NORTHS’ hooker, Nick Geiger was the obvious, but somewhat controversial choice in the Queensland side to play New South Wales in the first match of the 1977 inter-state series, with Test rake, Johnny Lang out of action with a knee injury.
Geiger had just served a three match ban for a late tackle, and had missed South Queensland’s 24-18 win over the touring New South Wales Country side at Lang Park.
South Queensland coach, Barry Muir – who was also the state coach in ’77 – used two hookers against Country – Brisbane Wests’ Gary Prickett and Ashley Wain (Ipswich). NSW Country hooker, Barry Pearson thrashed both hookers – 6-2 v Prickett in the first half and 7-2 v Wain in the second.
So, while Geiger lacked match practice, it was believed he had the ability to get the Maroons more ball than Prickett or Wain, but Prickett’s form in open play had been superb.
The goal kicking of lock, John Ribot proved the difference in South Queensland’s win over the Don Furner coached Country outfit. It was only the second time in five tours that the Country side had been beaten by South Queensland, an indication of the strength of bush football, south of the border, in those days. (The South Queensland side was dominated by ‘City’ players, after City had belted Queensland Country 41-12 the previous weekend).
South Queensland raced to a 10-0 lead, with the highlight a slashing 50 metre try by Brothers’ centre, Mark Thomas, who ran on to a superb pass from halfback, John Salter. South Qld led 17-5 at halftime, before the Country boys struck back, with both sides finishing with four tries. Centre, Percy Knight scored two for Country.
State skipper/prop, Greg Veivers was South Qld’s best forward, while Riverina forward, Len Bertoldo was best for Country.
NSW Country had begun their Queensland tour with a 31-20 win over Wide Bay at Wondai, with indigenous winger, Larry Corowa (a Tweed product) scoring four tries. Prop, Merv Dugdell scored two tries for Wide Bay, who also were well served by Dugdell’s fellow prop, Dave Brown (a future Test forward, who was then only 19); five eighth, Tom Slater; fullback, Dennis Watt (future chairman of the Brisbane Broncos) and centre, Brad Kennedy, a Miami High School product, who would go on to play for Queensland the following year.
The Country boys then beat Central Queensland 22-13 in Rockhampton, with Furner describing referee, Tom Daley as ‘parochial’, after he penalised the NSW side 15-4!
Country manager, David Barnhill, from Leeton, was equally unimpressed.
“He (Daley) spent 15 minutes of the match lecturing the front row on how to pack a scrum. What a joke,” said Barnhill.
Corowa scored three tries this time, but the star of the match, and the tour, was centre, Brian Hetherington from Dapto.
The Country side also included Bob Everson, from Cessnock in the Hunter Valley, who had served a 22 month correctional sentence in Cessnock Jail the previous season, but was granted leave to play for the Cessnock Goannas in the Newcastle competition after he showed promise in a ‘friendly’ match in the jail yard.
A former rugby union forward with Blakehurst, in the St George area of Sydney, Everson said he got in with the wrong crowd as a youngster, and wanted to make amends, as he had been given such a great opportunity.
Other members of the side included Phil Amidy from Central Charlestown in Newcastle, and Steve Bartlett from Kyogle.
I played against Amidy in 1975, when I was contracted to Wingham, and he was running around with eventual Group 3 premiers, Wauchope. I had a few beers with Bartlett at Lismore’s Rous Hotel in 2015 – a character, to say the least.
In Brisbane club football, former Test halfback, Dennis Ward made a comeback to football with Wynnum-Manly, where he had been signed as a non-playing coach. Ward put up his hand after Ernie Edwards was a late withdrawal, through injury, from the match against Brothers at Kougari Oval.
A Canterbury-Bankstown junior, Ward played first grade for Canterbury and then Manly, as well as having stints with Widnes (England) and Newcastle Wests.
Ward showed glimpses of his class in an absorbing duel with Brothers’ halfback, John Herlihy, as Brothers ground out a 4-2 win in a tryless match. Brothers’ best were five eighth, Chris Ryan and prop, Peter McNamara, while hooker, John Dowling was the standout for Wynnum.
In an Amco Cup (mid-week knock-out competition) double header at Lang Park, the two Queensland sides were successful.
Valleys defeated New South Wales divisional outfit, Illawarra 19-10, with Tom Duggan scoring three tries for the victors, while his co-prop, Al McInnes caused havoc with his strong running.
In the other match, Brisbane Souths defeated New Zealand provincial side, Canterbury 20-12 with Souths’ non-stop hooker, Brad Holland man of the match. Souths’ international backs, John Grant and Wayne Bennett also were in outstanding form. Test prop, John Greengrass was Canterbury’s star.
New South Wales North Coast thrashed Ipswich 40-22 at Ipswich, with lock, Tom Searle scoring four tries. Searle is the father of former Gold Coast Titans supremo, Michael Searle. Dual international centre, John Brass scored two tries for North Coast, as well as kicking five goals. Just two years earlier Brass, who had moved to the Tweed Valley for work reasons, scored two tries in Easts’ 38-0 demolition of St George in the Sydney grand final.
His former club beat Manly 16-8 in an Amco Cup match in Sydney with fullback, Russell Fairfax kicking four goals for the victors.
.In England, Hull Kingston Rovers were disqualified from playing in the premiership semi-finals after Test forward, Phil Lowe had played in the 18-13 win over Warrington in the quarter finals. Lowe had played for Sydney premiers, Manly the previous year, and had been told to stand down from the English finals because of a contract dispute with the Sea Eagles.
1977 Inter-state sides: QLD: Alan Mills (Valleys); Brian Gardiner (Redcliffe), Peter Leis (Redcliffe), Mark Thomas (Brothers), John Callus (Easts); Steve Crear (Wests) v-capt; Greg Oliphant (Redcliffe); John Ribot (Valleys), Lew Platz (Wynnum-Manly), Greg Platz (Clifton-Allora); Greg Veivers (Souths) (c); Nick Geiger (Norths), Rod Morris (Easts). Res: Ron Milne (Valleys), John Salter (Souths), Bob Cock (Brothers), Gary Prickett (Wests). Coach, Barry muir.
The NSW squad contained four Queenslanders – skipper, Arthur Beetson; lock, Rod Reddy; second rower, Ray Higgs and centre/wing, Mark Harris.
It was: Graham Eadie, Allan McMahon, Mick Cronin, Steve Rogers, Mark Harris, Johnny Peard, Steve Mortimer, Rod Reddy, Ray Higgs Terry Randall, Arthur Beetson, George Peponis, Denis Fitzgerald, Russell Gartner, Tom Raudonikis, Greg Pierce, Graham Olling. Coach, Terry Fearnley.