Sam Backo

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Sam Backo
Personal information
Full name Samuel Backo
Nickname Slammin' Sam
Born (1961-01-01) 1 January 1961 (age 55)
Playing information
Height 188 cm (6 ft 2 in)
Position Prop
Years Team Pld T G FG P
Fortitude Valley
1983–88 Canberra Raiders 115 15 0 0 60
1988–89 Leeds
1989–90 Brisbane Broncos 20 3 0 0 12
Total 135 18 0 0 72
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1988–90 Queensland 7 3 0 0 12
1988–89 Australia 6 3 0 0 12
Source: Rugby League Project and Yesterday's Hero

Sam Backo (born 1 January 1961) is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer of the 1980s who has been named as one of the greatest Aboriginal players of the 20th century. He represented Australia and Queensland, and played club football in the New South Wales Rugby League premiership for the Canberra Raiders and Brisbane Broncos, primarily as a prop forward. Backo was the first Australian forward to score tries in all three Tests of an Ashes series and since his retirement was named in an Indigenous Australian team of the century.

Early career[edit]

Originally from Ingham, Queensland, Backo is the son of former chairwoman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Evelyn Scott.[1] He was a forward for Cairns in the Queensland Rugby League's Northern Division before moving south to Woden Valley in the New South Wales Country Rugby League's Group 8 competition in 1981. The following year he returned to his home state to play for Yeppoon in the Central Division competition.

BRL and Canberra[edit]

After playing with Valleys in the Brisbane Rugby League premiership, in 1983 Backo was given his first opportunity in Sydney's NSWRFL premiership, playing five matches at second-row for new club, the Canberra Raiders in their second season. He made his debut on 19 March against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Redfern Oval. From 1984, he was a regular member of the starting line-up at Canberra and appeared in his, and the club's, first grand final appearance against Manly in 1987.

While in his final season at Canberra, Backo was first selected to play State of Origin football for the Queensland Maroons in the 1988 series. He played in all three games at prop forward, scoring one try in game II and two tries in game III. Queensland won the series in a three-game whitewash. In games II and III Backo won consecutive man-of-the-match awards, one of only a handful of players to do so. Selected for the test series against Great Britain played in Australia in 1988, Backo was the first Australian forward to score tries in all three Tests of an Ashes series, and at the time he was only the second Australian player to do so after legendary winger Ken Irvine had first achieved the feat on the 1963-64 Kangaroo tour (the pair were later joined by Backo's Queensland and former Canberra team mate Mal Meninga who scored in all three Ashes tests on the 1990 Kangaroo tour). At the end of the 1988 season Backo was the Dally M front rower of the year. Unfortunately for Backo, a late season injury playing for Canberra saw him miss selection in Australia's World Cup Final winning team that triumphed 25-12 over New Zealand at the Eden Park ground in Auckland, New Zealand

RFL and Brisbane[edit]

Moving to England, Backo played for Leeds in the 1988–89 Rugby Football League season. Sam Backo played as an Interchange/Substitute, i.e. number 15, (replacing Prop Hugh Waddell) in Leeds' 33-12 victory over Castleford in the 1988 Yorkshire Cup final during the 1988–89 season at Headingley Stadium, Leeds on Sunday 16 October 1988. Backo's final two seasons of top-level football, 1989 and 1990, were spent in Queensland, with the Brisbane Broncos. Backo also participated in the 1989 tour of New Zealand. He played in a further four games for the Maroons - games II and III of the 1989 State of Origin series and games II and III of the 1990 series despite his knee problems, which limited his participation with his club to only five appearances during 1990 and eventually forced his retirement at the end of the season. Although selected for the 1990 Australia team to play France in the NSW country town of Parkes, he was forced to withdraw because of his ongoing knee injury. In total, Backo played in six Tests and scored three tries.

In 1991, Backo made a short-lived return to football to play for Logan Scorpions in the Brisbane competition.

Post playing[edit]

Backo was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 for his contribution to Australia's standing in rugby league.[2] The Indigenous Team of the Century was announced in 2001 with Backo included in the starting line-up which also included Arthur Beetson, Gorden Tallis and John Ferguson.[3] In 2004, Backo was named in the Canberra Raider's All Indigenous team.[4] His son, Daniel Backo was signed to the North Queensland Cowboys but didn't make an NRL appearance.



  1. ^ Broome, Richard (2002). Aboriginal Australians: black responses to white dominance, 1788-2001. Allen & Unwin. pp. 282–283. ISBN 9781865087559. 
  2. ^ "It's an Honour". Australian Government. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  3. ^ Darren Walton (2001-06-16). "Beetson named captain of Indigenous Team of the Century" (fee required). AAP Sports News (Australia). Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  4. ^ "Laurie Daley to captain Canberra Raiders all Indigenous team". ABC News. 2004-08-18. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 

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