PREMIERS: Killarney Cutters vice-captain Leejay Cooper and captain-coach John Trindall with BRL president Neil “Casey” O’Connor after the 2014 grand final.
PREMIERS: Killarney Cutters vice-captain Leejay Cooper and captain-coach John Trindall with BRL president Neil “Casey” O’Connor after the 2014 grand final. John Towells

Memories of career in league

RUGBY League is in Neil "Casey" O'Connor's blood, and he did not hesitate one bit when the Border Rugby League needed someone to step up and fill the chairman's shoes three years ago.

O'Connor, one of the few people to play for both Stanthorpe Cricket and Stanthorpe Rugby League, retired from rugby league in 1976.

But a change in the committee has seen O'Connor's involvement with the BRL draw to a close.

O'Connor was no stranger to taking on the top job in a sporting committee, having been the president of the Stanthorpe Rugby League for a couple of years when he was just 21 years old and on the committee for a total of six years.

On top of being involved in rugby league, he also held the top position with Stanthorpe Cricket Association for 10 years.

As a mad sports fan and Granite Belt local, O'Connor said he would do anything to keep sporting clubs alive across the district.

"I took on the BRL chairman position simply because no one else was willing to touch it," he said.

"It was my way of getting back involved in rugby league, and I wanted to help keep the BRL going as much as I could.

"I have put everything I have into it."

And while O'Connor admitted to loving the role, he said it was not always easy.

"There have been challenges, but I always acted with the best interests of the game and the BRL at heart," he said.

"At times that may not have won me gold stars, but the role is not a popularity contest.

"Sometimes tough decisions needed to be made."

During his three years in the role, O'Connor said there were many highlights, one of which was the introduction of the Ladies League Tag competition into this year's BRL competition.

"The highlight for me was the great finals series," he said.

"It was a sensational grand final at Tenterfield in 2014.

"Possibly the biggest crowd since the 1960s."

O'Connor said he had received great support during the past three years and would miss being involved in the competition.

"I will miss my involvement at the Central Division Board level and the camaraderie of the board members," he said.

"I will not miss some of the headaches - wondering if teams have enough numbers or whether they will turn up to play or if there are referees."

O'Connor said his biggest disappointment was the way the Gremlins handled the recent appeal to join the Toowoomba Rugby League competition.

"The biggest disappointment was learning from a third party while I was in Northern Queensland that Stanthorpe were applying to the TRL," he said.

O'Connor said it was a big blow, especially after he had put in many hours negotiating with Millmerran over the past month to get them to join the BRL - which, if the Gremlins stay, would provide a competition with six teams.

O'Connor admitted not being re-elected to the chairman role at the recent BRL annual general meeting was a "bolt out of the blue", but in the same breath he wished new chairwoman Dolly Bennett the best of luck in her role.

"I always had a good working relationship with her when Inglewood was in the competition and she was president," he said.

"She will do the job well."

And while losing the chairman position will give O'Connor more time to go fishing, his free time will decrease come July.

"I am currently the Rotary president-elect for 2015-2016 and am looking forward to taking over from current president Fran Hodgson at the end of June next year," he said.



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