Graeme Langlands

Club Appearances: 227

Club Debut Year: 1963

Club Final Year: 1976

Position: Fullback

Club Points: 1,554

Club Tries: 86

Representative Honours:

  • NSW v Qld: 33
  • NSW v Int: 3
  • Australia: 45
Appearances breakdown:

  • St George: 227
Points breakdown:

  • St George: 1,554

In an interview conducted in 1976, St George secretary Frank Facer remembered how Saints signed Graeme Langlands. Fourteen years earlier, as a 20-year-old fullback from the Illawarra, Langlands had been chosen in City Seconds but then promoted to City Firsts when another top-rated fullback, Les Johns from Newcastle, pulled out injured. Langlands was outstanding as Country won 18–8, was picked for NSW, and by the end of the season was highly prized by several rich Sydney clubs.

‘In those days the transfer system was in operation and we bargained pretty hard to get him for as little as possible,’ Facer revealed. ‘I remember offering £800 transfer at first but gradually it built up.

‘One of the Wollongong officials, Joe Fitzgerald, a great mate if mine, told me that Langlands would be as good as [Clive] Churchill. That gave me the loophole I wanted. I told them if they thought he was that good we would pay £1000 transfer and give the club £100 every time he represented Australia.

‘Our negotiations speeded up when we heard Manly were prepared to meet Wollongong’s asking price. We got our cheque and I raced into the League to lodge it and Langlands was ours.’

Frank Facer died a little more than a year after he told this story. In the seasons since, the yarn has been embellished and altered, so that the offer was £1000 up front and a thousand per Test appearance. Even so, as legend has it, the Illawarra officials knocked it back and took £3000 upfront instead. If that is true, they cost themselves a fortune, because Langlands went on to play 45 Tests. For St George, from 1963 to 1976, he was consistently magnificent, winning the premiership in each of his first four years at the club and leading the side in two more grand finals (1971 and 1975). He was man of the match in the 1964 Grand Final, when he set up the game’s only try and kicked four pressure goals. He was Saints’ leading pointscorer nine times and the second man, after Norm Provan, to play 200 first-grade games for the club. His 1554 total first-grade points is a Dragons record.

Langlands’ nickname of ‘Changa’ was as well-known as his prodigious sidestep. He was Saints captain from 1970 to 1976, captain-coach from 1972, first-choice Australian captain from 1970 to 1975, and captain-coach on his third Kangaroo tour, in 1973. He was the first player to score 100 points in Anglo–Australian Tests. In 1999, he and Wally Lewis became the game’s fifth and sixth Immortals.

‘He could do marvellous things on the field, turn the tide of a match with a run or a tackle,’ said Facer in that same 1976 interview. ‘He could inspire his teammates through his own brilliance. As a club man, there have been few better. I have seen him go out onto the field and play when he was so badly injured he should not have been there. But that’s the type of man he was.’

That resilience was at its most evident in 1971, the season he was at the absolute peak of his powers and was judged the Sunday Telegraph’s player of the year for the second year in a row. In the preliminary final against Manly, he and his close mate Billy Smith inspired a stirring second-half comeback, and then a week later they ran a great Souths side close, fighting back from 11–0 down to get within a point with 12 minutes to go. A late try gave the Rabbitohs a 16–10 win, and after the game both captains were chaired from the field. Only afterwards was it revealed that Langlands had played most of the final against the Sea Eagles and the entire grand final with a broken rib.