Gold Coast Giants caused one of the upsets of the 1988 New South Wales Rugby League season when they defeated the Brisbane Broncos in an absorbing ‘derby’ at Cunningham Field, West Tweed Heads.
A ground record crowd of 13,423 witnessed a courageous effort from the much maligned home side, which had lost eight and drawn one match, before the Broncos’ clash. Fellow competition newcomers, Brisbane had won seven of their nine clashes.
The Giants scored two tries from bombs by former Beaudesert five eighth, Mark Gee, who finished the game in the sin bin, for a professional foul. With Gee off the field, Broncos’ centre, Gene Miles charged at the line, only to be held up by desperate defence.
Giants’ hooker, Billy Johnstone outplayed Broncos’ Test star, Greg Conescu in a tough, personal duel, while prop, Peter Smith and second rower, Chris Close turning in their best displays of the season.
Broncos’ skipper, Wally Lewis was put out of the match with a shoulder injury, after a tackle from Ronnie ‘Rambo’ Gibbs. Tall prop, Andrew Tessman was Brisbane’s best.
Broncos’ coach, Wayne Bennett described it as the Giants’ grand final. “I don’t know what they will do for the rest of the season,” he said.
Not much. They won only three of their remaining 13 matches, but avoided the wooden spoon. That ‘honor’ went to Wests.
Meanwhile, in Queensland’s Winfield State League, Seagulls-Diehards beat Easts 26-10 in an all Brisbane grand final, although the Diehards (formerly Valleys) were backed by the Tweed Heads based Seagulls, who were also behind the Giants.
The score was 10-10 early in the second half, with the deadlock broken by a try to winger, Shane Buckley, who capitalised on a deft pass from five eighth, Peter Coyne.
Fullback, Steve Hegarty landed seven goals from eight shots, including one sideline conversion and a penalty goal from halfway.
The Diehards, coached by former State of Origin halfback, Ross Henrick, had beaten Toowoomba 28-20 in the semis.
Easts, coached by another former State star, Des Morris, had progressed with a 20-12 win over North Queensland, with former Australian under-18 winger, Mark McDonald scoring three tries.
The star for NQ was halfback, John Filosi, who was being described as one of the brightest prospects from the north in a decade.
Diehards’ halfback, Mark Wilson rejected an offer to join the Broncos, saying he did not want to devote the time necessary to succeed in ‘Sydney’ football. Wally Lewis, who played three seasons alongside Wilson at Valleys, had recommended his Nobbys Beach Surf Club fellow member, to Broncos’ coach, Bennett.
Former Brisbane representative lock, John Tapp rejoined Wests in Brisbane after being cut by South Sydney.
Photo: Gene Miles.