FLASHBACK: May 1967

New Zealander Reg Cooke was chosen in the Queensland Rugby League side to make a three match tour of his homeland.

Cooke starred for Queensland in a selection trial against ‘The Rest’ at Lang Park, a match played in wet conditions and won 20-10 by Queensland.

Brisbane Brothers’ five eighth, Johnny Gleeson was chosen as captain, but was forced to withdraw because of a shoulder injury suffered in the trial. The new skipper was Gleeson’s Brothers’ teammate, prop, Peter Gallagher, with Cooke the vice-captain.

Gleeson told selectors he hoped to join the team in Sydney after the Kiwi tour, which was to feature matches against North Zone in Auckland; Canterbury (Christchurch) and West Coast (Greymouth).

The New Zealand tour was regarded as the perfect warm-up for the inter-state series against a star studded New South Wales side.

Gleeson’s replacement in the touring party was Ipswich’s John White.

Cooke, who toured Britain and France with the 1961-62 Kiwis, was regarded as an ideal selection, given his knowledge of the grounds and players in New Zealand. Cooke, originally from Auckland, played seven Tests for the Kiwis between 1961 and ’64, before moving to Queensland.

Queensland coach was Ian ‘Ripper’ Doyle from Toowoomba, who toured Britain and France with the 1956-57 Kangaroos. The manager was another Toowoomba identity – Jack Curry.

The Courier-Mail’s Jack Reardon reported that “about 12 visitors would accompany the team”.

I have no idea of who they were – ‘Harry Hanger-oners’ maybe, to use a ‘Fatty’ Vautin term.

Amazingly, the Queensland team was not given a touring uniform, with players wearing a variety of slacks, coats and ties, a major embarrassment for the code, given even the amateur New Zealand League ensured its players always looked immaculate. It made Queensland officials look liked a bunch a country hicks.

“We will not be a good advertisement for Queensland,” said Doyle. “All teams which visit us are well fitted out with a uniform blazer and slacks.”

In 1977, on my first visit to Britain, I was impressed with the way club league sides wore suits and ties on the way, to and from, games.

In 1989 I covered the Queensland Residents’ tour of France, and while the players were given smart uniforms, nowhere did it state what sport they were playing. Sure, there was the Q logo, for the QRL, but no-one in France, except the most avid league fans, knew what it stood for.

“Do you guys play basketball or rugby union?” was the most common inquiry from people in the street.

‘Rest’ winger, Lionel Williamson was unlucky not to be selected for the 1967 New Zealand tour, as he had been outstanding in defence, and the few times he got decent ball, proved hard to bring down.

Williamson had played for Queensland three years previously (twice against NSW and once against France), but then signed for English club, Bradford Northern, after the international transfer ban was lifted. (Lionel’s younger brother, Max, 18, was a block busting five eighth for Brisbane Wests’ reserve grade in 1967).

Mid-week, South Queensland had beaten Queensland Country 27-12 in what could be termed another state trial, with former Test halfback, Barry Muir steering the South Queensland side around the field.

Muir subsequently missed out on selection for both Queensland and The Rest, something Reardon described as a “bombshell”.

Brisbane club football was postponed the day after the Queensland v Rest match, because of heavy rain, but soccer, rugby union and Australian rules matches went ahead, causing the league much embarrassment.

The previous weekend, Easts had beaten Brothers 20-11 at Langlands Park, with second rower, Geoff Connell in outstanding form for the victors. Brothers were guilty of going too high in defence.

Rugby union convert (and future Broncos’ chairman) Paul ‘Porky’ Morgan snatched victory for Wests over Redcliffe with an outstanding try two minutes from full time in a match at Redcliffe Showgrounds.

Wests trailed 11-7 when Morgan made a break 60 metres out, sprinted 30 metres, fed his supports and then backed up, before stepping around fullback, Rohan Gaylard to score. Fullback Nev McDonald converted for a 12-11 win.

Peter Lobegeiger and ‘his magnificent right boot’ took Norths to a 15-10 win over Souths at Oxenham Park. The solid former Ipswich fullback kicked six goals from nine shots, while Souths’ sharp shooter, Stan McDonald managed only two goals from seven shots.

In the remaining match of the round, Valleys defeated Wynnum-Manly 16-9 at Crosby Park, despite having centre, Mick Retchless sent off mid-way through the first half, for punching.

Ron Gurnett was a tower of strength for Valleys in the absence of Retchless, while big winger, Bill Knobel shone for Wynnum, scoring a try and kicking two goals. (I played against Knobel in the early 1970s, when he was contracted to Mullumbimby Giants in the Group 18- Gold Coast League. His son, Trent would go on to play Australian rules for Brisbane Lions, St Kilda and Richmond).

The Queensland touring side to New Zealand and New South Wales: Ray Laird, Don Jago, Ray Cattanach, Jeff Denman, Johnny Gleeson (c), Col Reynolds, Col Weiss, Angelo Crema, Geoff Connell, Dennis Manteit, Brian Fitzsimmons, Peter Gallagher (v-capt), Les Geeves, Jeff Marshall, Kev Stephens, Eric Gelling, Peter Lobegeiger, John White.

Auckland forward, Terry Hammond was playing rugby league in Mount Isa in 1967 – as an amateur – with the NZRFL granting him a restricted clearance. Hammond earned $100 a week as a miner in Mount Isa, a decent amount in those days. His captain-coach was Jock Butterfield, who played 36 Tests for the Kiwis between 1954 and 1963.

A smart uniform always looks good - members of the 1956 Kangaroo touring party (from left) managers C W Fahey and Cyril Connell; captain, Ken Kearney and Cyril Connell Jnr.

A smart uniform always looks good – members of the 1956 Kangaroo touring party (from left) managers C W Fahey and Cyril Connell; captain, Ken Kearney and Cyril Connell Jnr.

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