to a premiership and backed that up with a premiership in 2000. Lamb was also trainer for the first grade side.

The coaching success Lamb enjoyed in the lower grades saw him land the Wests Tigers head coaching position in 2001. However, the move to first grade proved to be a 'king hit' to his future coaching ambitions. This was a disastrous period for Wests Tigers, finishing in the bottom three in both 2001 and 2002. The club was plagued by player ill-discipline and suffered the embarrassment of the infamous finger-poking incident. Wests Tigers decided to revamp their coaching structure and replaced Lamb with Tim Sheens in 2003.

The salary cap dramas that were emerging at Canterbury saw Lamb return to the club and take up a position as director of the football club, which he held until the end of 2005. Lamb was rushed back to add stability through a tough time in the club.

Lamb coached the Cabramatta Jim Beam Cup side in 2005 and in 2006 accepted a marketing/coaching position at the Bulldogs. This appointment meant that Lamb stood down from his position as Football Club Director. Lamb returned to coaching again at the Bulldogs in 2008 when he was appointed as the Bulldogs NSW VB Cup Coach.

Career statistics

Western Suburbs

Career: 1980-83
First Grade Games: 88
Tries: 41
Goals: 11
Field Goals: 7
Points: 163
Reserve Grade Games (1980): 1. Points: 4. (2 Goals)
Under 23's Games (1980): 6


Career: 1984-96
First Grade Games: 261
Tries: 123
Goals: 375
Field Goals: 37 (club record)
Points: 1,279
Reserve Grade Games (1986): 1. Points: 4. (2 Goals)

Australian Premiership

Career: 1980-96
First Grade Games: 349 (record)
Tries: 164
Goals: 386
Field Goals: 44
Points: 1,442

First Class Record

261 First Grade Games for Canterbury
88 First Grade Games for Wests
7 Tests for Australia
15 Tour Games for Australia
1 World Cup Final for Australia
8 State of Origin Games for NSW
7 City-Country Games

Achievements and Honours

  • 1983 Dally M Player of the Year (1st Runner Up in 1984, 1987, 1992. 2nd Runner Up in 1986)
  • 1984 Rothmans Medal Best & Fairest Winner
  • Three times winner of the Dally M Players Player of the Year (1984, 1986, 1995)
  • Record seven times Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year Award (1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1993)
  • Won a record total of 18 Dally M Awards.
  • NSWRL Premiership Leading Tryscorer in 1984 (17) and 1987 (16)
  • NSWRL Premiership Leading Pointscorer in 1986 (210)
  • Member of 1984, 1988 and 1995 Canterbury Premiership Winning Teams
  • 1995 Canterbury Premiership Winning Captain
  • Only player to play every match on a full Kangaroo Tour. Lamb played in all 20 matches: 15 tour matches and 5 Tests on the 1986 Tour of Great Britain and France.
  • Leading Tryscoring with 19 on Australia's 1986 Kangaroo Tour
  • Member of Australia's successful 1988 World Cup Final Squad
  • Played in NSW's first State of Origin cleansweep in 1986
  • Scored two tries in his first Premiership match playing for Wests against Balmain in 1980 and his last Premiership match playing for Canterbury against North Queensland in 1996
  • Awarded keys to City of Canterbury, New South Wales in 1995 along with Peter Moore
  • Awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) for services to rugby league
  • Australian Sports Medal recipient, 24 October 2000.[15]
  • In February 2008, Lamb was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia.[16]


External links

See also