Sticks and Twigs together again
Giants of the game Norm Provan and Kel O’Shea, arguably the best second row pairing to play for their state and country, were recently reunited under less-than-happy circumstances.
Sunshine Coast Men of League committee arranged for their patron Provan to visit his former NSW and Australian teammate who is currently a patient at Redland Residential Care in southern Brisbane. He has dementia.
Affectionately known as Sticks and Twigs, the pair played together in 12 Tests between 1954 and 1958, eight times in the second row. On the other four occasions O’Shea played lock.
They teamed together for NSW four times (1957-58) and packed down in the second row in three of those four matches.
In 2008, to celebrate the centenary of rugby league, both Provan and O’Shea were named in Australia’s team of the century.
O’Shea, who was born in Ayr in North Queensland, turns 81 in July and played 111 NRL matches for Sydney Wests from 1956 to 1963. He had one season for Brisbane Souths in 1955, finished his playing career as player-coach at Maitland and then coached at both Tamworth and Chinchilla.
After retiring he and his wife Margaret managed and owned several hotels, the most recent the historic Redland Bay Hotel for 14 years.
Provan regards O’Shea as one of the best players he opposed, tough as teak who never took a backward step. The pair opposed each other in three grand finals – 1958, 1961 and 1963 – each of which was won by Provan’s St George Dragons.
“It was wonderful to catch up with Kel again, although I would obviously have preferred the circumstances to be better,” said big Norm.
“Kel was one of those genuine opponents I always looked forward to playing against. We had some tough battles over the years with no favours asked or given, but afterwards it was handshakes and smiles. And playing beside him was an honour.
“He may have lost his memory, but his gentle nature is still with him.” – TONY DURKIN
In the back row, either side of coach Vic Hey, is Kel O’Shea (;left) and Norm Provan. This Australia team is for the 1st Test V Great Britain, 1954.
Norm Provan and Kel O’Shea – back together again