5 September 2023

Telling it like it was: Raiders legends prepare to tell the true story of the Green Machine

| Sally Hopman
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Mal Meninga signs up for the Green Machine as the club’s founding chair, John McIntyre, looks on. Both men will take part in the oral history project. Photo: Raiders.

Few teams have a closer connection to their region than the Canberra Raiders.

So many stories, so many games, so many legends, so much green – so it’s not surprising that the club’s important role in Canberra’s sporting history will soon be recorded for posterity.

The Canberra Raiders Club has just secured an ACT Government Heritage Grant for $15,330 to film and record 10 players and officials connected to the club in their own words.

The 10 will be interviewed by club historian David Headon and their stories, boots and all, will be archived in the ACT Heritage Library.

Raiders spokesperson Sarah Williams, who is coordinating the project, Bleeding Green, has the perfect pedigree for the job. Her father is Ashley Gilbert, who played for the club from 1982 into the 1990s, and her husband is Raider Sam Williams.

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“You could say I was born and bred into the club,” she joked.

“Being involved with the club has been a huge part of my life and identity which is why this project is so exciting.”

Ms Williams said the idea to record and film the oral histories was flagged after David Headon was commissioned to write a history of the club.

Working with Dr Headon and the ACT Heritage Library, it became clear how important it was to record the early Raiders’ stories from the people involved – the club’s greats.

“As people get older, it is so important for us to record their stories, to capture their moments in time, allow them to tell their own stories,” she said.

“Because Canberra can be such a small place, you often hear stories, but with this, you’ll be able to hear the story right from the person involved.”

Dr Headon, with the club and the ACT Heritage Library, was part of a panel deciding who the first 10 Raiders would be involved in the oral histories.

The goal was to capture the widest variety of voices, people who had been connected to the club for a long time, “people we knew had stories to tell”.

“Some of these stories have not been heard from the horse’s mouth before – like our longest serving patron, John McIntyre. He’ll be first off the rank.”

Katrina Fanning

League legend and Raiders board member Katrina Fanning will be among the first to contribute to the oral history of the Raiders. Photo: File.

They will be followed by legendary coach and player Mal Meninga, Louise Grant, the widow of the club’s first captain David Grant and Katrina Fanning, a rugby league player, official and member of the Raiders board, along with other former coaches and players.

The oral histories will be recorded at the club once the current rugby league season ends.

“That’s a good quieter time for us, so we can utilise that time to capture all the stories,” Ms Williams said.

“After we had shortlisted them down to 10, we called them and lots of them were surprised to be selected, but they were all really keen to be involved.”

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Ms Williams said the enthusiasm tied in with the culture of the club, with many of the past members and officials choosing to stay in the capital rather than move back to their former homes after their contracts ended.

“Our footprint has always extended beyond the ACT,” she said.

“We pride ourselves on recruiting country kids – from as far out as Griffith down to Eden on the far South Coast.”

Once the oral histories have been recorded, edited and captioned, they will be housed in the ACT Heritage Library archives. They are scheduled for release in April next year to coincide with the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival.

The 2023 ACT Heritage Grants program allocated $344,000 to 15 projects to preserve and celebrate the ACT’s history and heritage.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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