Official Ossie Welsh


Mako Shark
Staff member
Dec 16, 2005
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Monty Porter Stand

Former Sharks utility Ossie Welsh has never been able to forget the sight of his distraught mother as he and his seven siblings were thrown into the back of a ute and driven to institutions in Sydney.

Yet Welsh, who will lead the Cronulla team out in Saturday’s Indigenous Round clash with Newcastle at Coffs International Stadium, still considers himself to have been “lucky in life”.

“My two older brothers died young from alcoholic poisoning and just sheer hard living, my sister died, sadly, having lived a terrible life, and our youngest brother committed suicide with a wife and large family,” Welsh said.

“I was the sixth of eight children to an Aboriginal mother. When I was six years old, we were taken from our mother and put in institutions. We were all split up and sent to different places.

“I did numerous years in those institutions and got fostered out to a family in Engadine when I was 10-years-old.”

Former Sharks player Ossie Welsh with Nicho Hynes at Old Boys' Day©Cronulla Sharks
After playing seven seasons with the Sharks alongside the likes of Steve Rogers, Gavin Miller and the Sorensen brothers, Dane and Kurt, Welsh recently re-connected with the club and played the didgeridoo at the annual Old Boy’s Day.

Few of his former team-mates knew during their playing days that Welsh, a proud Kamilaroi man, was Aboriginal.

Now 66-years-old, he only began to embrace his Indigenous culture in his forties.

“I was born in a place outside Goondawindi on a sheep station,” he said. “We were living in pretty poor conditions after my mother escaped my father’s clutches.

“My fondest memories of him are of him chasing us around the house with an axe or a gun. She got away from him with us kids when he went to hospital one time, and we survived by catching rabbits and kangaroos or stealing stuff.

“The welfare came shortly afterwards and found us living in 16x14-foot timber humpy and chucked us kids in the back of a ute.

The forlorn figure of our mother disappearing in the dusk is etched in my memory.
“I didn’t catch up with a lot of them for years, and when I first caught up with my two older brothers it was a meeting at Silverwater Jail. I didn’t see our mother for about 15 years, and it was difficult. Sadly, I never got to know her before she passed.

“It was an horrific life, but we survived, and what my life is about now is accepting that and preaching the importance of education, in particular.

“I look at myself as an example, I was one of eight and I am the only one who achieved anything because I was lucky enough to get an education, at least.”

Jesse Ramien, Will Kennedy and Braydon Trindall are among six Indigenous players in Cronulla's NRL squad©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos
Welsh also played for the Engadine Dragons where he was spotted by Sharks recruiters and asked to trial for the club.

In his first season Welsh received an award as the Cronulla’s best emerging talent and he made his first grade debut in 1977 at the age of 20.

After seven seasons with the Sharks - during which he also represented the club in the 1979 Rugby League Olympics at Leichhardt Oval, finishing behind Larry Corowa in the 100m sprint - Welsh joined the Illawarra Steelers in 1984.

He moved to Alstonville in the NSW Northern Rivers after his retirement and lost contact with the club and the game until a chance meeting with former Cronulla fullback Mick Mullane.

“It has been 40 years since I last played for Cronulla in 1983 and I only came to get connected again because Mick Mullane happened to play golf with my next-door neighbour who mentioned that I lived here, so Mick came over to see me,” Welsh said.

“I came down to the Old Boys Day and I just felt so proud and honoured to be able to share my passion with the didgeridoo and the culture with the boys. It was fantastic.

“No-one knew when we played that I was Aboriginal. We never talked about it and anyone who, like me, was a little bit more white than black, you didn’t identify as Aboriginal in those days. It didn’t pay too.”

At the Old Boy’s Day, which was held the April 2 clash with the Warriors, Welsh met Indigenous Sharks stars Nicho Hynes and Jada Taylor, who is also a member of the Kamilaroi people.

Sharks NLRW Indigenous players Jada Taylor, Rhiannon Byers and Quincy Dodd©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos
Hynes had been dealing with the jailing of his mother, Julie, who last week was released on the condition she live with the 2022 Dally M Medallist for the next two years.

“What a champion Nicho is,” Welsh said. “I would dearly like to speak personally with him because he must be doing it hard, and I just want to tell him my story to make him feel better and understand.

“For a bloke achieving what he is at the moment, and going through that, it must be difficult. It took me a long time to learn. I wasn’t always like this. I suppose I felt sorry for myself, and I was a bit wild.

“My thing through all of this is that I have lived a great life. I am lucky and I have been lucky in life. I am using that to make people understand that you can forgive, and it frees you to help others.”


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