Wauchope product Barrie Smith was one of four inductions into the Group Three Rugby League Hall of Fame at a function held at the Wingham Services Club last Saturday.
Barrie Morrison (Taree), Gary Bridge (Taree) and Keith Tull (Gloucester) were the other inductees.
Barrie Smith started playing rugby league with Camden Haven juniors before switching to Wauchope in 1960. He played under 18s and first grade with the Blues before moving to Brewarrina in 1964 for employment. A utility player, he was selected in the Western Division team to meet the touring French team that year but was forced to withdraw because of a leg injury.
Barrie returned to Wauchope in 1965 and continued to play with the club in Group Three, while also having a couple of stints in Port Morseby.
After retiring from the game in 1973 he gained his referee’s ticket and controlled Hastings League grand finals from 1974-76 before joining the Group Three referees in 1976.
However, it was in administration with Group Three that Barrie is best known. He was persuaded to stand for the vacant position of group treasurer by another former Wauchope local, Warren Kimberley in 1983. He held the position for eight years before being elected Group Three president.
Barrie then steered Group Three through a tumultuous period in the early 1990s following the collapse of the two Taree clubs. The competition’s future looked doubtful when only five clubs contested the 1994 season.
“I went cap-in-hand to the Group Three Saturday League and with Saturday League president Tony Pulbrook from Gloucester we came up with a competition,’’ he said at the induction.
This involved the three southern clubs joining those from the Saturday League.
“Unfortunately it meant we also lost Wauchope and Port Macquarie - they went to Group Two,’’ he said.
Barrie was elected secretary of the revamped Group Three in 1995 and held the position (now chief executive) until he stood down at last year’s annual meeting.
Both Wauchope and Port Macquarie are back playing in an eight club Group Three competition.
“We now have one of the more stable competitions in the Country Rugby League,’’ he said.
“I think it has a bright future.’’
He’s looking forward to watching matches next winter without the burden of office, particularly involving Taree City’s league tag side, where his granddaughter, Ashlee will be playing.
The Group Three Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 2013. Potential inductees are nominated by the general public.
Wauchope’s Robert ‘Rocky’ Laurie was inducted into the hall of fame in 2017. Wauchope identites Warren Kimberley and Wally Sneeden are past inductees into Group Three’s most exclusive club.