A Tribute to Gus

Author: Russell Bailey

I was a stranger in town having just been relocated from Darwin to Toowoomba by my employer. The manager of the Federal Hotel invited me to a charity golf day at City; of course it was sponsored by XXXX. Needless to say I over indulged in the sponsors product, luckily we were playing in a 4 man ambrose so I couldn’t be solely to blame for our poor score. This is when I first met the bloke they call Gus.

In the golf cart I talked up my credentials as a coach and told him I would help out next year at Valleys not even knowing what colours they wore, obviously the drink gave me plenty of confidence considering he didn’t know me from a bar of soap. To my amazement a week later he gave me a call and to my gratefulness he asked me come on board as his assistant. Must have said something right I thought either that or he pitied me. Anyway that was my introduction to the Valleys local Legend Gus Mckellar.

Gus McKellarThe first season, 2005, was tough, as Gus was injured and missed most of the first round, but once we got a combination on the paddock we stormed home to finish 6th just one point out of the five and winning 9 of our last 11 games.

The next year I declared us certainties for the title at the pre-season launch, even Jeff Mcdonald was stunned in my confidence but after having been involved with ‘Gmac’ for just a season it was obvious this bloke would settle for nothing less. I put my money where my mouth was and we saluted defeating arch rival Brothers in the decider I have to say even as an assistant this was extremely satisfying especially where the club had been pre- Mckellar days.

The next year I coached 18’s we got knocked out in the finals but the mighty Roosters made it back to back in first grade.

Season 2008 was a monumental effort for the club with all three grades victorious luckily I helped Reserve grade limp over the line, under 18’s under Richie Lee were successful and A grade smashed the Newtown Lions in a demolition job 68-16 with Gus winning player of the finals and club player of the year.

Season 2009 saw Gus step aside as coach and I took over the reins. In an epic grand final we defeated the luckless leprechaun’s 18-16 after Gus’s best mate Ned Murphy took an intercept to run the length of the field and ensure victory.

The mighty Roosters continue to excel with Justin Murphy taking the side to successive victories in 2010 and 2011 a great effort from the ex-International. ‘Gmac’ played under sufferance in 2010 with a chronic hip flexor meaning he was moved to the centres to limit his running however a classic covering tackle late in the match to shut down a Dalby raid exemplified his do or die attitude and his ability to compete no matter what.

The year just passed 2011, the Roosters where struggling with new combinations and fresh faces in the side. Coach Justin Murphy called on the ‘old fella’, he’s only 31 but acts and feels 50, to come out of retirement and help his beloved Roosters even though he was already the President. History shows it was a timely return with Gmac scoring the winning try in the big one after the Roosters looked shot ducks with 20 minutes to play. His decision to scamper from dummy half beside the posts with minutes remaining sealed an unlikely victory over the bears. Gus duly was player of the final series and capped off a magnificent local career.

He has decided to retire (again) more due to his body than his age or desire. I reckon there could be a return in the not too distant future! What makes Gus such a success story? Well it’s the characteristics he exudes and demands of others. He is loyal, meticulous, humble, outrageously competitive and absolutely committed but above all he is a great fella that bleeds red and black.

Mate it is a pleasure to have worked with you and count you as a life-long friend from humble beginnings you have established yourself as a true Valleys and Toowoomba league legend and although Matt Evans and Kim Phoenix have played in the 6 consecutive premierships beside you they would be the first to agree if not for Gus there would be nothing.


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