There is far more history to the Paul Mooney Cup than anyone playing in the latest Easts v Wests clash will realise. The worthy symbol of contests between the two clubs is named after a rare figure who had a major influence at both.
Paul Mooney was Easts’ first Wallaby as a fast-striking booker for two Tests against Fiji in 1954. He played over 100 games for the Tigers from the later 1940s through the ‘50s and held the record for most first grade games at one point.
As a youngster, he tuned his hooking technique on with an unusual drill. Using two chairs as props, he’d get one of his twin sisters to feed a mock front-row and the other to receive the ball after a quick strike. He was part of the very foundations of the club because he played with the Brisbane State High School Old Boys in 1947 when the Queensland Rugby Union started an Old Boys division for past students of GPS schools.
Mooney was from the Class of 1946 and remained proud of those roots when Eastern Districts was born in 1949 as part of the QRU’s push for district rugby. He was an Annerley boy but moved across town to Indooroopilly when he was married. The Wests-Toowong club became his new home in 1961. He became a pied piper with the coaching, recruiting and charismatic personal skills to turn Wests-Toowong into the first powerhouse of Under-19s rugby in Queensland. He steered Under-19 premierships in 1961 and 1965, took away Queensland Under-19 teams to New Zealand and was ultimately named a Life Member of Wests.
That he became known as “The Talking Hat” because of his regular rugby repartee, under a pork pie hat, should tell you it was a lifelong affair with rugby. The links between the Mooney family and Easts are blood bonds too. Keith Wilson was a lean, talented centre and first grade teammate in the early 1950s. Keith married Mooney’s sister June and they became the parents of Wallabies great David Wilson. Another former Easts player Glynn Gauld, who went on to coach Wests, married Mooney’s sister-in-law Jan.
Paul’s son Phil played and coached first grade at Wests but knew first-hand how much the Tigers always meant to his father.
“Whenever Wests played Easts it was a big family reunion. If Easts won at Bottomley Park, dad would always say ‘Let’s go into the club and have a drink with the aunts and uncles’,” Phil recounted.
“When Wests won, dad would say ‘Let’s go into the club and rub it in’. “He was pretty shrewd…he was always on the winning side.” Years after he’d finished playing at Easts, Mooney senior would still smile happily over a beer about his contribution to the early years at Easts. “There’ll be better Wallabies than me from the club but I’ll always be the first,” Mooney would say.
The rise of district rugby gave him great satisfaction when the stranglehold on the Brisbane competition by Brothers, University and GPS was broken.
“It was a great day for him when Wests and Souths met in the first all-district club grand final in 1991,” said Phil, who played that day. “He was proudly in the stands at Ballymore when Easts won their first premiership in 1997. He enjoyed the first Easts v Wests grand final in 1999 more than I did because I was assistant coach of Wests at the time and we lost. “Even though I’m Wests through and through, Easts will always be a special club in our family.” Paul’s sister June, now 86, will be at Bottomley Park on Saturday to help celebrate the Paul Mooney Cup’s latest edition. “I’m very proud. He was Easts’ first Wallaby and he helped build Wests,” June said.