Thousands of Australians are now familiar with the Newtown Jets.
All thanks to the juggernaut true crime podcast, The Teacher’s Pet, the Sydney rugby league club’s fame (or infamy) extends beyond the competition, beyond the code, even beyond sport.
And it’s all courtesy of one man who last wore the Jets’ blue and white jersey more than 40 years ago: Chris Dawson.
The podcast, supported by The Australian and hosted by seasoned journalist Hedley Thomas, dissects the 1982 disappearance of the charismatic footballer/PE teacher’s wife, Lynette, and exposes the seedy culture of student-teacher relationships that festered on Sydney’s northern beaches at the time.
While two coroners have concluded that Dawson likely murdered his wife, and while his 16-year-old student/babysitter moved into their bed just days after she vanished, no charges have ever been laid against him.
But the Newtown Jets’ star number 66 player isn’t the only notorious figure to come through the club, or even through his own team. The following men, both of whom played with Dawson in the mid 1970s, attracted headlines of their own.
Gary Sullivan: armed robbery.
After a stellar career that included playing in the 1970 World Cup, softly spoken Newtown Jets lock Gary Sullivan found himself leading the Over 50s team in the Borallon Jail Cup by the end of the ’90s.
As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, Sullivan and his stepfather were prolific armed thieves, who stole more than $3 million in 14 robberies between 1985 and 1991 to finance their gambling.
Sullivan later escaped from prison, briefly landing his name on Australia’s top ten most wanted list, according to The Courier. He was recaptured while stealing a toothbrush in South Australia.
Paul Hayward: drug smuggling.
The headlines shocked Sydney in 1978. "League star heroin charge."
Paul Hayward and fellow Australians Warren Fellows and William Sinclair had been arrested by Thai police on October 11, after a suitcase containing 8.4 kilograms of heroin was found in their hotel room in the city's Patpong vice district.
The Newtown Jets player had been recruited as a courier by his brother-in-law, Arthur 'Neddy' Smith; a contract killer and member of the notorious Sinclair drug network.
Hayward spent 11 years behind bars in Thailand, before being granted a King's pardon and permitted to return to Australia.
He died of a drug overdose in 1992 at the age of 37.
Hedley Thomas shares the inside story of The Teacher's Pet.
Want to hear to more? Subscribe to No Filter.
According to a report by Hedley Thomas in The Australian this week, Lyn Dawson's sister, Pat Jenkins, wrote to Neddy Smith in 2010 to plead for information on her sibling's murder, but prison officials refused to deliver the letter.
Thomas wrote, "Jenkins turned to Smith in desperation, after police were told Lyn’s husband and suspected killer, former star footballer Chris Dawson, had allegedly once tried to hire a hitman to kill his wife.
"Ms Jenkins suspected Smith, one of the country’s most feared underworld figures, might have had information about, or even an involvement in, the suspected plot."
The latest episode of The Teacher's Pet is released today - August 17.