LAST Saturday’s Gold Coast Titans – Manly Sea Eagles under-20s match drove me out of the comfort of my lounge room for a walk along Kedron Brook.
Neither side could hang onto the football in the stifling conditions, and the entertainment value was barely a two out of 10.
The unscheduled walk delivered a far more interesting rugby league tussle – a Second Division Brisbane North clash between Valleys and Natives at Emerson Park, Grange.
This was football as I remembered it, with both sides keen to spread the ball at every opportunity, and most of the tackling was copybook stuff.
The fans, and there were several hundred, lapped up the end-to-end stuff and there is still enormous pride in the Valleys jumper, despite the club’s demise at the top level of league in Queensland.
I’ll give you just one example of how ‘big’ Valleys were ‘back in the day’.
In 1969 a crowd of 35,000 packed into Lang Park to see the Diehards play Norths in the BRL grand final, and although Valleys lost 14-2 they unearthed a future Queensland and Australian representative in red haired forward, John Payne.
A fortnight later Payne signed with North Sydney, whose Welsh coach, Roy Francis had travelled to Brisbane to watch the Woodenbong born forward play.
None of the players at Emerson Park last weekend can expect the NRL to come knocking, but you just had the feeling one or two of them, particularly in the Natives team, might have been able to crack the big time with the right attitude and a few breaks when they were younger men.
There was a touch of Steve Renouf in the playing style of one of the Natives’ backs and they boasted a tall forward who had a sixth sense when it came to putting supports into the clear.
I left at halftime with Valleys in front 4-0, although it should have been 10 or 16-0 given a couple of bombed efforts, one by a forward appropriately nick named ‘Twiggy’, who made a barnstorming run only to lose the ball as he tried to ground it.
Back in the comfort of the lounge room it was time for the Titans – Manly NRL match, with Manly having won the under-20s 26-18.
Very few of the under-20s will finish up fulltime professionals in the NRL – history tells us that.
Those that miss out will always get a run somewhere, and if they enjoy playing football there is nothing demeaning about running out at a place like Emerson Park.