‘The Golden Greek’ Fonda Metassa’s Queensland debut proved a disaster, with the Brisbane Norths’ personality player’s opposing winger, Welshman, Berwyn Jones, scoring four tries in Great Britain’s 38-29 win over the Maroons at Lang Park.
Metassa scored one try himself, but struggled against the pace of Jones, a former British Olympic Games sprinter.
I remember listening to the match on radio, with commentator, George Lovejoy giving Metassa a terrible time.
“Oh Metassa. Metassa. You’ll never play for Queensland again,” Lovejoy bellowed. He was right.
As a 13-year-old, impressionable league fan, I thought Lovejoy’s comment were cruel, and many years later I asked Fonda about that day.
Fonda told me he took a rib injury into the match, and had to put on his best actor’s face at the team medical to get through.
“I had waited a long time to play for Queensland, and nothing was going to stop me wearing the jersey,” he told me. “There can be no excuses, because, if you take the field, you have to take the consequences. But I would have loved to have marked that bloke when i was fully fit.”
Jones scored another two tries a few days later – in Britain’s 30-22 win over Wide Bay in Bundaberg – but did not play a Test on tour. (He had played three Tests against France in 1965-66, ultimately his only Test caps).
Britain’s win over Queensland was a much needed tonic, after they had been beaten 19-17 by Brisbane.
Having won the First Test in Sydney, the Lions were looking to wrap up the Ashes in the Second Test in Brisbane.
In the Queensland match they unleashed their full attacking arsenal – while forgetting to tackle.
Queensland opened the scoring in the first minute when mobile forward, Angelo Crema raced 45 metres for as try after great lead-up work by hooker, Noel Gallagher and winger, Ray Miguel. Crema, who had played in Australia’s First Test loss, scored another two tries.
Britain replied with a try to winger, Geoff Wrigglesworth in the fifth minute, and when Jones scored his first try seven minutes later, Britain hit the lead, and kept it.
Jones’ best try was his last. British halfback, Tommy Bishop ran to the blindside, drew Metassa and sent Jones on a 75 yard dash. When Jones got to fullback, Ray Laird, he kicked ahead and won the race to the ball.
The Courier-Mail’s Jack Reardon rated five eighth, Johnny Gleeson, Queensland’s best player, with Gleeson out-playing both five eighths used by Britain, Willie Aspinall and Alan Hardisty.
Three Queensland players were dropped following the match – halfback, Abe Weimers (replaced by Barry Muir), Metassa (John Doyle) and second rower, Syd Clark (Dennis Manteit). The Maroons were to play New South Wales three days later.
Britain’s Bundaberg match was played in unseasonal July heat.
“At home we would call a match off if it was this hot,” said British winger, John Stopford from Swinton.