The 10 Brisbane Rugby League Clubs were looking towards a season without State of Origin stars and Internationals, with all players of that calibre having signed with New South Wales Rugby League Clubs.
The NSWRL had expanded, with the Brisbane Broncos, Newcastle Knights and Tweed Heads’ based Gold Coast Giants the new clubs.
Everyone wondered how the BRL would shape up, but a bonus was the quality of coaches.
Here is a brief summary of the clubs for ’88 season.
Coach, Greg Oliphant (former Test halfback).
The Devils lost Test prop, Greg Dowling and utility back, Craig Grauf to the Broncos, while Test second rower, Paul McCabe announced his retirement. Their top buy was Wide Bay halfback, Steve Kavanagh.
Coach, Geoff Naylor (former State prop).
The Magpies most significant losses were five eighth, Gary French (Broncos) and forwards, Craig Teitzel and Gary Bukowski to Sydney Wests. Their most significant signing was Mark Harrigan from Sydney Wests. Naylor was able to name 11 players from the ’87 season in his squad for the first match of the Woolies pre-season competition.
Coach, Des Morris (Former Queensland forward).
The only Tigers snapped up by NSWRL clubs were forwards, Wayne Marshall (Roosters) and Brook Kennedy (Broncos). Trevor Cook returned to Langlands Park after two years at Norths and the club also signed utility stars, Craig McAlpine and Shane McErlean from Brothers. McErlean was a reserve for Brothers’ 1987 grand final winning side.
Coach, Barry Muir (former Test halfback).
The cash strapped Panthers lost promising forwards, Paul Childs (Broncos) and Paul Schuller (Redcliffe), but former State prop, Brad Rowcliffe returned from Central Qld. Muir, who played for Wests from 1958 to 1968, said he wanted to restore pride in the red and black jumper.
Coach, John Dowling (former Queensland State of Origin hooker).
The Seagulls’ most notable loss was Test skipper, Wally Lewis who was signed by the Broncos as their inaugural skipper. He was joined at the Broncos by fellow internationals, Gene Miles and Colin Scott. Among Wynnum’s new signings was Cameron Wade from Cunnamulla, who would go on to play first grade for St George in Sydney.
Coach, Graham Olling (former Test prop).
Beaten grand finalists in 1987, Redcliffe lost Test forwards, Bryan Niebling and Greg Conescu, as well as utility back, Rohan Teevan to the Broncos; Jim Cowell, Brett Rolls (Gold Coast) and Robin Thorne (Canterbury-Bankstown), but retained players of the quality of James Sandy, Steve Cherry, Bob Keogh, Steve Bleakley, Shane Knuth (a future Queensland MP), Troy Evans (father of Daly Cherry-Evans), John Boxsell and Lex Neal.
Olling, who owned a gym at Redcliffe, put his players through a tough pre-season. He said some of the efforts in the time trials he set, were equal to those achieved when he was playing with Parramatta.
Coach, Greg Holben (former Queensland State of Origin utility).
Centre, Jeff Burns was the only player left from the starting 13 which powered to victory in the ’87 grand final. The Courier-Mail’s Jack Craig said he was surprised no Sydney club had picked up a player he rated the most improved and valuable in the Brothers’ club. Veteran winger, Bligh Davidson and utility, Vince O’Brien were the only players left at Brothers with extensive first grade experience. But, despite being broke, Brothers attracted several prominent new signings, among them former Australian under-18 forward, Steve Davis (from retirement); prop, Peter Anderson (who had been playing rugby union) and former Murwillumbah prop, Ray Swift, who had made a courageous comeback from an injury, which threatened the amputation of his left leg.
SEAGULLS-DIEHARDS (Formerly Valleys)
Coach, Ross Henrick (former Queensland State of Origin halfback).
The Broncos signed seven players from a club that finished seventh in 1987. They were: Mark Hohn, Ray Herring, Brett Tengdahl, Greg Manthey, Grant Rix, Craig Marshall and David Bourke. Gold Coast Giants signed winger, Bennett King and prop, Paul Stewart.
Henrick was most pleased with the signing of fiery forward, Richard Boys from Gladstone, a brother of Brisbane representative winger, Stephen Boys.
Coach, Tom Raudonikis (former Test halfback).
The Jets’ most significant loss was Queensland halfback, Allan Langer to the Broncos, after a protracted transfer fee dispute. They also lost the Walters brothers, Kerrrod, Brett and Andrew to the Broncos. Despite this, Raudonikis believed his side could give the premiership a shake, given the calibre of players suich as Glenn Haggath, Brett Johnstone, Gavin Payne and Ken Robertson, who were all selected in the Combined Brisbane National Panasonic Cup squad.
Coach, John Barber (former NSW prop).
As the new team in the competition, the Scorpions were allowed more imports than other clubs and Barber was confident he had bought wisely after taking his men to a pre-season camp at Tallebudgera on the Gold Coast. The imports included Darryl Jenner, Darren Petrie, Mick Hickey (Wynnum) and Bob Knight (Diehards). Logan also signed former NSW Tertiary Colleges back, Gary O’Brien, who would go on to coach Logan.