Catching up with Brian ‘Chicka’ Norton

Recently, former North Sydney Bears first grade player, Jeff Simmonds, accompanied the Men of League Foundation’s Northern Sydney Committee Wellbeing Officers Norm Pounder and Ken Vessey, as well as the Sydney Metro Committee’s Wellbeing Officer Warren Thompson, to check in on Brian “Chicka” Norton at the Longueville Private Hospital, Sydney.

‘Chicka’ was born in the North Sydney area, playing his junior rugby league with the Crows Nest junior rugby league club and not surprisingly was selected in the North Sydney Bears Club President’s Cup team before being thrust into the grade system.

Jeff and ‘Chicka’ spoke about their early third grade games together, where ‘Chicka’ quickly developed into a fearsome, uncompromising front/second rower. He played 47 first grade games for the Bears during the 1968-1970 and 1975 seasons under Coaches Col Greenwood and Roy Francis. A first grade teammate during this time was none other than Warren Thompson himself, and the duo swapped memories on some of the fiery matches they had played in.

Whilst ‘Chicka’ enjoyed his playing days at the North Sydney Bears, in 1971 he transferred to the strong St. George rugby league club where he played during seasons 1971-1974, which totalled 43 first grade games under highly regarded coaches such as Jack Gibson (dec) and Graeme “Changa” Langlands (dec).

It was during this time he formed a great friendship with ‘Changa’, who he described as one of the most gifted rugby league players he had the pleasure to play with and know. During these years, ‘Chicka’ participated in many fierce encounters against a fearsome Manly Warringah rugby league club first grade pack of forwards which included Norm Pounder. The two men both enjoyed a chat and laugh about the clashes in those matches.

In 1976, ‘Chicka’ undertook a role of Captain-Coach in Tamworth and was selected in the NSW Country Team to play against the Sydney First Team. He recalled how much he enjoyed his time in Tamworth, where rugby league was always competitive and no quarter was given.

In the 1985 season, ‘Chicka’ was appointed as first grade coach back at the North Sydney Bears with the charter to win more games and rebuild the Club’s spirit. In 1986, he took the team to the 5th place playoff after much improved performances during the season. However, in 1987 the Club appointed ex-Australian coach Frank Stanton as first grade coach and ‘Chicka’ subsequently gave invaluable service to the North Sydney Leagues and the Rugby League Clubs as a Board Member.

For a man with a large physical build, he was renowned for his considerable speed and as a professional sprinter won a “gift” race. ‘Chicka’ also followed in his father’s and brother Greg’s footsteps into professional boxing and had a few wins as a Light Heavyweight at the famous Sydney Stadium, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney.

Today, he still supports the North Sydney Bears and St.George rugby league clubs, whilst he he fondly remembers the toughest opponents he faced.

The men presented ‘Chicka’ with a Men of League Foundaiton polo shirt and wished him a speedy recovery to good health; in return he thanked them for paying him a visit and reminiscing about the good ol’ days.

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