Former Queensland hooker, Hugh O’Doherty, an iconic personality of Brisbane Rugby League in the 1970s, has passed away aged 71.
O’Doherty, a product of Ipswich Christian Brothers’ College, won BRL premierships with Valleys in 1970, ’71, ’73 and ’74, and also played in the 1972 grand final, which Easts’ won 16-15.
He came to Brisbane from Ipswich Railways, (which became Norths), the same club which produced legendary halfback, Allan Langer.
O’Doherty was known as ‘The Ferret’, because of his ability to win the ball in the scrum, and to steal possession from opposition attacking players, a skill Langer also perfected.
In his inter-state debut, O’Doherty won the scrums 17-13 against New South Wales’ Test rake, Elwyn Walters and was one of Queensland’s best in the open, in a 32-15 loss at the Newcastle Sports Ground.
That was 1970, and the following year, O’Doherty was named in the QRL’s Intensive Training Squad, for a live-in camp at Lang Park. Other members of the squad included Wayne Bennett, Greg Veivers, Des Morris, John Lang and current QRL chairman, Bruce Hatcher.
The youthful Lang and experienced Country hooker, Brian Fitzsimmons were O’Doherty’s chief rivals for the Queensland hooking job, with Fitzsimmons already having represented Australia, while Lang would achieve national honors in 1973.
Despite the competition, O’Doherty played two more matches for Queensland, in 1971, with his signature darts from dummy half just as effective as his ball winning capabilities.
In the 1973 grand final against Redcliffe, O’Doherty scored a try in the first half of the Diehards’ 15-7 win. Redcliffe’s only try was scored by centre, Peter Leis, another BRL legend who died recently. (July was a sad month for the game, with Easts’ forward, Jeff Fyfe, who kicked the winning field goal in the ’72 grand final, also passing away).
Valleys won a tryless 1974 grand final 9-2, against Brothers, with O’Doherty and Fitzsimmons going head-to-head in the scrums.
O’Doherty remained with Valleys until the end of the 1977 season, when he joined Gatton, who won the Ipswich competition in 1978.
Hugh’s brothers, Bill, Donald and Bernard also played for Valleys in Brisbane, while another brother, Pat, played first grade in the NSWRL, from 1989 to 1992, for Wests, Gold Coast and Parramatta, as well as representing Ipswich Jets and having a stint with Fulham in England.
Hugh later coached Pat at Ipswich Brothers. In 2015 Hugh and Pat were joint coaches of Valleys in the BRL competition. There was an 18-year age difference between the pair, and Hugh was very much Pat’s hero, just as he was for so many Queensland league fans.
Hugh’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, August 6, at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Elizabeth Street, in his beloved home town, Ipswich.
Another top hooker, Milton Whybrow passed away on July 27, aged 76. Whybrow came from the twin towns of Harden and Murrumburrah, (more particularly Harden) from a famous family, which has given to much to rugby league and the community. Milton was my captain-coach at Murwillumbah Brothers in 1974, and captained Group 18. A devoted Canberra Raiders’ fan, from their inaugural season in 1982, Milton was an old school ball winner, who never shirked the heavy work in the rucks. He represented Riverina and also played in the famous Maher Cup competition. Under his coaching, Brothers finished equal fifth in a 11 team competition, and were beaten by the John Chisholm coached Surfers Paradise Pirates in the play-off for the five team finals set-up. Milton was replaced as coach by former Australian centre, Ron Saddler. The most notable player in Milton’s reign at Brothers was Brian Walsh, who went on to win premierships with Wynnum-Manly, and also represented Brisbane.
Photo 1: Hugh O’Doherty unloads, with Easts’ Des Morris looming
Photo 2: Hugh O’Doherty, supported by Valleys’ teammate, Ross Threlfo.