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Lifelong fan captures definitive history of Dragons

By his own admission, Geoff Armstrong grew up in “Rugby League wasteland” in Eastwood in the north-west of Sydney as there was no clear team in the area to cheer for.

As a result, the kids there usually chose one of three teams to support – St George, South Sydney or Manly Warringah. Armstrong settled on the Dragons, a decision which ignited a lifelong passion and led him to write the definitive history of the club as they celebrate their 100th year.

He ended up with so much information that he decided to write two books. The first volume, Spirit of the Red V: A Century of Dragons Rugby League, covers off on the club’s formation in 1921 to 1967, with the second volume to be released next year.

The book includes interviews with ex-players, never-seen-before photographs and charts the club’s growth throughout the decades, culminating in their historic premiership-winning streak where they won 11 consecutive titles from 1956-66.

“The thing about St George is that everyone knows about the 11 premierships but what they don’t realise is the rich history that preceded that and how the place was set up to win those comps,” Armstrong said.

“This is the first time that anyone has gone into the pre-history, the pride of the 11 comps and how they evolved through the 20s and 30s and then the stories; especially the ’41 premiership is a great yarn.

“The thing about St George that is unique is the way that St George District evolved through the 30s, 40s and 50s; it was the perfect football place.

“Penrith was the same in the 90s and I think we’re seeing with Penrith now just how strong they are. Well, St George was that in the 30s, 40 and 50s; it was no accident they won 11 comps in a row.”

The book contains plenty of wonderful anecdotes, including the story of former centre Gordon Hart who was given permission to leave his army camp in Victoria to play in the Dragons’ Grand Final against Eastern Suburbs at the SCG in 1941.

The journey took him 28 hours, included him hiding in toilets and swapping carriages on the train to avoid Rail Transport Officers as he didn’t have a ticket, and saw him arrive at the ground with only an hour to spare until kick-off.

Despite the hurdles, he came out and played the match of his life to help the Dragons to their first premiership win.

“It’s a pity he didn’t miss the train,” Easts Captain Ray Stehr later lamented.

“If he hadn’t played, we might have won.”

Click the following links below to purchase Spirit of the Red V: A Century of Dragons Rugby League

Dymocks: https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/spirit-of-the-red-v-by-geoff-armstrong-9780648733133

Booktopia: https://www.booktopia.com.au/spirit-of-the-red-v-geoff-armstrong/book/9780648733133.html

QBD: https://www.qbd.com.au/spirit-of-the-red-v/geoff-armstrong/9780648733133/