FLASHBACK: June 1966

North Queensland scored an historic 17-13 win over Great Britain in Townsville, a huge boost for rugby league in the tropics after some embarrassing losses to previous Lions’ touring sides.

The worst loss came in 1958, when Britain ran riot to win 78-17.

The 1966 British side arrived on these shores with huge wraps, but they struggled with the heat and humidity in recording wins over Northern Territory (17-7) in Darwin and Far North Queensland 48-7 in Cairns.

Conditions were oppressive again when Britain took to the field in Townsville, and by the end of the match the big Lions’ forwards had slowed to a walk.

Team manager, Wilf Spaven reckoned his players had been ‘baked, boiled and fried’ in their first 10 days in Australia and many were suffering the effects of dehydration.

The 1966 North Queensland side were reigning state champions, and they were superbly led by former Test forward, Jim Patterson and State five eighth, Eric Gelling.

Lock, Gordon Cogill ran 60 metres before putting winger, Barry Doyle in for a try, while centre, Gary Wellington, an Australian tourist to New Zealand in 1965, had his best game of the year, splitting the defence several times with swerving runs.

Britain’s best player was halfback, Tommy Bishop, who would go on to become the personality player of the tour. Bishop set up a try for Welsh winger, Berwyn Jones, who was rated the fourth fasted 100m (amateur) runner in the world, prior to his decision to sign professional papers with Wakefield Trinity in 1964. Jones won a bronze medal running for Britain in the 4 x 100 metres relay at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth.

British hooker, Peter ‘Flash’ Flanagan was heavily penalised by referee, Don Lancashire for scrum infringements. Flanagan, contracted to Hull Kingston Rovers, was an accomplished singer, and away from football kept teammates entertained with his ‘Mersey beat’ songs.

In Brisbane club football, Norths accounted for Redcliffe 19-6 at lang Park with indigenous centre, Henry Hegarty the star for the victors after a stint in reserve grade.

Brothers scored the upset of the season when they beat Valleys 13-5 at Neumann Oval with 21-year-old lock, Wayne Abdy scoring two tries.

Brothers fielded a makeshift side, with seven regular reserve graders in the line-up following the loss of stars such as Peter Gallagher, Noel Kavanagh and Johnny Gleeson to state duty. Dan McGuinness and Bob McAuliffe were two of the ‘reserve graders’ to step up to the task.

Valleys’ captain and hooker, Brian Blowes was one of the few players to match his rival.

A donnybrook involving 10 players halted play for several minutes in the Easts v Wests match at Langlands Park, with Wests five eighth, Max Gaylard knocked senseless. Referee, Ron Harbottle issued a general warning, but did not dismiss any players.

In the other match Souths beat Wynnum-Manly 27-8 at Davies Park with Souths’ centre, Ron Dutton the star.

Footnote: My wife and I met Ron Harbottle and his wife, while they were on a motoring holiday around Britain – in 1989. We were having dinner in the Baker’s Arms at Broad Camden in the Cotswolds, when in walked this referee I remembered from the BRL. It’s a small world. I had been covering the Queensland Residents tour of France, and then was a assigned to interview a number of Australian players contracted to English clubs. Broad Camden was a stop on the way to the north of England.

Eric Gelling with teammate, Dennis Manteit and coach, Brian Davies following the 1968 Brisbane grand final win over Easts.

Eric Gelling with teammate, Dennis Manteit and coach, Brian Davies following the 1968 Brisbane grand final win over Easts.

One response to “FLASHBACK: June 1966

  1. Hi Steve,

    I have many tour photos yes if you’re at the Challenge cup final I would very much like to meet up, please let me know about your plans nearer the time, keep the updates coming they are very interesting

    Beast regards


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