You would have noticed in recent weeks a groundswell of moustaches developing this month – be it you co-worker, neighbour, partner or strangers walking down the street – of varying degrees of style and tastefulness. But it’s all for a good cause, with the Movember Foundation celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, raising awareness for prostate cancer and depression in men.
Rugby league has a rich history of high-profile moustaches, dating all the way back to 1908, to draw inspiration from for those growing a mo for charity during November.
The Book of NRL Lists, by Commentary Box Sports’ own Will Evans and Rugby League journalist Nick Tedeschi and published in September by Slattery Media Group, is a treasure trove of the best, worst and most obscure players, matches and moments in the code’s history – 200-plus passionately-compiled top 5s, 10s and 20s about everything rugby league, packed into 672 pages.
Check out this exclusive excerpt from The Book of NRL Lists – the Top 10 moustaches in rugby league history.
TOP 10 RUGBY LEAGUE MOUSTACHES
1. J.J. Giltinan
James Joseph Giltinan was one of the founding fathers of Australian Rugby League, and sported a glorious, stately moustache popular among his contemporaries in the first decade of the 20th century. Giltinan was the NSWRL’s foundation secretary before being personally bankrupted by the 1908-09 Kangaroo Tour. Moustaches wouldn’t be as popular again for another 70 years.
2. Wally Lewis
Wally Lewis played in the inaugural State of Origin match clean-shaven and employed the full beard-look intermittently in the early years of his Test career. But the enduring image of ‘The King’ is of his sandy standalone moustache bristling as he snarled at opponents and inspired Queensland and Australia to countless victories.
3. Graham Murray
Graham Murray possessed one of the strongest moustaches of the late-1970s as a clever ball-playing halfback for Parramatta and Souths, before crafting one of the great coach moustaches in Rugby League history. Thick, lustrous and fatherly, Murray’s ’tache was surely one of the great unsung factors behind the Illawarra Steelers’ unprecedented success during the early-1990s. He had lamentably shaved it off by the middle part of the decade, but wore a perpetual five o’clock shadow on his upper lip while taking the Roosters and Cowboys to Grand Finals in the 2000s. The much-loved ‘Muz’ tragically passed away in 2013, aged 58.
4. Rod Reddy
St George enforcer Rod Reddy’s carefree moustache and bushy mane epitomised the wild, hot-blooded spirit of premiership football in the late-1970s. Ray Price’s sandy beard was no match for ‘Rocket’s’ powerful handlebar in the ’77 Grand Final replay, as the Dragons backrower battered his Parramatta counterpart from pillar to post in a 22-0 shutout. Reddy used that performance – and his confidence-instilling moustache – as a springboard to making 17 Tests appearances, including two Kangaroo Tours.
5 Peter McWhirter
Peter McWhirter was Valleys’ five-eighth when they won the 1979 BRL premiership (with a young Wally Lewis playing lock) while he wore the No.6 in three interstate matches for Queensland, boasting a moustache that would have done Frank Zappa proud. But McWhirter’s moustachee was so thick during the 1980s as the Diehards’ coach, it cast a half-moon shadow over the bottom part of his face – an intimidating characteristic when combined with his steely gaze on the sidelines of Brisbane’s suburban grounds.
6. Sam Backo
During the late-1980s, husky Canberra prop Sam Backo took the battle for the best moustache in Australian sport to Hawthorn midfielder Robert DiPierdomenico, cultivating a magnificent horseshoe number. He may have come up short to ‘Dipper’, but Backo – who enjoyed a short but spectacular rep career with Queensland and Australia – undoubtedly possessed the Winfield Cup’s best moustache.
7. Terry Lamb
Terry Lamb entered first grade with Western Suburbs in 1980 sporting a questionable Amish-style, sans-moustache beard. But he soon combined his status as one of the premiership’s most valuable players at Canterbury with being among the most stylish, pairing a sensible mullet with a light brown slug that became his trademark throughout the decade – encompassing two Grand Final wins and a memorable Kangaroo Tour. Lamb followed the trends and did away with the moustache in 1992; fortunately, the move did not have Samson-like consequences and he went on to lead the Bulldogs to an unlikely Grand Final triumph in ’95.
8. Greg Bird
Greg Bird’s remarkable inability to grow a proper moustache is matched only by his admirable determination to persevere with it, despite trailing most 16-year-olds in the upper lip hair-growing stakes. Patchy and lacking volume, it is unclear whether the massive gap at the centre of Bird’s ’tache is due to a follicular abnormality, a failing attempt to grow a traditional Fu Manchu, or the Test backrower’s wicked sense of humour. Whatever the reason, it ranks among the most popular and recognisable moustache’s in the current game.
9. Cliff Lyons
Manly maestro Cliff Lyons’ fuzzy, dark mop-mullet combo and thick, ever-present moustache saw him bear a striking resemblance to Lionel Richie. And Lyons was arguably as entertaining as the ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ pop megastar, mesmerising audiences with his ball-playing trickery in 309 games from 1985-99, without ever giving a thought to taking the clippers to his upper lip. One of the last genuine Rugby League moustache icons.
10. Martin Bella
Burly, balding prop Martin Bella’s no-nonsense moustache suited his gruff exterior and outspoken nature. A two-time Kangaroo tourist from Norths (1986) and Manly (1990), and an institution in the Queensland front-row, Bella’s decision to ditch his mo at the start of ’94 can be blamed for his play-the-ball gaffe is his last Origin appearance and his costly knock-on at the kick-off of Canterbury’s Grand Final loss to Canberra.