Twin fans double Dragons' cheers

Fanatics: South Lismore residents Emily (left) and Mary Betteridge surrounded by their St George memorabilia in anticipation of Sunday’s game.
Fanatics: South Lismore residents Emily (left) and Mary Betteridge surrounded by their St George memorabilia in anticipation of Sunday’s game. Jacklyn Wagner

A TINY column in a newspaper before there was television set the Betteridge sisters on a trail of passion and loyalty for their beloved rugby league team.

In between singing When the Saints Come Marching In, twins Emily and Mary recount stories about following the St George Illawarra Dragons.

“It was in the late ’40s, early ’50s, before they had television,” Emily begins.

“They used to have these very small columns and we read about St George and decided to follow them.”

Mary adds: “We’re fanatic St George supporters. Fanatic!”

When the Dragons face the Roosters in the rugby league grand final this Sunday it will be the first premiership decider they have reached since 1979 when they beat Canterbury 17-13.

“They’re going to win by eight to 10 points,” Mary said.

On cue, Emily adds: “We love them, win or lose.”

The sisters, who insist their age is 78-and-a-half, are as passionate about their collection of Dragons memorabilia as they are the team.

The crowning glory is the 2010 signed and framed guernsey presented to them by the Westpac Life Saver Helicopter Service.

Over the past 26 or 27 years – neither can agree – the sisters have collected for the rescue service and raised $100,000.

After the guernsey, Mary’s favourite is the bath towel.

“Isn’t it beautiful?,” she said.

But when asked whether she puts it to its intended use Mary is quick to respond: “Oh God no! It’s too good to use for that!”

Emily recounts how she brightened her room at St Vincent’s Private Hospital during a stint decades ago.

“I asked the male nurse for some sticky tape and he asked ‘what for?’ and I told him ‘nothing in particular’,” Emily said.

“After he gave it to me, I stuck coasters around the bed, a photo on the wall and a plaque that had been signed by Graeme Langlands.

“You should’ve seen his face when he came back in.”

The sisters, who have St George Leagues Club on speed dial, watched their team win the premiership in 1975 against Easts and in 1977 against Parramatta.

They agreed to replicate that same euphoric atmosphere in their loungeroom.

“Until you’ve been to a grand final you can’t understand what it’s like,” Mary said.

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