Profiles of Champions.
A true all-rounder
by, Max Godbee.
The Daily Examiner, (Grafton), Friday, December 6, 2002. page 34.
Talk about great all-round sportsman produced on the Clarence and the name or Spiro Notaras will soon come into the conversation.
Spiro has done well in every sport he has taken on such as track and field athletics, swimming, rugby union and rugby league, sailing, rowing and surf life saving competition.
In athletics alone he has set records at Grafton High and North Coast High Schools championships, has done similarly at Newington College in Sydney, and won medals at Greater Public Schools (GPS) and Combined High Schools carnivals.
Spiro was also swimming champion at both Grafton High and Newington College, played open grade rugby league for Grafton High while still a 16-year-old, first grade rugby union for Newington, was involved in every facet of surf life saving competition with the Woolgoolga Surf Lifè Saving Club and North Coast Branch of surf life saving, played first grade rugby league in the Clarence zone with the United Club and represented Upper Clarence, Group Two and North Coast in this sport.
Spiro John Notaras was born in Grafton’s Runnymede Hospital in December 1932, the son ofGreek immigrants and local business proprietors, Jack and Muriel Notaras. He has an older brother, Lambrinos (Brinos) who is also a well-performed sportsman, and a sister, Irene, who lives in Sydney.
Jack Notaras was a renowned local amateur fisherman and top grade lawn bowler and teaming with another prominent Grafton citizen, Gus Robinson, won a NSW State pairs lawn bowls championship.
Spiro received his early education at Grafton Infants and Grafton Primary Schools. It was at Grafton High School that he began to take athletics and swimming seriously and, as well as winning numerous events in each for Page House, he represented the school regularly in these sports. He also was involved in school rowing and played rugby league, virtually always on the wing and was a member of the Grafton High School army cadet unit.
Spiro was being coached in sprinting by professional runner of the 1930s, later to become mayor of Grafton, Frank McGuren, when he won the intermediate (16 years) 440 yards (400m) was second in the 220 yards (200m) and third in the 100 yards at the Far North Coast Combined Secondary Schools track and field championships at Lismore’s Oakes Oval in 1948. Spiro ran the 440 yards in 54.9 seconds on the grass track to break by two tenths of a second the Previous best set by Llevan Harley, of Woodlawn College, in 1946. The record stood for 14 years before being broken by another classy Grafton High School runner, Jim Lisle, who coincidently was running in shoes he had been loaned by Spiro for the occasion.
At Grafton High Spiro Notaras rowed butcher boats and Gladstone skiffs with the school’s rowing club and spent summer Saturdays sailing with skipper Tom Beacham in Clarence River Sailing Club competition, firstly in an old 15-footer called UI3 and later in the VJ Mistake.
It was in 1949 that Spiro Notaras followed his brother Brinos as a student at Newington College. Brinos already had a reputation at the College as a fine sportsman having helped Newington win the 1947 Head of the River rowing title in front of a crowd of 20,000 at Penrith and was a front-row forward in the College’s open rugby team. Spiro became heavily involved in swimming and track and field athletics in the summer months and rugby union for the College as a winger during winter.
As if life wasn’t busy enough With these sports and the school studies Spiro joined the Botany Athletic Club for inter-club competition.
“I wanted to be in the Newington rowing squad too, but for anybody who was good at athletics was ruled out of rowing by College officials,’~ Spiro said.
in 1950 Spiro was Newington champion in both athletics and swimming and he finished second in the GPS 100m freestyle swimming championship and repeated the effort in the All Schools chanipionships.
The outstanding efforts, backed up with his playing wing in the rugby team in 1950 gained for him Newington College’s highest annual sports award, The Warry Cup, as best sports all-rounder. One of his proudest moments was seeing his son Paul Notaras, winning the same award in 1983. They are the only father/son combination to have their names engraved on the famous trophy.
Spiro Notaras returned from Newington to Crafton in 1951 and his first job was working with projectionists Bill Tobin and Cliff Jackson for TJ Dorgan Pty Ltd. proprietors of the three picture theatres in Grafton, ‘lThe Garden, Saraton and Prince Edward.
“Also in 1951 Brinos and I, with help from our father Jack, bought the Lawrence Sawntill ti-oni Vic Latham and we both went to work there,” Spiro said. “We learned much about the trade from Col McPherson who had been working at the mill for Vie Latham and continued with us and we appreciated his invaluable input. “Brinos and I later bought the Yamba Picture Theatre and operated it for many years".
‘We also purchased TB Timms Mill at South Grafton and have since rebuilt and extended it and greatly increased the number of products, particularly value-added products, and currently the mill is exporting to many countries around the world.”
It was back in 1952 that Spiro and Brinos joined the Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving Club.
With the surf club Spiro was involved in virtually every event, surf and surf teams, the belt races, beach sprints, flags and relays along with Rescue and Resuscitation (R&R) and march past gaining many successes and placings.
With the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Australia in 1954 a Royal Surf Carnival was held at historic Bondi Beach in front of a crowd of 150,000.
Each NSW surf club was allowed one member to form the guard of honour for the royal party and Spiro was the lifesaver chosen to represent Woolgoolga. Spiro gave away much of other surf club competition in 1955 to become a surf boat rower for the Woolgoolga club, joining Brinos in the open A crew. “We had some strong crews and with the legendary Billy Miller as sweep there were plenty of wins, lots of ct-ashes and near nlisses and certainly lots of fun,” Spiro said. ‘Probably the best crew I rowed with had Brinos as stroke, then Bruce ‘Bomber’ Judd number two, Ted Wolters three and I was rowing bow with Billy Miller the sweep. “There was one drawback --Brinos, Bomber Judd , llilly and myself could hardly see without glasses so that left Ted Wolters to do much of the lookout work". "Always great competition especially when we met up with the Frank O’Loughlin’s Yamba crews.”
Spiro continued his athletics interests as a member of the Grafton District Amateur Athletic Club and takes pride in having finished the closest of seconds to flee Hogan in a 100 yards race in Lismore in 1952. The clock could not separate the pair, each recording 9.8 seconds, but the judges gave the decision to Hogan by an inch. Hogan also won the Australian 100 yards title that year, the first of seven in a row for him, and in 1956 was third to Americans Bob Morrow and Thane Baker in blanket finish to the lOOm final of the Melbourne Olympic Games. Spiro Notaras did not gain an Olympic Games berth but he was one of those who carried the Olympic torch in the 1956 relay to Melbourne.
“In football Brinos had played first grade rugby union in Brisbane for a while after leaving Newington and then played league for the Grafton Waratahs in the Upper Clarence competition but when I came back from College the two of us joined the Ulmarra Ramblers Club,” Spiro said.
It was not long however before the Ramblers joined with the Woolgoolga Surf Club Rugby League Club to term the United Rugby League Club and Brinos and I played with that club the rest of our football days.”
Spiro started the 1952 Upper Clarence season off in devastating fashion scoring five tries in United’s 41-10 win over South Grafton and the following week six tries in beating Maclean 23-8 (tries worth three points those days). “After scoring those 11 tries in two games I was closely watched by the opposing defence,” Spiro said. “It was getting harder to score so I developed the short kick and regather and it brought me plenty of tries during that season and for the rest of my career.” Spiro Notaras, playing on the wing, was usually the first chosen when it came to representative teams such as Upper Clarence, Group Two and the North Coast Division which took in the Coastal clubs from Camden Haven in the south through to the Queensland border.
Spiro Notaras married Elizabeth (Libby) Price and they have a daughter Suzanne who lives in Grafton and sons John Spiro and Patti Lambrinos, both living in Sydney.
Having two recent hip replacements Spiro Notaras’s activities are restricted for the present but he aims to be back in the pool shortly swimming laps, not to race again but for fitness and health’s sake.
[Photo to be acquired]
SPORTING BROTHERS: Upper Clarence Rugby League representative side 1954: (from left) back row, Robin Munro, Charlie Triggs, Ken Brennan, Roy Hensby, Brinos Notaras, Spiro Notaras. Middle row, Laurie Hand, John Moy, Neville Clough, Brian (Cappy) Graham, Kevin Goodger; front row, Kerry Mead, John Patricks (mascot), Ray Vardy.