John Plath has few regrets in life – with four premiership rings, why would he? Yet if there is a moment in time that the former Broncos’ utility could have back, it is the day he missed his one and only chance to play State of Origin
“Unfortunately I picked up a bit of an injury the week before and Wayne (Bennett) ruled me out,” Plath recalled this week. “Peter Ryan was the one that tackled me – too bad he was on my own team! He was trying to put a big hit on Martin Offiah, took me out instead and popped my shoulder.
“Adrian Vowles had been picked to play for Queensland and had to pull out injured so they rang Wayne and he ruled me out without even telling me… but he assured me I’d get another opportunity! I still remind him of that every now and again.
“But everyone has some sort of regret. I would have loved to have played Origin but as it turned out I played in an era when there were a lot of good players around.”
A crowd favourite at Brisbane in an era when the Broncos boasted the likes of Allan Langer, Steve Renouf, Glenn Lazarus, Michael Hancock, Chris Johns, Trevor Gillmeister and the Walters brothers, Plath rarely received the plaudits of his higher-profile team-mates yet he was a constant in the club’s incredible success throughout the 1990s.
Boasting a rare ability to play anywhere from the halves to hooker to back row and even out wide if need be, he came off the bench in all four grand final wins at the time (1992-93, 1997-98) and jokes that “if you add all four of them together I almost played a full game”.
“But I’m very happy with the way things panned out for me,” he said. “I was pretty lucky, I suppose, to be around during a golden era that the Broncos had. I was very fortunate that we had players right across the park that were absolutely exceptional. I don’t think that you could get that sort of talent in teams now with the salary cap.”
Ironically, it was that sheer volume of talent the Broncos boasted that kept Plath from achieving more. Nevertheless, his 149 first grade games between 1990-99 saw him play a key role in the club’s success during that period and he insists he was never worried by the big names around him.
“I think any organisation, whether it be team sport or corporate business, if you know your place in the system and you’re happy with your place then you can excel at that,” he said.
“I suppose the only thing for me was that it would have been great to have the opportunity to settle into one role. But at the same time, things like the interchange rules, when they changed, prolonged my career. It was pretty good too because there was never any pressure on me. If John Plath had a bad game it wasn’t mentioned in the papers… but if Allan Langer did it certainly was. It was good to be able to go out and have fun.
“So no, I never had any worries about other people’s success or wages. It was just great to be a part of something that, no matter what happens down the track, it’s still a part of you. It can’t be taken away from me.”
Plath joined the Broncos in their inaugural season in 1988 – when he was a member of their under-19s squad – and came off the bench in their maiden grand final win over St George in 1992. However, it was their fourth success six years later that holds a special place in his heart to this day.
“The first one was great to see the reaction back here in Brisbane but I thought the 1998 one was the best to be involved in because it was the year after Super League and there had been some accusations out there that we had to form a comp to win a comp,” he recalled. “So it was satisfying to win the reunited competition.”
Although he is still a regular at Broncos games today – where son Zach is a ball-boy – Plath has come a long way since his days as a professional sportsman.
Having spent two years at Wynnum-Manly post-retirement as a development officer and CEO, he later fell into business and these days he runs his own pool-building company, Eco Pool Solutions.
“One of my neighbours where I used to live was in the industry so we got involved together,” explained Plath. “We then went our separate ways a little bit later but I’ve always enjoyed the idea of being outdoors.
“Having said that, I try not to go anywhere near a wheelbarrow or a shovel anymore if I can help it!
“My days are usually filled up by doing bookwork, just quoting and drawing – we have a 3D drawing program that we use. And I look after my salesmen. I’ve got two site managers.
“So it’s worked well and I’m enjoying it.”