Bill Bradley – Remarkable man of great determination and courage
Bill Bradley, who is 79 years old and is confined to a wheelchair is a passionate Men of League member and a man who throughout his life has shown enormous strength and courage as he faced and overcome obstacles that threatened his life.
Northern Sydney Welfare Officers Norm Pounder, Ken Vessey and Fred Jackson had the pleasure to visit Bill and his delightful wife Clover at their Hornsby home. Bill was born in the rural suburb of Belrose in 1935 before growing up in Ermington, where his class mate was the world acclaimed Olympian Betty Cuthbert. Bill and Betty were known as the two fittest kids in Ermington with Bill playing rugby union at school, schoolboy’s representative teams in addition to being a promising middle distance runner.
However at the age of 14 years old Bill contracted polio and that’s when his sporting career dreams ended abruptly and he was hospitalised for over 18 months before being discharged. At this time his parents were told by the authorities, “take him home and bring him back when he is about 21 years old and we will try transplanting muscles”. This was not good enough for his loving parents who found alternative treatment methods combined with rehabilitation treatment at the then Jervis Bay Rehab Centre. This resulted in Bill being able to have some use of his left hand and the ability to walk in a fashion.
In 1953 his family returned to Belrose where Bill discovered that the area was deprived of any sporting/social venues for the countless aspiring young rugby league players, so he quickly developed an existing ‘cow paddock’ as the only football venue north of the Roseville River and west of Brookvale Oval. Subsequently in 1955, Bill was the Founder of the Belrose Brumbies RL Club (now the Belrose Eagles JRL Football Club) at a meeting on the steps of the Old Soldiers Memorial Hall, Forestville, which resulted in the acceptance of the Club’s under 14 yrs old team in the Manly Warringah JRL competition. The Club was given a special grant from the MWJRL of twenty pounds plus one football on the condition that the team played in green and white colours that had been registered by the Forestville Sports Club, who were unable to field any teams.
In no time at all the Belrose Brumbies registered an under 21 year old team in which Australian player and coach Frank Stanton played as a 16 year old. The Club’s colours were eventually changed to red and gold to represent the native flowers of the area – bush bells and bush roses. The Belrose Eagles JRL Football Club is currently celebrating its 60th season competing in the MWJRL competitions as a highly successful premiership winning Club and as a nursery for young rugby league players, including many that have gone onto enjoy professional rugby league careers and some that have represented Australia including Frank Stanton, John ‘Pogo’ Morgan and Geoff Toovey. In recent years the Club has also successfully fielded teams in the Jim Beam Cup and the Sydney Shield.
Bill in recent years has not been idle, having achieved remarkable success in winning a Gold Medal representing Australia at the 1998 International Paralympics Committee’s World Championship in the Quadriplegic Single Division for Lawn Bowls in Johannesburg, South Africa He was also an Olympic Torch Bearer at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and represented Australia in 2007 at the International Federation of Disabled Sailing Qualifying Trials for the Paralympic Games in Canada.
Clover and Bill have been married for 42 years, have 2 children and 3 grand children and when asked how did he meet Clover he replied, “I was an elevator attendant at the McDowells Store in Hornsby and one day Clover hopped into my elevator and I realised there and then she was the love of my life”.
Bill these days is a keen supporter of the Sea Eagles in the NRL and is actively involved in charity work and fund raising within his area. Men of League presented him with a branded polo shirt and cap in recognition of his long service to rugby league, to handicapped sports and the community at large. In return Bill thanked us for our visit, generosity and wished the Men of League continued success.
In September 2009 Bill was quoted in a publication titled ‘Polio Network News’ as saying, “I am still stirring and have had, and am still enjoying, a very full life”. Norm, Ken and Fred certainly believe that statement still applies today to Bill.
Written by Ken Vessey