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Big Red V and white boots: life of Changa

Graeme Langlands played 227 games of rugby league for St George during their golden era of the 1950s and 1960s, won four premierships and pulled on the Australian jersey 45 times.

But the only number anyone wanted to talk to him about was two. As in, the number of white boots he wore on a fateful day in 1975.

The man known as “Changa” infamously wore white boots in the Dragons’ grand final clash that year against Easts.

It was unheard of at the time for any player to wear boots other than the standard black, so when St George were hammered 38-0 and Langlands played poorly, he was heavily criticised as a showoff.

The fullback claimed his performance was more to do with an injection in his leg that was incorrectly administered by the team doctor, but the story of that game tarnished his career.

But what a career it was.

Joining the Dragons in 1963, Langlands pulled on the famous Red V for 14 seasons, and to this day is the most prolific pointscorer in the club’s history with 1,554 points, including 86 tries and 648 goals.

He played in four premiership sides and was still there as many of the other stars of the teams that had won St George 11 straight titles faded into retirement.

Even so, the club remained competitive for the best part of another decade, thanks largely to the efforts of Langlands and halfback Billy Smith.

His matches for Australia were no less spectacular.

Langlands made his debut for the Kangaroos against New Zealand in 1963 as a centre, where he played for the first four years of his Test career.

He went on to captain the side in 15 Tests and is equal fourth on the list of most Tests ever played for Australia, alongside Petero Civoniceva and behind Darren Lockyer, Cameron Smith and Mal Meninga.

Despite being such a prolific scorer, one of his most famous moments for Australia came while not scoring.

Playing in the 1972 World Cup final against Great Britain in the French city of Lyon, Langlands chased a bomb put up by halfback Dennis Ward, caught it spectacularly and put it down for what he thought was a try.

But the French referee thought otherwise, ruling him offside, a call later proved wrong by television replays.

Langlands retired in 1976 and when Rugby League Week magazine added two players to its “Immortals” group in 1999, Langlands was picked alongside Wally Lewis.

When rugby league was celebrating its centenary in 2008, he was picked as an interchange player in the team of the century.

When the surviving players in that team were paraded around Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in open-topped cars, Langlands was knocked unconscious when he fell out of the car.

In recent years he had been living in a nursing home in the Sydney suburb of Sutherland while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Langlands was back in the news recently after allegations were made that he had sexually assaulted a teenage girl in the 1980s.

He was charged in November by the Queensland Police’s Child Safety and Sexual Crime Group with six counts of indecent dealing with a girl under 16.

It is alleged the offences occurred on the Gold Coast in the early 1980s.

But in their statement on Sunday, Langlands’ family defended him and hit out at police for what they called an “egregious prosecution.”

“The family maintains its position that this was an improper prosecution and that the allegations are refutable on the evidence in their possession,” they said.

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