One of rugby league’s great characters, Fonda “The Golden Greek” Metassa, has passed away, aged 80 after a long period of ill health.
Metassa represented Queensland against Great Britain in 1966, and won five Brisbane premierships with Norths’ Devils. He also spent two years at South Sydney, where he played 13 first grade matches, but could not settle into life in the New South Wales’ capital.
The dashing winger grew up at Chermside, in the heart of Norths’ territory, making his first grade debut for the club in 1957. He retired in 1969 after scoring a try in Norths’ 14-2 win over Valleys in the BRL grand final at Lang Park, in front of a crowd of 34,752.
But he wasn’t finished with rugby league. He went on to carve out an equally colourful career in the media, in print, on radio and television. He was also the Broncos’ public address announcer at Lang Park, and then QEII Stadium.
Former Australian skipper, the late Peter Gallagher, once said of Metassa: “Some of his antics bordered on the ridiculous, but the crowd loved him.’’
On a rainy day at Norths’ home ground, Oxenham Park, he ran on to the field with a borrowed pink umbrella. On another day, at the same ground, he scored a try in the corner, much to the delight of a cheering group of children, hanging over the fence.
“Did you like that kids?”, Fonda yelled.
“Hang around, I’ll be back in a minute.’’
And he was, scoring a second try!
But arguably the greatest piece of league folklore in Queensland history revolves around the day Metassa jumped out of the back of an ambulance at Lang Park.
Metassa had been knocked out in a match against Redcliffe, and the ambulance came on to the field to take him to hospital.
“My brother, Joe, jumped in the back,’’ Metassa recalled, years later. “He said I was going to the hospital. I can’t repeat what I said to him, but I kicked the doors open and jumped out of the ambulance as it was about to drive off the field.
“The next thing I remember, I was in the dressing room, sitting up with my mother in front of me in tears. That was 20 minutes later.”
In 2008, Metassa was named in Norths’ Team of the Century, alongside the likes of current day superstars Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis, former Kiwi skipper, Mark Graham and Queensland Origin stars, Mark Murray, Greg Conescu, Trevor Gillmeister and Joe Kilroy. Metassa’s tally of 173 tries for Norths, remains a club record.
Fonda was a strong believer in the Men of League Foundation and the purpose it served for the rugby league community. He stayed in touch with numerous people he had met from his playing days through the Foundation and his old friends certainly didn’t forget him when his health deteriorated.
The Foundation is honoured to have supported Fonda over the years with wellbeing visits and catch ups. Read about some of those visits:
Rest in peace, Fonda.
Written by Steve Ricketts