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Title: Laurie Nichols


Siro & Skando - September 14, 2006 01:50 AM (GMT)
I came across this in a web search. I'm not sure if its been put on the forum?
I am sure alot of you will love it.

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QUOTE
Tigers Number One Fan Laurie Nichols. Here is his story…

In 1969, against all expectations, Balmain won the Grand Final against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the Sydney Rugby League competition. For the past decade, the Tigers, and indeed every team, had been easy meat for the St George Dragons, so the win for the Tigers this year loomed as a proud and historic event, not just for the team, but for the entire Balmain community. After the win, the players were paraded up Darling Street, along Balmain Road and down Norton Street in to the heart of Leichhardt, on the backs of utes and flat top trucks no less, and along the way the team waved back to the cheers and applause of the throngs of fans who came to pay their respects.

At the same time, the Balmain Leagues Club presented 47 year old Laurie Nichols with a Balmain Jersey, scribed on the back with ‘Number One Fan’. This was the first recognition officially granted to the man who was not just a fan, as the title suggests, but was a true fanatic in the essential meaning of the word. In the week long build up to the BIG game, reserve graders Alan Fitzgibbon, Sid Williams and Greg Fryer were all names bandied about in The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mirror as potentials for a call up in to the top grade to replace injured and suspended players Arthur Beetson, Peter Provan and Kevin Bowery. One can imagine the nervous anticipation of all four of these players during this week. One can also imagine Laurie, who was close friends with Sid Williams, sharing this tension with him. When the day came, and Sid Williams came off the bench to score Balmain’s winning (and only) try, both men were ecstatic. On the hill Laurie shadowboxed and jumped up and down. “Tigers Tigers Tigers” he chanted, and many around him saw the tears that were in his eyes.

This image of Laurie, singlet wearing and shadow boxing on the sidelines of all Balmain games, was to become an institution over the next thirty years. The 70’s and most of the eighties were to be lean times for the team, but Laurie was religiously frequent in supporting the team. Balmain hooker Benny Elias says “He’d be on the bus going to the games with the players and was at training as much as the players were. He was from Springwood and it’s a long trip and he’d make the journey just to see us train. You don’t get more fanatical than that”.[1]

“He used to write letters to the players and we’d get our mail on Tuesdays. He’d be heartbroken because he had to go off and make himself a buck…He’d write and keep himself in tune with us to see what we were doing and make sure we were right. He’d listen over the radio for the match calls. He was a fanatical bloke and if he couldn’t be at the game physically he’d certainly be there in heart and soul.”[2]

By the late eighties Balmain had become the form team of the competition, with several state and international players in the 1st Grade side. To the joy of all Tigers fans Balmain reached the grandfinals in both 1988 and 89. The progression through the finals is a month long journey and by the time the grandfinal day arrived the community and fans were whipped in to a frenzy. Benny says that at this time Laurie “was like the biggest kid in the candy store”[3] and the Sydney Morning Herald reveals what he means: After winning the qualifying semi final “Balmain’s Laurie Nichols transcended the dressing room pandemonium. Laurie pulled Elias up on to the table, held aloft a blow up photograph of the two of them and began the chorus “Benny, Benny, Benny”. He danced around (Ellery) Hanley, singing Ellery eats celery; superman, superstar; Ellery eats celery, Ellery number three”.[4] Laurie had a penchant for rhymes which he often focussed on the Tigers. “Gary Jack puts them on their back” he would announce; “Steve Roach doesn’t need a coach”; “Paul Sirro he’s our hero”; “David Brooks destroys good looks”; “Junior Pearce is so fierce”; “Benny Elias says come and try us”; Beetson eats em’.[5]

Though occasionally through the years the Tigers Number one fan had his photo in the paper, in 1988 and 1989 the team’s increased exposure meant increased exposure for Laurie, and to a certain extent his face became the public face of the Tigers as much as the players faces did. The fan had acquired some celebrity…

Laurie was born on the 1st of January 1922 in to a family of 12 other siblings of which he was close to the middle. His father was a wood carter and Laurie would accompany him on the horse and sulky to other homes in the area. (I love this image of freezing, early morning Cooma air, and Laurie barefoot, maybe even in a singlet, bouncing up and dropping wood on people’s front doorsteps.) At an early age he developed both an interest in sport and primary produce, and aged 10 he was first introduced to boxing at the local Police Boys Club. Aged in his early teens he started working in the General Store, still in Cooma, working off and on tanning and selling rabbit skins. When World War II began, Laurie signed up and served with the 2nd Seventeenth Battalion in New Guinea before returning home and marrying Mary in 1943. At this time Laurie trained as a wool classer in Sydney, where he lived in Leichhardt for a year or two.[6] This was the occupation he would keep for the rest of his life. The couple moved to Leura, in the Blue Mountains, where Mary worked in the General Store and Laurie helped out occasionally as well as continuing on with his wool classing, and in 1959 they moved to Springwood. Laurie at this time was commuting to Darling Harbour and Ultimo every day, and in 1962 their only daughter Julie came along.[7] Laurie’s work would take him daily, by train, to Sydney, and occasionally he would, throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties, travel to rural areas of NSW, such as Nyngan for his wool classing duties. In the off-season, Laurie’s work would take him to Tasmania as well. In the 1970’s Mary died suddenly, and later Laurie was to marry Eva Tsang.

In 1990 Laurie was 68 years old and he became involved in charity work, going out to schools with players, or with boxing trainer Johnny Lewis, giving motivational talks and anti-drug messages to the kiddies. He also did a lot of fund raising for Careflight Helicopters, whom his own family had needed to depend on in 1992. On a birthday special for Steve Roach on ‘The Footy Show’ in the mid nineties, a huge cake was brought out. Expecting a girl in a bikini, Vautin was shocked when a shadow boxing Laurie jumped out. Laurie also had several appearances on popular SBS comedy ‘Pizza’, where he played a shadowboxing and gymnasium-using hero to one of the shows ‘stars’. And throughout this time his devotion to the Balmain team continued…

In 1996 the game of Rugby League was turned on its head with the coup on players by the News Ltd organisation. In 1997 and 1998 two separate rugby competitions ran side by side with the terms of difference clear – one group was paid by News Ltd, the other by the Australian Rugby League and the Packer lead PBL Corporation. In one large corporate swoop, the game changed forever. The sport and the teams were no longer merely personalities based in a suburb, but were economic commodities that served corporations and big money.

When the dust began to settle and a compromise between the two warring sides was established, the Balmain Tigers emerged bloody and bruised and fighting for survival. Although always loyal to the ARL, the new financial requirements of the competition meant Balmain couldn’t afford to go it alone. In 1999 talks of Balmain merging, first with the Parramatta Eels, and then with the Western Suburb Magpies, continued. At several public meetings (hopefully that were filmed!) Laurie cried openly, tears flooding his cheeks as he spoke passionately against any merge. He spoke of loyalty and tradition and of the heart and soul of the Tigers, this thing that should be revered above all other things.

However, after much anxiety and a vote, it was decided that Balmain would merge with Wests, becoming the new ‘Wests Tigers’ for the 2000 competition.

It is agreed that Laurie spoke to the team at their final training session before their first game the following week. Wayne Pearce, who was coach at the time, says that Laurie voiced his acceptance of the team, that he told the boys to keep the heart of the Tigers and that he wished them all the best. Benny Elias and close friend Johnny Lewis say that Laurie would never have said such a thing, and that he was always heartbroken about what happened to the team and to the club.

Whatever the case, the next day after the final training session, Laurie was eating a Chinese meal at the Marigold restaurant with Rotary club members. He was trying to raise money for a young amputee called Anna. All of a sudden he began coughing, then blood emerged from his mouth, and Laurie left the table and walked outside on to the footpath where he collapsed. An ulcer had ruptured in his stomach, and Laurie was to be dead before even reaching the hospital. It was February, and he was 79 years old.

When Laurie died, over a thousand people attended his funeral with good friend Alan Jones delivering a eulogy praised by both Laurie’s family and mates; his siblings (apparently) as a choir sang like angels; during the procession hundreds of men piled out of the pubs, beer in one hand with the other over their hearts, commemorating the man as the hearse passed by (these were people he’d never even met!); on the weekend following his death all Rugby League teams wore black armbands as a mark of respect[8]; Kostya Tszyu dedicated his world title fight against Mexican Ahmed Santos to Laurie a week after his death[9]; the Balmain club sold singlets after the match at Leichhardt oval, which sold well, the proceeds of which went to charity[10]; all major television and print media outlets dedicated segments of their production’s to Laurie’s life, and many prominent Rugby League players spoke publicly of the admiration they felt for Laurie. For instance, Ben Elias stated, “In the 14 years I was with Balmain I never heard him say a bad word about anybody. And I never heard anyone criticise him. I was with him last Saturday night and he was as bouncy as ever.”[11] Or Wayne Pearce: “He was very much a part of our family and it wont be the same to go into the dressing room”.[12]

[1] Interview with Ben Elias,
[2] Ibid
[3] Interview with Ben Elias
[4] John Macdonald, SMH, 5th September, 1988 Pg 60.
[5] ibid. Pg 60
[6] Surprisingly, this is Laurie’s only tangible link to the Balmain area.
[7] ?! I am relying on my Maths here so this date is definitely open to dispute.
[8] Sydney Morning Herald, February 4th 2000, Pg 18
[9] The Daily Telegraph, February 11th 2000, Pg 127
[10] The Daily Telegraph, February 4th 2000, Pg 10
[11] Ibid, Pg 10
[12] Ibid, Pg 5


QUOTE
Tribute to the Late Laurie Nichols


Years ago at Leichhardt

Whilst standing on the hill

He floated by right past me

I thought he was a dill


A left, a right, he punched the air

His opponent? Well, I know not where

“Tigers! Tigers!” sparring about

I knew for sure he’d win the bout


We’ll send him up, this crazy man

He’s either mad or a die hard fan

He advanced on me and took the bait

I shook with fear but he said “G’day, mate”


He smiled at me and shook my hand

I knew I’d met a top notch man

No more would we call him a fool

He loved the South’s boys on the hill

 
Over in the “Old Dart”, covered in snow

In his singlet our Laurie is taking on the foe

Years went by, the Nineties came

They set about to change the game

 
The man known as Balmain’s greatest fan

Ended up a shattered man

He backed South’s at our rally and cried

“The greatest game of all has died”


Grey clouds roll in, a very sad day

I’m told dear Laurie has passed away

People came from far and wide

Even big, brawny men openly cried


There was Sirro, Blocker and our Dawn

For Laurie, they all came to mourn

In Old Leichhardt back on that hill

An old man I am - but I hear him still:

  “Tigers! Tigers! Tigers!”




tiger_stones - September 14, 2006 02:23 AM (GMT)
Champion bloke and the most fanatical supporter in any sport ever.There will never be another Laurie.

TIGERIZED - September 14, 2006 02:24 AM (GMT)
He really was the man wasnt he .

A great tribute to a special man .

RIP Laurie

tigergirlz - September 14, 2006 03:03 AM (GMT)
that young, gorgeous, blonde haired player with him in one of the photos is Greg Cox ....mmmmmmmm :rolleyes:
On the topic of Laurie Nichols - hope he did see last year from up above - he deserves it after the support he gave to the Tigers over the years. RIP :snow

Tigers4ever - September 14, 2006 03:18 AM (GMT)
A great tribute to "Our Laurie".

"SIMPLY THE BEST".

GO THE TIGERS

Hit or Miss - September 14, 2006 03:19 AM (GMT)
I met him a couple of times as most people would have. He had time to say hi to everyone including opposition fans.

Was a sad day back in 2000 when he passed away. That was a pretty good history of him.

tiger-adam - September 14, 2006 03:24 AM (GMT)
RIP mate a legend to the game

Sataris - September 14, 2006 03:37 AM (GMT)
Is there a big version of the Soviet article?

ThrillMeTiger - September 14, 2006 03:42 AM (GMT)
Great article and great pics of a great man.

TIGERIZED - September 14, 2006 03:47 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (ThrillMeTiger @ 14 Sep 2006, 01:42 PM)
Great article and great pics of a great man.

Ana a very clue'y man too

super_coach - September 14, 2006 08:22 AM (GMT)
Gee,that was the best read in a long time--Every club as a bloke like Laurie,but he was no 1 and always will be.
It wasnt about winning or getting beat,it was about supporting your team and always thinking next week is the start of somthing good.Unlike myself,who bags everybody and often haves negative thoughts,he was totally postive---but we still have onething in common---tigers

forwhatitsworth - September 14, 2006 08:51 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (TIGERIZED @ 14 Sep 2006, 01:47 PM)
QUOTE (ThrillMeTiger @ 14 Sep 2006, 01:42 PM)
Great article and great pics of a great man.

Ana a very clue'y man too

And the greatest tribute to the man is the most original use of the apostrophe in a post recognising him.

HappyTiger - September 14, 2006 11:58 AM (GMT)
he was almost like part of the furniture at LO.I remember clearly the first game back after he died.It was strange not seeing him in that tunnel.

wests-pmq-tiger - September 15, 2006 01:06 AM (GMT)
Laurie Nichols, is still a rugby league icon. :clap :clap
don't be sad he is gone, be glad we were all able to be around to see him, follow his beloved tigers. ;)
.
can we all imagine what will happen, when we all eventually leave this world. :doh
no guessing who will be there to meet us at the gates, shadow boxing and wearing his tigers gear. :lol :lol

toohey - September 15, 2006 05:23 AM (GMT)
Its a shame they didn't name the supporter shop after him.

wests-pmq-tiger - September 15, 2006 11:29 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (toohey @ 15 Sep 2006, 03:23 PM)
Its a shame they didn't name the supporter shop after him.

that would have been great recognition for a iconic supporter. :clap :clap
.
i wonder what the name would have been? :lol

100%tiger - September 19, 2006 02:09 AM (GMT)
I still get a tear in my eye when i here his name. he was truely a great person, and i was lucky to know him as a family friend. he will always live on!

TIGERIZED - September 19, 2006 02:15 AM (GMT)
As a young fella at L.O growing up watching Balmain play, whenever we scored a try it was like a pattern you know... as soon as we scored i would look for Laurie, cause i was never sure if it was a real try or not, watching his reactions would always excite me and make it so much more special... he was an inspiration and a flame for the tigers that will never go out .


TIGERS....TIGERS....TIGERS !!!!

Littlemisstiger - September 19, 2006 11:43 AM (GMT)
Even now whenever anyone shows footage of Laurie at games, especially those at LO, I still get those same feelings of excitement. I remember games at LO and the first thing I'd do would be to scan the stands to work out where he was. I'll never forget him and hope that one day I'll feel like I'm even half the supporter he was. Cheers for the memories, Laurie :drink

Siro & Skando - September 19, 2006 12:20 PM (GMT)
QUOTE
AFTRS students seeking memorabilia of a footy fan legend
AFTRS students are compiling a documentary on Laurie Nichols, the Number One Balmain Tigers Fan.

AFTRS Documentary Producing student Reid Palmer said the filmmaking team was seeking contact from people who knew the late Laurie Nichols or may have photos or footage of him at games.

"Basically, what we are after is contact from people who have any photographs or film/video footage of the man, and also contact from people who perhaps have stories of interesting encounters with him, or personal tales of what they remember about him," he said.

To contact the students, ring Reid Palmer on (02) 9805 6574 or email reid.palmer@aftrs.edu.au

Siro & Skando - September 19, 2006 12:30 PM (GMT)
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Siro & Skando - September 19, 2006 12:31 PM (GMT)
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Siro & Skando - September 19, 2006 12:32 PM (GMT)
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Siro & Skando - September 19, 2006 12:32 PM (GMT)
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nev - October 16, 2006 08:02 AM (GMT)
laurie was the back bone of the tigers back then . when the kangaroos used to go to england for the ashes guess you would call it stayed up to watch the game here's laurie in his famous singlet that he was knowing for it was in the middle of a english winter . he was a legend .

Sincas - July 17, 2007 10:33 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (Siro & Skando @ 19 Sep 2006, 10:20 PM)
QUOTE
AFTRS students seeking memorabilia of a footy fan legend
AFTRS students are compiling a documentary on Laurie Nichols, the Number One Balmain Tigers Fan.

AFTRS Documentary Producing student Reid Palmer said the filmmaking team was seeking contact from people who knew the late Laurie Nichols or may have photos or footage of him at games.

"Basically, what we are after is contact from people who have any photographs or film/video footage of the man, and also contact from people who perhaps have stories of interesting encounters with him, or personal tales of what they remember about him," he said.

To contact the students, ring Reid Palmer on (02) 9805 6574 or email reid.palmer@aftrs.edu.au

any update on this documentary?

I've just ordered one of the Laurie singlets. They've done a great job on this one :clap , unlike the Skando gronk t-shirt last year. :nono

MG1962 - August 4, 2007 07:20 AM (GMT)

Laurie was a real enigma actually - At first sight, as the poem suggests earlier, you think he some loony thats escaped from somewhere. His antics, tom foolery, all pointed to a passionate, but terribly unbalanced footy fan

Then you talk to the man - I had the pleasure of sharing an after game drink at Campbletown, many years ago. I am almost certain he was on a lemon squash, but then he revealed what a student of the game he was.

More important, he knew when the Tigers were simply not playing well enough. Never excuses, never blamed the ref, never trashed the opposition side. His beloved Tigers were either good enough on the day or they were not.

The thing that stuck in my mind after we finished - I had been in the presence of greatness, and there are few people on this planet that have ever done that to me.

I have no doubt he was that the 2005 final - He, Shuey, Dallas and all the boys that have passed would have turned Heaven into party central. I wonder how long it took to clean up the mess lol

tigerted - August 4, 2007 07:44 AM (GMT)

Feel like throwing in my 2 Bobs worth ,I knew Laurie for many years [since 66'] as

a close neighbour & Tiger supporter, he was one of the funniest & nicest blokes


one could ever meet, I never knew him to say a bad word about anybody or

any team , I am privliaged to have been his friend , I was one of the many that

supplied storys & photos to Reid Palmer. Laurie not only supported Balmain

he supported all Aussie sport & was a big Boxing fan.

Good on ya cobber !

Sincas - August 15, 2007 09:55 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (tigerted @ 4 Aug 2007, 05:44 PM)
Feel like throwing in my 2 Bobs worth ,I knew Laurie for many years [since 66'] as

a close neighbour & Tiger supporter, he was one of the funniest & nicest blokes


one could ever meet, I never knew him to say a bad word about anybody or

any team , I am privliaged to have been his friend , I was one of the many that

supplied storys & photos to Reid Palmer. Laurie not only supported Balmain

he supported all Aussie sport & was a big Boxing fan.

Good on ya cobber !

any news on the doco Ted?

balmaingirl - August 17, 2007 01:27 AM (GMT)
I have many happy memories of Laurie, he was a great friend of my family. Like TigerTed I can't really remember him ever having a bad word to say about anyone - everyone who knew Laurie well would say the same. We would often pick him up from the train station to go to the football, I knew him from when I was very young.

When he used to come back from Nyngan my mum would sit for hours picking burrs out of his hands. He used to love her baked dinners!

I moved to Yass for work and he came down to stay and to introduce me around - he really didn't know anyone except for his son-in-law Darren's cousin, but that didn't matter. By the end of his stay I knew plenty of people!

I didn't contribute to the doco - I should have - I have so many photos and stories! Laurie was a great story teller, he would have us in stitches, especially about his and Arthurs adventures, in Barcelona and America. He had people lined up getting autographs at Disneyland, he told them he was Laurie Dundee, Mick's brother!

My dad died three years before Laurie and I hope that the two of them are still meeting up and talking about their beloved Tigers. I have to be honest, I don't know how either would have coped with Wests Tigers, it took me a long time and I still refer to myself as a Balmain supporter. At the last game at Leichhardt, Laurie got Mum and I tickets and we sat in the Grandstand. He organised for a signed Balmain jumper for me and it is so special. It was such a strange feeling, the end of Balmain and just us, without Dad and then without Laurie.

It is a very rare person that is remembered so highly,by so many people and I was very lucky to have called Laurie a friend.

HappyTiger - August 17, 2007 07:42 AM (GMT)
Alot of great reading in here.I heard a caller ring Alan Jones this morning on 2gb talking about Laurie Nicholls and the great man he was.To the privalaged few who got to know the real Laurie they must have all been truly blessed by him.

They mentioned the fact that they werent impressed that Wests Tigers had sold singlets in his honour at the cowboys game.I have to say i agree that in a way it wasnt a very fitting way to remember Laurie.I can only hope that the money raised was given to charity or the local clubs that Laurie was involved with.Otherwise it looks like just a cheap money making grab that used a great mans name.

Mish - August 17, 2007 07:52 AM (GMT)
I dont have an issue with the selling of the singlets no matter where the $$$ went... I think its great because the kids & people that didn't know who he was will ask their parents after seeing that singlet , then the parents can relay the great stories we know to them which passes on not only the memory of such a great dedicated fan but also it might encourage a bit of passion in the next generation too.

crouching_tiger - August 17, 2007 09:02 AM (GMT)
Can't wait for the tigerted singlet to come out!! I hear it resembles a straightjacket of some sort!! :huh:

tigerted - August 17, 2007 10:22 AM (GMT)
QUOTE (Sincas @ 15 Aug 2007, 07:55 PM)
QUOTE (tigerted @ 4 Aug 2007, 05:44 PM)
Feel like throwing in my 2 Bobs worth ,I knew Laurie for many years [since 66'] as

a close neighbour & Tiger supporter, he was one of the funniest & nicest blokes


one could  ever meet, I never knew him to say a bad word about anybody or

any team , I am privliaged to have been his friend , I was one of the many that

supplied  storys & photos to Reid Palmer. Laurie not only supported Balmain

he supported all Aussie sport & was a big Boxing fan.

Good on ya cobber !

any news on the doco Ted?

No mate, all I was told it wont be long , should be soon.

Sincas - August 17, 2007 04:16 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (HappyTiger @ 17 Aug 2007, 05:42 PM)
Alot of great reading in here.I heard a caller ring Alan Jones this morning on 2gb talking about Laurie Nicholls and the great man he was.To the privalaged few who got to know the real Laurie they must have all been truly blessed by him.

They mentioned the fact that they werent impressed that Wests Tigers had sold singlets in his honour at the cowboys game.I have to say i agree that in a way it wasnt a very fitting way to remember Laurie.I can only hope that the money raised was given to charity or the local clubs that Laurie was involved with.Otherwise it looks like just a cheap money making grab that used a great mans name.

they had his family's permission but yes, i hope that money was going to a good cause other than simply into the club coffers even if that is a good cause in some way.

I'd rather see that money go towards the juniors, fixing Leichhardt Oval or something else that Laurie was passionate about.


HappyTiger - August 18, 2007 12:42 AM (GMT)
Well that was my fear.That the money would just be going directly to the club and as much as the club could use the money it just wouldnt be right.

Being that Lauries family gave permission for it all to go ahead means that they were happy with what was going on so no dramas as far as im concerned.

balmaingirl - August 18, 2007 10:29 AM (GMT)
Just a point about the singlets and it is minor - Laurie would say Black and Gold WE never fold, not Black and Gold Never Fold - just a small thing, but it wasn't quite right....and I should know, I said it enough with him - but maybe I am wrong?

I think that Julie, like her Dad very much believes the best in people and that any money raised, would quite rightly go to charities (the many of them) that Laurie supported. Laurie had a very strong Catholic faith and I trust that any money raised would go where Julie and Darren see fit, after all, he was her father and it is her choice, she's a very special person and I am sure that the right decisions would have been made by her.

One of my favourite sayings of Laurie's was Peter Mulchy - horse and sulky - does anyone know if Peter is on the forum??

I had the (displeasure) of watching the replay of the 1989 Grand Final on fox a few weeks ago, and Peter's face while on the side line was absolutely priceless.

At least like me he wasn't crying :(


Suzie-Q - August 18, 2007 11:44 AM (GMT)
What a shame you didn't get to contribute to the doco. I know how much Laurie meant, and means, to you. You'll have to meet TigerTed at a game, if you don't already know each other.

balmaingirl - August 18, 2007 11:48 AM (GMT)
Hey there Suzie, I was wondering if you were around tonight - I didn't hear from you - maybe Emu Plains/Heights was defeaned by the noise the kids and I made.

I would love to meet with TigerTed, however, I have the feeling that we may already know each other.

I am sure that he would know Dudley as well - who is an old Cooma boy that grew up with "bluey" as those in Cooma called Laurie and who also moved to the Blue Mountains. Must have been too warm in Sydney LOL!




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