Small in stature with a big heart and a huge will to win, the ‘little general’ Tommy Bishop didn’t do it singlehandedly but he was certainly one of the key men in putting the Cronulla Sharks on the rugby league map back in the early 1970’s.
Bishop came to the Sharks as a player in 1969 before tackling the captain coach role in 1970, a responsibility he continued with through until their Grand Final year of 1973.
An English international, what Bishop lacked in size he more than made up for with determination and skill, with his rugby league smarts helping to influence the careers of a number of Sharks, men who would go on to be recognised amongst the best to have played for the club.
In fact four players from that ’73 Grand Final team, Steve Rogers, Greg Piece, fellow Englishman Cliff Watson and Bishop himself were all included in the Sharks Team of the Half Century as announced last Friday night.
The 1973 Grand Final, still remembered as one of the fiercest games ever played, was a tactical masterclass from Bishop, the Sharks coming within two flashes of Bob Fulton brilliance of claiming an unlikely triumph in just their seventh season in the top grade.
Held in high esteem in rugby league circles in both Australia and the UK, Bishop played 60 First Grade games in five seasons at the Sharks, 15 Tests for Great Britain and prior to arriving in the Sutherland Shire, for Blackpool, Barrow and English powerhouse St Helens.
Already a Sharks Immortal, Bishop was a popular selection in the Sharks Team of the Half Century.
Now living on the Gold Coast, Bishop was on hand to accept his Team of the Half Century medal at the 50th Anniversary Gala Ball held at Doltone House a week ago.
We can only dream, but Bishop joining forces with Gallen, Holmes, Fifita, Maloney, Ennis, Miller, Peachey and Mat Rogers, in just naming a handful of former and current Sharks greats, would throw up a formidable challenge to any collection of players they were to come up against