Originally from Cunnamulla in outback Queensland, Chris ‘Choppy’ Close, a 19 year old massive centre scored 52 tries in a season for his local side before joining Brisbane Valleys in 1979.
He immediately made an impact in the city and represented combined Brisbane in the Amco Cup in his first year and went on to represent Queensland the same year.
In 1980 while playing for Redcliffe he chosen for the Australian tour of New Zealand but he didn’t play in a test match. However alongside Arthur Beetson and Wally Lewis he was brilliant in the inaugural State of Origin match and was rewarded with Man of the Match honours for his performance.
Choppy was a fierce competitor was at times was volatile on the field especially when playing for the Cane toads. In a 1981 Origin match he attacked NSW winger Eric Grothe with a series of punches when trying to play the ball close to the line which would allow the Maroons to score a try. Amazingly the referee missed the indiscretion but the incident did contribute the intense rivalry between the 2 states.
Close joined Manly in 1982 and his addition to the back line bought immediate dividends with the club making the Grand Final against Parramatta the same year. However the Sea Eagles we soundly beaten by the Eels and the loss was repeated again in 1983 Grand Final.
Although a devastating runner with the ball, due to his size he was often found to be immobile in defence. Something the slippery Eels back line took advantage of in both Grand Final losses.
The most memorable Choppy moment for myself was a barnstorming try he scored against a hot Bulldogs side at Brookvale in the mid eighties (possibly 1986). Close was on the end of an inside pass near the half way line. He smashed through the Canterbury forwards sprinting well clear only to be confronted by their fullback Michael Potter at the quarter line. Choppy trampled over Potter as if he wasn’t even there and left him prostrate on the ground as he scored under the posts to the delight of the home fans.
Although a strong contributor to a successful period for the Sea Eagles, I don’t believe Close fulfilled his true potential in the Maroon & White, his fellow Queensland back line behemoths of the era in Gene Miles & Mal Meninga certainly had a more ‘glittering’ career than our Choppy.
He was burdened by hamstring injuries over the years and this led to weight and mobility issues and with Manly signing superstar centre Michael O’Connor in 1987 his final season at the club was spent in Sea Eagles Reserve Grade side that were beaten in the Grand Final on the same day the first grade tasted premiership success.
So at the end of 1987 Choppy joined the new Gold Coast side along with fellow Manly player Ron Gibbs.
The Queensland stalwart played 96 games for the Sea Eagles scoring 39 tries however his career was defined by the 14 Origin appearances and 3 test matches he achieved. He later became the Queensland Origin sides Team Manager and his undying loyalty and parochialism to the Maroon jersey constantly puts him offside with the blues supporters south of the border.
Chris Close – a man mountain whose foot prints still adorned a Bulldog’s back!