Wally Lewis, Ross Strudwick and Peter McWhirter were rated ‘the most deadly rugby league trio in town’ after Valleys began the 1979 Brisbane premiership campaign with a 30-8 win over Wynnum-Manly at Lang Park.
Wynnum were coached by Valleys’ legend, Henry ‘big H’ Holloway, who also had been appointed coach of the Brisbane representative side for the Amco Cup knock-out competition and matches against Queensland Country and the touring Great Britain side.
But Henry’s expertise was no counter to the guile of Valleys’ captain-coach, Strudwick and his offsiders, Lewis and McWhirter, in a match played in front of a small, Saturday afternoon crowd.
Valleys’ winger, Mick Neill, a Canberra product, kicked six goals from eight shots and scored a try. Wynnum’s best was prop, Ray ‘Tank’ Duncan, who had joined the club from Rockhampton.
Just three days later, Valleys were rocked by the news veteran former state centre, Gerry Fitzpatrick would retire. Valleys tried to talk him into carrying on, but Fitzpatrick said his health and teaching career had to take precedence.
In the Sunday Lang Park match, Wests’ defence was superb, as they belted Redcliffe 24-8, after leading 17-0 at halftime. Redcliffe forward, Forester Grayson, who doubled as a rodeo star, announced his retirement soon after the game.
It was a bitter defeat for Redcliffe coach, Ron Raper, who had left Wests the previous year, to be replaced by Don Oxenham.
Raper had refused to talk to the media during the pre-season, and his attitude didn’t change after this loss. Forwards, Rod Bradshaw, Norm Carr and Ray Pickup were outstanding for Wests.
Norths, with Kiwi, Graham Lowe in his first year as coach, were brave in their 22-10 loss to Easts at Langlands Park. Captain-coach, Des Morris was magnificent for Easts, while young five eighth, Mark Murray (Norths’ skipper) and fiery forward, Shane ‘shyster’ Bernardin were Norths’ best.
(I played reserve grade for Norths that day, and needed six stitches above the eye, after copping a stray elbow from Easts’ forward, Bob Arnold. Dr Keith Woodhead performed the ‘surgery’ in the dressing rooms, with Norths’ president, Bob Bax standing nearby and making a comment, to the effect, that it was about time I got a scar on my pretty boy face. We lost 27-21).
In the other first round match, Souths defeated Brothers 14-0 at Corbett Park, Grange. Forwards, Bill Argeros and Brian Weir – Bill, a West End local, and Brian a Mullumbimby product – were Souths’ best, while centre, Kerry Fraser (ex St Brendans, Rocklea), was always dangerous for Brothers.
Bob Bennett, a younger brother of super coach, Wayne, played reserve grade for Brothers. Wayne coached Souths that season, with Reg Cannon in charge of Brothers.
Photo: Rod Bradshaw, with Greg Oliphant in the background.