NUGGET PUT THE SHINE ON HAY

pictured - Magpie legend Nugget Schiller plowing through the mud at Rankins Springs Sportsground, with his team mates backing him up, and the Springs defenders around his legs.

by Peter (Parra) Montgomery

 The Magpies Rugby League Club has been built on strong foundations, and over the years has produced many 'colourful' personalities who captured the imagination of the fans, not only here in Hay, but throughout the Riverina.

One of those blokes whom I admired so much, and had the privilege of playing alongside, was the legendary Allen (Nugget) Schiller.

He is regarded as one of the Magpies ALL TIME GREATS, He was selected in the MAGPIES TEAM OF THE CENTURY front row - alongside Billy (Bunter) Curtis, and his nephew Danny Byrnes..

Nugget started playing for the Magpies when he returned home from school at St Gregory's Campbelltown, and racked up three premierships as a player -1960, 1961 and1967, plus a total of 200 first games until he retired at the end of 1970.

He suffered a broken collarbone in the Magpies 1968 Grand Final loss to Clayton Cup winners Darlington Point, and despite people thinking that game was his last 'hurrah' he stuck it out for a couple more years.

Nugget was a rare and special talent. His big upper frame was held up by his skinny (in comparison) legs, and he possessed deceptive speed and good foot work.

He could bullock his way into the clear, or he could step around the defence, but when he got into the open, he invariably was able to score a try, or at the very least go close.

I can remember the late Sis Hookham barracking hard on the sideline every time Nugget ran the ball "Go Nugget, you beauty" was her catch cry.

The origin of Allen's nickname "Nugget" - is shrouded in mystery.

Some Hay stalwarts claim it stemmed from his shock of curly golden hair.

But the more popular opinion is that Allen was so named, because on training nights he was like a gold nugget --hard to find.

He had some great excuses for not training. The only one he didn't use was "the dog ate my homework"..when explaining his absence to Magpies coach of 1966-1969, Geoff Snowdon.

"Geoff, I couldn't train tonight, we had visitors"..What Nugget didn't say was the visitors were his next door neighbours - his sister Marg and her husband Danny Byrnes.

He had 'watering', 'flat tyres'  'floods' and 'bushfires' excuses as part of his repertoire.

But the players loved playing with him. They knew he was a match-winner and it would serve no purpose standing him down.

His 'dislike' of training probably cost him the opportunity to cracking it into the tough Sydney competition at the Rabbitohs, the same Club his brother in law Danny played with before he switched to the Eastern Suburbs Roosters.

Nugget tried his luck with Sydney football at Souths in 1959, but got home sick and came back to Hay.

When he returned to Hay, Billy Poole was the coach, and Billy could see Nugget's value to the Magpies, and often turned a 'blind eye' to his failure to train.

He reckoned he could never see the point of running around the Park to get fit.

He considered that he kept himself fit with his work around his property (Benduck), and knew what he had to do to win matches.

He didn't mind a beer, and didn't mind a smoke, as a matter of fact, he loved a beer and a durry but gave them both away -cold turkey - after he had retired from the game. 

I met Nugget at training the second day I arrived in Hay in 1966.

He was always a gentle giant and a bloke who made me - and any new blokes - welcome in the Club and into Hay.  I really appreciated his 'support' - I was a shy City boy, away from home for the first time.

I did not know how I would fit in to 'bush life' or whether I would succomb to home sickness.

I had been playing Rugby League in Sydney -Age Football - before I came to town, with my long term mates and blokes of the same age.

Here I was, in a new town, new surrounds, and playing in a team that had men of all ages.

I probably was a little over-awed, but soon the way I was taken under 'the wing' by all the players helped me settle in and become part of the Magpies family.

One of my first 'social' outing with the Magpies was a "pig Chase' and Barbecue at Toogimbie Station, then under the Managership of Magpies Vice President Jack Carver - father of Magpies players, Philip, Ray and Paul who all gave great service to the Club.

It was in 1966 and I can still recall the "day" as if it was yesterday.

About 20 players were on the "Safari", in a trailer being towed around by a Jeep, with Ray (Porky) Carver driving.

I must admit that a fair amount of stubbies were consumed by the 'hunters' and laugh and pranks were all part of the day.

I can vividly remember Nugget cracking an Emu Egg and pouring it over Ray Carver's head.  It stunk - and everyone laughed hysterically, except one bloke. You guessed it, Ray was not amused, and as the 'new boy on the block' I thought it was pretty low, but even now, I can see the yolk and egg white dripping down Porky's head.

That night at the Toogimbie Wool Shed - a barbecue, with a couple of kegs, singalongs - a real 'bonding session'

Nugget's combination with Wally McGufficke and Gary Marriage in the Magpies Front Row,  in the mid sixties was one of the most feared in Group 17, but they were a constant torment to coach Geoff Snowdon.

The trios love for the amber fluid was such that they were always last to reach the ground on 'away' matches because of the habit of stopping at every club and pub along the way.

When Nugget passed away a huge part of the Magpies folk-lore went with him.

Nugget's family, Barb, Luke, Jane, Bernadette and Robert were all part of the Magpies family.

His dad, Jim, was a founding member of the Club, his brothers Breen, Bernard were players, while Vince (brother) and sister Marg (Byrnes) were part and parcel of the Club for many years - and still are.

Nugget Schiller later served the Magpies as its President, after being a long  term committeeman.

Those who were lucky enough to see Nugget in action remember him as a good player.  Those who knew him personally will remember him as an even better bloke.  I am fortunate to have known him, played alongside him, and been his friend.

Nugget passed away on February 8, 1998 at the age of 59.  Far too young for a man who gave so much pleasure to a lot of Rugby League people in Hay.




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