When he isn’t marshalling a search and rescue team for the monthly local emergency, or manning a multi-faceted business empire, or fishing; Alf Stewart has put in some bloody hard yakka during his 27 years on Home and Away, schooling many of the young dropkicks of Summer Bay in footy or cricket or rugby.
But not many know that Ray Meagher was a top class rugby player as well as an award-winning actor.
In a quick chinwag Saturday arvo at the Bishopstown Bar, where punters thronged for selfies and catchphrases, Ray was happy to yabber on about his other career:
“I don’t know about a career, but I played for a long time. I played first grade for about 10 years in Brisbane, for a club called Wests. Then for a club called Brothers when I was over the hill.
“I had a couple of games for Queensland, for the Reds.”
“I played Number 10... pulling the strings, yeah. I’ve put on a bit of weight since.”
Good onya. Meagher even turned out for the now Super Rugby side in a match against a touring French national team.
“I did play against France. I do remember bits of it. I didn’t go too badly. We were beaten, but not too badly. We went ok considering Queensland weren’t at the height of their powers at that time and France put a fairly strong side out.”
Mind you, an account of the match from Kevin Crowe’s book Whistle Up a Storm does suggest there were a few flamin’ drongos and gutless wonders hooning around the paddock in French colours.
Ray still follows the egg-chasing and displays all the signs of parochial bitterness that mark out the genuine sports fan.
“I live in Sydney. And everyone says you should follow the team where you live, but I love seeing New South Wales get beat, and I still support Queensland very strongly.”
His regular trips to Ireland have forged a few bonds in the Irish rugby setup too.
Meagher welcomed Eddie O’Sullivan’s squad onto the Home and Away set during the 2003 World Cup, and another Irish deputation arrived during the 2013 Lions Tour.
Ray stopped short of calling Warren Gatland a flamin’ galah, but he was clearly cross as a frog in a sock at a certain infamous selection decision that marred the day.
“Amy (Huberman) and Brian O’Driscoll’s sister came out to the set the day that whatshisname, the Welsh coach from New Zealand, Gatland, dropped Brian from the third test. They were on the set for a long time and they were devastated. I couldn’t get over it either.
“There must have been a bit of carry-on here because even in Australia, people were saying: what’s up with the guy, is he mad?
“I reckon Brian should have been there on merit, absolutely and utterly, but you could have put me in there and the Lions would have won that day. Just to cap his career, he’d earnt that. Even if he was the second-best centre, which he wasn’t, he was the number one pick for that spot on form.”
Of course Ray knows well the disappointment of not being given a fair go by some dag.
“Yeah, I played in a Wallaby trial. It was way back in the deep dark ages, in 1969, which was the last time the Wallabies toured South Africa before apartheid stopped all that.”
But fair dinkum, Ray isn’t a bloke with tickets on himself.
“Look, I would have been lucky. The selectors were very wise and left me at home.”
A flamin’ good sport.