Remembering a league legend
RUGBY LEAGUE: In many eyes, including his own, the late Neville Alan Callaghan retired too young.
He was 23 and a man with persistent knee problems. He retired after six seasons with one decorated cap for Queensland but always held a tinge of regret at bowing out when he did.
In 2008, Callaghan spoke to The Morning Bulletin recalling his passion for rugby league.
"A 17-year-old Cyril Connell () started teaching at the school,” he said.
"He certainly played a big role.
"I played one year for Colts but the rest of the time I was with Fitzroys.
"I played with my brothers Peter and Keith for Central Queensland against the Kiwis and Ipswich. They were always great games.”
Starting his own business, DC Motors and those knee problems were behind his premature exit.
"My only disappointment is having to stop playing in 1959 to start a business,” he confided.
Browne Park was a spiritual home for Callaghan and he was honoured in 2005 with the naming of the George St grandstand after him.
Local rugby league identity Peter Hunt spoke of the two premierships he won with Fitzroys.
"He came to the senior side at 18 and they won the premiership that year,” Hunt said.
"Then they won it a few years later... He always played hooker. His twin brothers played fullback and halfback, so they were the spine.
"It was a surprise when he retired. I know many who thought he should have kept going.”
Callaghan debuted for Queensland when regular rake Noel Kelly was injured.
If not for Kelly, who was named at hooker in the Queensland Team of the Century, Callaghan would surely have played more. Perhaps for his country.
"There was a lot more camaraderie in those days. They were all mates off the field and on it, a bit different to now,” he said.
"Nev and Noel were good mates. Nev was very quietly spoken but knew a lot of people.
"He was a great man. So generous. Rugby league was one of his main priorities, always on committees and giving through the leagues club.”
Fellow league man Rob Crow recalled Callaghan's friendship with the late Cyril Connell.
"They were great mates. Even when Cyril moved on they would always ring each other and stay in touch. Nev was just that type of fella,” Crow said.
"One of his favourite sayings was, 'I'm a giver, not a taker'. That's just who he was. He supported everyone in his life.
"A very loyal person. He donated so much time and money to helping rugby league in this city.
"It was a time when New South Wales took all our players but he didn't go. He deserved his Queensland jersey.”