GROUP Three Rugby League's most exclusive club, the hall of fame, now has four new members following the latest induction held at the Wingham Services Club on Friday, January 21.
Mark Hogan (Taree United), Wally Dylko (Wauchope), Ken Emerton (Forster-Tuncurry) and Dean Basham (Forster-Tuncurry) can now take their place in the hall of fame.
More than 100 people attended the function, where all four were interviewed on stage and outlined their highly successful careers.
Dylko revealed his family made their way from a refugee camp in Poland in World War II to settle in Wauchope. He eventually started playing rugby league with his mates and was soon hooked on the game.
A lock, he prided himself on his fitness and his defence. He represented North Coast against the touring Frenchmen at Wauchope in 1964 and was a regular member of Group Three representative sides. Dylko won first grade premierships for the Blues in 1967, 72 and 75. He would have been a member of the premier 1969 side, but he was injured in a car accident on the way to the grand final played in Taree.
In all grades he played 302 matches for the Blues, the greater majority in first grade and was made a life member of the club while still playing.
Emerton was a born in Forster but didn't start to play competition rugby league until he moved to Sydney to join the police when he was 16. He played in the Eastern Suburbs junior league and was then lower grades with the Roosters before being transferred to Newcastle.
He was still living in Newcastle when he signed for the Hawks in 1968 when Tony Paskins was the captain-coach and he travelled to Forster for training and matches.
It was the start of a golden run for the club when they won premierships in 1968 and 70 and were upset by Wauchope in the 1969 grand final. While Paskins was in the twilight of his illustrious career, Emerton remembers his as a 'great coach and a great player' of a side studded with quality footballers.
A powerful second rower, Emerton represented North Coast in 1969 and 70 in what a lengthy selection process, Group Three first playing Group Two from where a combined side was named to meet Groups One and 18 before the divisional side was chosen.
North Coast was well beaten by the powerful Newcastle in the opening round in 1969 but lost by a point to Northern Division in 1970, the winning penalty goal coming late in the game. Northern Division went onto win the country championship.
Emerton eventually returned to Newcastle, playing with Lakes United and Western Suburbs before retiring after captain-coaching second divisions club Swansea.
He paid tribute to Group Three for instigating the hall of fame to honour past players.
At 40 Basham is the youngest inductee into the hall of fame and said he was 'humbled' by the honour.
A Forster junior, Basham played nearly 250 games with the club. He returned from a stint with the Newcastle Knights in 2002 when the Hawks were struggling for players and he made it a personal goal to help the club rebuild.
A second rower, Basham was player of the match when the Hawks thrashed Wingham in the 2004 grand final at Tuncurry, the only time the decider has been played there. He captained Group Three to a win over Group Two in the then annual representative match, ending the northern group's near decade-long stranglehold on the fixture. He also represented North Coast and won the Group Three player of the year award.
Basham was a member of premiership winning sides in 2004 and 2011 and also captain-coached the first grade side.
Mark Hogan was just 17 when he made his debut for Taree United in 1973 as a winger. He scored three tries on debut in the match against Taree Old Bar and in that season he represented Group Three and North Coast. United won the premiership that year when beating Old Bar 8-3 in a bruising match, Hogan recalling a tackle by United prop Brian Eakin on runaway Taree Old Bar five-eighth Phil Amidy being decisive.
He played on the wing for Country Seconds in 1974, marking international Lionel Williamson and was a member of North Coast sides that played England in 1974 and New Zealand in 1975. Hogan scored a try and kicked a goal in North Coast's upset win over the Kiwis.
He played for Wests in Brisbane in 1977/78 before returning home. Hogan was a try scorer in United's upset win over Wauchope in 1983 and was called into the 1985 grand final winning side, playing off the bench. He also represented North Coast as a centre in 1981.
Group Three chief executive Mal Drury said there are plans to hold another hall of fame induction later this year, possibly in November, to make up for the loss of the 2020 induction due to the pandemic.
Nominees for induction can be made by Group Three clubs or the general public.
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