BIG LOSS: Mal Breen at Salter Oval in 2011 and (inset) as captain-coach of Hervey Bay Seagulls in their first-ever premiership in 1974.
BIG LOSS: Mal Breen at Salter Oval in 2011 and (inset) as captain-coach of Hervey Bay Seagulls in their first-ever premiership in 1974. Mike Knott BUN280711MAL1

Breen's lasting impact on Fraser Coast rugby league

LEAGUE: Late local icon Mal Breen left an indelible mark on Fraser Coast rugby league.

Breen died on Thursday night aged 72.

A former premiership winner at current Intrust Super Cup club Norths Devils in 1964 and perhaps most well-known locally as a former Bundaberg Rugby League chairman who served 13 years on the board, Breen made a lasting impact on Fraser Coast clubs.

He led Hervey Bay Seagulls to a premiership, and played a major role in helping Wallaroos join the BRL almost 16 years ago.

Breen remains one of only eight men to have led the Seagulls to premiership.

The only difference to the others, which includes Mark Jamieson's back-to-back efforts in 1982-83, current Bulldogs coach Dean Pay's triumph in 2001 and Tye Ingebrigtsen's drought-breaking effort in 2016, is Breen did it first.

Breen scored the Seagulls' first try in the come-from-behind 9-6 grand final win against Isis in 1974.

 

Mal Breen in 1974.
Mal Breen in 1974.

His legacy at Hervey Bay lives on, and three decades later he made a similar impact at Maryborough Wallaroos.

Mitchell Meyers was player-president at the time.

"At the end of 2002 Mal rung me and said they wanted to add another team, and wanted it to be us," Meyers recalled.

"He put a plan to me, the committee went for it, but the QRL didn't want much to do with it. We lost our first appeal but we went down to Brisbane and he dug in for us."

Breen, as he so often did, succeeded, and Wallaroos repaid his never-back-down attitude by winning the BRL premiership in 2003.

"He jokingly told me 'I wanted you to come back but not take the prizemoney away in the first year'," Meyer said.

Even after Wallaroos moved back to the Friday night competition in 2010, Breen encouraged the club to return to the BRL again.

"He always supported us, but he kept rugby league going in this area.

"He was always a good supporter of rugby league. He'd always ask how the club was going and how he could help," Meyer said.