Valleys’ rugby league coach, Ross Strudwick predicted Murgon product, Bryan Niebling would play for Australia that season, either against the touring Kiwis or on the Kangaroos’ European tour.
Strudwick, who played a Test for Australia in 1975, said Brisbane fans would see a different Niebling in 1982 – a wide running, skilful player, rather than a dour, middle-of-the-ruck forward.
Valleys’ Australian five eighth, Wally Lewis was seen as the perfect foil for Niebling, with Lewis having made his Test debut against France the previous year.
Strudwick retired as a player at the end of the ’81 season, after Valleys failed to make the finals.
The big off-season signing for Valleys was State utility back, Mark Murray, who was to slot into halfback, Strudwick’s position. Murray had spent four seasons at Brisbane Norths, three as skipper.
Other notable retirees at Valleys included skipper, Ian ‘Elke’ Sommer; former State five eighth, Peter McWhirter and former State winger, Doug Muir. The club also farewelled State prop, Lindsay Gill, who joined Redcliffe. (McWhirter was to coach Valleys’ reserves).
New recruits included Bob Arnold (Easts), Terry Koorockin (Mount Isa), Greg ‘Hammer’ Walker (Norths) and Chris Williams (Cairns).
Valleys started the Woolies pre-season competition with a 19-14 win over Norths at Neumann Oval, scoring four tries to two.
But Strudwick believed Murray and Lewis had tried to do too much themselves, and told them after the game they needed to move the ball about more.
Premiers, Souths and their beaten 1981 grand final rivals, Redcliffe played out a spectacular 12-12 draw at Dolphin Oval, a match which featured several brawls, one which spilled into the crowd.
Hooker, George Trudgett, a former New South Wales Schoolboys rep., made an impressive debut for Redcliffe. Redcliffe coach, Arthur Beetson said he had tried to get Trudgett to Sydney club, Parramatta when he youngster was playing in the bush at Bathurst.
At one stage during the match, a dog encroached onto the field, only to be thrown back into the crowd by Redcliffe hooker, Bob Jones, an ejection captured by ‘The Courier-Mail and ‘Rugby League Week’ photographers.
Easts, expertly led by prop, Paul Khan, defeated Wynnum-Manly 22-11 at Kougari Oval. Khan, who played prop for Queensland in the one off State of Origin match in 1981, had returned to Easts after several seasons with Cronulla-Sutherland.
Best of Easts’ backs was former Brothers’ Test centre, Mark Thomas, who scored a try and did a wonderful job in defence against Wynnum’s giant centre, Gene Miles.
Winger, Terry Butler scored two tries for Wynnum and former Rockhampton forward, Ray Duncan was just behind Khan in effectiveness in the rucks.