The First Tweed Heads Seagulls Team 1909
Along with the official establishment of the club, came the birth of players that would later go on to shape the history of the game. The club’s first 3 years saw the likes of Tom Flannigan and forward Frank Bray named in the team, as well as key founding member G.E. ‘Bluey Gray’ and life long member Chris Cunningham.
As members of the Seagulls first team in 1909, both Bluey and Cunningham’s talent and commitment to the club, laid the foundation for the Tweed Heads Seagulls. Cunningham has since gone on to play a significant role in the development of a strong, successful Australian football club. In 1922 he captained the club to their first premiership win in the league competition.
When playing in the Union competition Tweed Heads Seagulls won their first premiership in 1912. This impressive win was mirrored in 1913, when the Gulls again took home the trophy.
Tweed Heads Seagulls Team 19th November 1912
There were seven teams in total within in the Tweed Union comp, including:
- Tweed Head Seagulls
- The Buccaneers
- The Murwillumbah Blues
Players were expected to pay for their own sporting gear and find their own way to each match. Many of the men used to walk, ride their bikes or hitch a lift on the back of a truck. The Seagulls used the Tweed Heads Recreation grounds as a home ground.
1914 was a year of great influence and change for the Seagulls club. A meeting was held to discuss the introduction of Rugby League into the Tweed region and a motion was moved by Frank Burke, secretary for the Pirates. Many of the clubs were open and happy to accept the idea, and their recent dis-satisfaction with union resulted in the change from union to league.
Tweed Heads Seagulls 1932 – 1947
1932 saw a new captain- coach for the Seagulls, with Henry Horace Hinds stepping up to the job. For the role, he received board at the local hotel and $4 a week. ‘Horrie’ as he was known went on to play for the Seagulls for many more years. He took over the coaching role again in the 1947 season.
The Seagulls’ teams have not been the only things to have changed over the years. Today’s way of life is, expectedly considerably different to that of the early 1900’s. In 1939 Seagulls signed a new player by the name of Henry Kafoa. Born in 1915 in Chinderah, Henry started playing football at the age of 18 with the Chinderah ‘All Blacks’ (pictured right). The team used to train on the sand between the Wall and Fingal, and would play home games behind Albert Ahrens butcher shop at Chinderah. The boys would use the local hall as a dressing shed, and would be payed 2 bottles of beer per man, after each game. The sand, as opposed to freshly mowed lawn proved to strengthen the players legs, with the team winning the 1938 premiership.
In 1939 Kafoa left the team and came to play for the Seagulls. Over the next 2 years (1939 &1940), Kafoa was a part of the Seagulls’ premiership teams. Also a part of the team was the great, Jock Smith. Many of Henry Kafoa’s descendants have gone on to play with Seagulls, including his grandson and great grandsons, David Kafoa and Brian Shipman.
The Tweed Heads recreation ground was used as the Seagulls’ home ground.
Teams Seagulls played against:
- Muwillumbah Kangaroos
- Chinderah All Blacks
Seagulls were the premiership winners for 2 consecutive years, in 1939 and 1940, however it was then 11 years before the club won again.
Tweed Heads Seagulls 1947
The Early Years
1951 Seagulls A Grade Premiership Team
Four years later Seagulls signed Barry Muir, making his debut appearance in league. Muir began his career with Seagulls in 1956. Little did Tweed Heads know that they had produced a soon to be champion that would later set the standard and be an inspiration for many a player to come. From small beginnings Muir went on to have one of the most recognised careers in the history of rugby league. He represented Australia in 22 Test matches and 3 World cup matches. 15 years after making his debut Muir returned to the club where he started, the Tweed Heads Seagulls in the role of Captain-coach for his final year of playing. Following this Barry continued to coach, including the Queensland side for the 1974-78 State of Origins.
In 1958 Col Hayes started a contract with the Tweed Head Seagulls. Hayes played with the club until 1963. Following this Hayes became President in 1969 before giving up his presidency to focus on the establishment of the club’s home ground and licensing. Over the years of Hayes’ involvement with the Seagulls, he was influential in moving the club forward.
1962 Chris Cunningham was made vice-president of the club.
1963 marked one of the most successful seasons in the history of the Tweed Heads Seagulls. The premier club was undefeated and won every major prize in the Tweed League. Furthermore they also took home the Clayton Cup for being the Champion club of NSW Country rugby league, equalling a 16 year old record. Jack Meeken was the president of Seagulls at the time. The team was captained and coached by Norm McFadden, with golden players such as Billy McDermott and Lionel Morgan. The 1963 combination was said to have been “one of the best combinations in the history of the club“.
Five years later the Seagulls were unfortunately defeated in their grand final match, by arch rivals Gold Coast 21-9. However the loss was lessened a little by the triumph of the club’s under 16 team, in the first ever under 16 Tweed District Rugby League premiership.
The 1970s marked the beginning of a new era for the Tweed Head Seagulls when the club bought its first piece of land and developed a club building.
Whilst previous efforts had been made in 1963, by then club president Jack Meeking to try and form a licensed club, his applications were unsuccessful. However in 1969, the topic was once again brought to the foreground. The land on which the current club stands, was found with an incomplete hotel building on it.
Back in the early 1900’s the block was known to hold tea trees. As the club was unable to receive a grant, guarantors were arranged from members, in order to put a lease on the land until it could be bought. The ground of 10 acres was finally bought for $96,000.
For the rest of 1970 club members, players and those living within the community joined together every Sunday to restore the existing building and develop a playing ground.
Cole Hayes working on site
John Meskell working on site
Men served tirelessly, bringing trucks and removing large rocks all to achieve the goal of providing the local Seagulls with their own home ground. At the same time membership drives were also taking place in order to be able to obtain a conditional license. Overall the developments cost the club $150,000.
Whilst many participated in the development of the land, specific mention should be given to those such as Colin Hayes, John Maskell, John O’Neill and Mick Lowe who were especially instrumental in bringing about the overall outcome, including the club’s license.
The license was achieved by obtaining memberships and providing the courts with proof of the working bees and adequate finances, as well as proof that “rugby league was the most important part of the club’s activities.” (Galton, The seagulls story Part 2) The license was granted on the 24th May 1971.
The club building was officially opened in 1971 by founding member Chris Cunningham.
1972 marked the year that Seagulls great Tom Searle commenced his time with the club.
It was also in this year that the Seagulls toured in New Guinea.
Group 18 was originally started in 1914 when the chance from union to league occurred. In the 15 years between 1971 and 1986 the Seagulls ‘contested’ 52 out of the 55 Group 18 rugby league grand finals. (Johnson 1986)
In 1971 the Seagulls C Grade beat Cudgen in the under 18 premiership game, with the score 9-8. The team was on a winning streak between 1973-1975 when they won the 3 premierships.
In 1982 the Gulls had the opportunity to travel oversees and represent Australian rugby in a weekend of exhibitions against local USA rugby teams.
The year 1983 saw player John Harvey step up as Captain- Coach before later returning to the Manly- Waringah Sea Eagles. Harvey was replaced by Mick Ryan.
1983 also saw the return of brothers Tom and Bill Dinsey to the club. Another achievement for the season was the winning of the Clayton Cup (pictured right), last won in the club’s golden year, 1963.
In 1985 the Seagulls Group 18 were at the “top of the state”. Final fixtures held at Cunningham Field on August 25th resulted in wins for the A Grade, Under 19s and under 17s. This meant the 5th win in 5 years for the Under 19s.
Whilst Bob Mc Demott’s reserve grade were undefeated all year, they unfortunately missed out on a spot in the grand final, failing to win their semi final and final matches.
In December of 1985 approval was given for the purchase of 40 acres of land on Piggabeen Road, now host to a playing field and grandstand, where the Tweed Heads Seagulls currently train.
Following on from their success in 1985, the Seagulls had all 5 teams make the 1986 grand finals, with the under 18s winning the premiership. One of the club’s greats, coach Stan Gilmore received the ‘coach of the year’ after his 6th successive grand final win.
Other highlights for the 1986 season included:
- Visits from the Brisbane representative side, and Manly Warringah and Parramatta Clubs, to the Seagulls home at Cunningham Field.
- Sporting complex at Piggabeen was well under way.
- Seagulls colts emerged in 1986.
Tweed Heads Seagulls Team Photos for 1986
1988 – 1989
In 1988 the Gold Coasts’ first professional rugby league team was established and entered the Winfield Cup competition.
The Tweed Heads Giants were privately owned and played at Seagulls Stadium. However after only their second season, the Giants license was bought by the Seagulls license club. The Club felt that it was a worthwhile investment that could be capitalised upon, so long as a new team identity was created.
Henceforth the team became the Tweed Heads Seagulls, in the hope that the title would identify them with their owners. (Chadwick & Arthur, 2008) Along with the new name, also came a new logo and jersey design with the colours red, white and black.
The team continued to play out of the Seagulls Stadium.
Whilst they entered the Winfield Cup, the Seagulls still maintained their 3 teams in the local Group 18 competition.
From the beginning, the Tweed Heads Seagulls first grade team struggled to consistently perform well. The team struggled with repeated losses, winning only 2 games in 1991 despite signing league legend Wally Lewis.
Whilst Lewis’ appearance certainly attracted more fans through the gate it failed to turn the clubs fortune around on the field. Despite this, there were still many highlights during the teams’ early years.
- NSWRL granted permission for the Seagulls to enter an under 21 team into the Winfield competition in 1991.
- It was hoped a new draft system would help the club acquire more key players.
- Match day attendance increased by 13%.
- Modifications were made to the Eastern Grandstand including roofing, providing 2,400 more undercover seats.
- 13 more corporate boxes were created, providing 260 more VIP seats.
- All home games were televised live in South Eastern QLD, on Saturday nights.
- Lewis represented QLD in 3 State of Origin matches and 1 Aus vs NZ game.
- Entered a team in the Harold Matthews Cup for boys under the age of 15.
- Robert Simpkins, Chris Close & Mark Ross retired following the completion of the season.
- Under 21 team was entered in the Winfield competition (however only won 1 game).
- Wally Lewis played his last Windfield Cup Game.
- Seagulls hosted GC Group 18 Grand Final.
- Under 19s won Premiership.
- New Players recruited including; Brent Todd (Canberra), Steve Jackson,Paul Martin (Canberra), Jason Gregory (Canberra), Peter Gill (St George). Kurt Landers (St George), Dale Shearer(Broncos) and Mike McLean.
- Steve Jackson, Dale Shearer and Mike Mclean were called up for State of Origin.
- Brent Todd was selected for NZ to play Great Britain.
- Lewis becomes 1st Grade Coach (1st non playing season).
- Tweed Head Seagulls defeated the Nerang Roosters 27-26 with a field goal by the Captain in the final 40 seconds of the GC Group 18 grand final at Seagulls Stadium.
- Seagulls Group 18 coach Peter Crannage (pictured left) resigns. Despite this the Seagulls ARL side was unable to match the performance of their under 18s team.
Tweed was considered to be the perfect location for the ARL team, as it was known to have a strong league following. However according to Chadwick and Arthur (2008, 196) the “club’s hopes for fans never materialised”, with the club struggling for support. The Seagulls stadium had the capacity to hold 14,000 people, however was only filled on a few occasions between 1988-1995. The average attendance for a home game was 5-6,000 people. (Chadwick & Arthur 2008) Consequently this made it difficult for the Seagulls to attract both adequate amounts of sponsorship, as well as top level players.
By 1995 the club could not longer justify continuing to support the Tweed Heads Seagulls. Whilst the ARL pledge to support the Tweed Heads Seagulls for the next 5 years in a effort to prevent their teams from going to the Super League, this did not eventuate and the ownership was sold to local business man Jeff Muller. However in 1996 the ARL took over the license to the club and renamed it the Gold Coast chargers.
After the Seagulls withdrew from the ARL competition in 1995 the Tweed Heads Seagulls returned to just having 3 grades in the Gold Coast Group 18 Competition (A grade, reserve grade and under 19).
In 2002 the Tweed Heads Seagulls applied to enter the Queensland Cup but were unsuccessful. However following the exit of the Logan City Scorpions at the end of 2002, Tweed Heads re-applied and were accepted for the 2003 competition.
In 2003 Tweed Heads Seagulls entered the Queensland Cup, however still had teams participating in the local competition; Gold Coast Group 18. This was the case until 2005 when the Seagulls withdrew their participation in the Group 18 competition, focusing their attention primarily on the Queensland Cup.
In 2006 Tweed Heads successfully entered the FOGS Cup and FOGS Colts Challenge to have three teams competing in the Queensland State Competition; it was in this year that the Club took out the Club Championship.
2007 Grand Final
2007 saw the Gold Coast Titans enter the National Rugby League Competition with the Tweed Heads Seagulls becoming one of the Titans feeder clubs. It was also in this year that the Seagulls became the Queensland Cup and FOGS Colt Challenge premiers.Through its relationship with the Gold Coast Titans the Tweed Heads Seagulls has seen players from the 2007 premiership wins such as David Mead, Will Matthews, Shannon Walker, Selasi Birdie and Brad Davis making their NRL debut over the past 3 years. Other players such as Luke O’Dwyer, who is a local Seagulls junior have gone on to have successful careers with the Titans or other NRL clubs.
In 2010, Seagulls have had 3 teams play in the 2010 season, the Qld Cup, Fogs A – Grade and Fogs Colts.
2011 Grand Final
In 2011 the Tweed Heads Seagulls Intrust Super Cup team finished the regular season as minor premiers with 20 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw. Seagulls stormed into the grand final but went down to eventual premiers Wynnum Seagulls