HECTOR Bolt was just 15 when he trotted onto the field for his Group Three Rugby League first grade debut for Forster-Tuncurry in 1966.
"I never played reserve grade in the whole time I played in the bush,'' the champion fullback, now 78, who will be inducted into the Group Three Hall of Fame this Friday night, November 24, said from his Lismore home.
"I was always in first grade.''
The year of 1966 marked the end of Gloucester's domination of football in this area and the the start of Forster's rise. The Hawks made the grand final under Russell Elvins in 1967 but lost 10-9 to Wauchope. That was one of just a handful of losses the club was to suffer in the next few years.
Tony Paskins took over as player-coach in 1968 and the Hawks boasted an all-star side. Bolt was among the brightest of the stars, a fleet footed custodian who terrorised defences.
"They were great sides,'' Bolt said.
"When I went to Newcastle I said to those fellas 'I played with better players than you blokes up at Forster.' "
He had fond memories of teaming up with electrifying centre Barry 'Bunny' Ferguson.
"Bunny was the best centre running around. He was a unique stepper, he could step off either foot and beat a man that easy,'' Bolt said.
When I went to Newcastle I said to those fellas 'I played with better players than you blokes up at Forster'.- Hector Bolt
'Unfortunately he hurt his knee bad...he was never the same after that.''
The Hawks thrashed Taree United 21-0 in the 1968 grand final, ending a premiership drought that stretched back to 1947. They dominated the 1969 season but stumbled towards the end of the season and lost the decider to arch-rivals, Wauchope. However, normal transmission was resumed in 1970 and the Hawks accounted for the Harry Wells-captain-coached Port Macquarie in the grand final.
Pressed, Bolt says 1970 was probably the best.
"We had forwards like Kenny Emerton, Ian Satori was a great footballer and our lock, Gary Walsh was strong,'' Bolt said.
And at five-eighth was a fresh faced 18-year-old named Garry McQuillan.
Paskins, Bolt said, was unmatched as a player-coach.
"A great man,'' he said.
"He taught me everything I know about football. I could play, but I played on my ability. He taught he how to run the ball, how to defend properly. He was by far the best coach I had.''
On the representative scene Bolt represented Group Three and then North Coast.
Newcastle club, Lakes United came calling for the 1971 season.
"I wanted to go down there to see if I could handle it,'' Bolt said.
"It was easy.
"We had some great sides - we had seven or eight players who played for Newcastle or Country.
"We played Maitland in the grand final the second year I was there but they beat us easy.''
Then domestic bliss resulted in Bolt moving to Lismore.
"My wife is from Lismore and we wanted to get away from Newcastle.''
So he saw out his days in the Group 1 competition with South Lismore and Marist Brothers, playing in a couple of losing grand final sides and also representing the group.
He was 37 when he retired.
However, he said his best time in football was with the Hawks.
"By far,'' he said.
Bolt will be one of two former Forster greats to be inducted into the hall of fame on Friday night.
Lock forward Greg Hill will be the other. John Fisher, Port Macquarie, Brian Wilson, Wingham, John McKeough, Taree United and Tim Welsh also will be inducted.
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