FLASHBACK: November 1994

A pledge of loyalty from the Brisbane Broncos was accepted by a New South Wales Rugby League Board meeting in the League’s Phillip Street headquarters in Sydney.
NSWRL chairman, Ken Arthurson said he still regarded talk of a rebel Super League as ‘pie in the sky stuff’, but he was buoyed by the written commitment from the Broncos, who were rumored to be at the forefront of the breakaway moves, along with media empire, News Ltd.
He said all 20 Winfield Cup clubs had now made written commitments, which he said were legally binding (South Queensland Crushers, North Queensland Cowboys, Western Reds and Auckland Warriors were the four new clubs in an expanded competition).
Arthurson and NSWRL CEO, John Quayle had had discussions with News Ltd executive, Ken Cowley about the company’s Super League plans. News Ltd was to table a formal proposal with the NSWRL in February, 1995.
I had first heard of a possible Super League, during the Kangaroo tour of Britain in October/November 1994 when London Broncos’ coach, Gary Grienke, outside Elland Road in Leeds, told me something big was in the pipeline, involving my employers (News Ltd).
I presume Gary had heard of this, through his close friend at the time, Australian skipper, Mal Meninga, who undoubtedly had been sounded out by News. Or perhaps London had been sounded out. Or both.
Brisbane Broncos’ chief executive, John Ribot had given his blueprint for a SL competition to Cowley, early in 1994. He had even prepared dossiers on clubs he saw as Super League franchises.
Turbulent times indeed.
Meanwhile, in Brisbane, the XXXX Cup clubs were trying to look on the bright side. They had recovered to some degree, after the advent of the Broncos in 1988 had a massive effect on their gate takings.
Now they were faced with the challenge of competing with an elite game of football in town, EVERY weekend, with the Crushers having been granted a licence. The Crushers’ training base was the old Brisbane Brothers’ ground and clubhouse at Grange in Brisbane’s inner north, with the Crushers to play out of Lang Park, Milton, close to the city centre. (The Broncos had left Lang Park and now played at QEII Stadium at Nathan, on Brisbane’s south side).
The Crushers’ chief executive was former Brisbane Souths’ and Redcliffe forward, Darryl Van de Velde.
In 1994, Brisbane’s XXXX Cup crowds were up 78 percent on 1993, while gate takings increased by 84 percent. But crowds were still a long way behind the pre-Broncos’ days. And it has to be remembered that the Crushers fielded a side in the 1994 XXXX Cup, and they were a draw card.
South East Division (Brisbane) chairman, Kevin Brasch was returned unopposed for 1995, as was treasurer, Mike McGinley.
Brasch said there were ‘dangers galore’ for the domestic clubs, unless they accepted the challenge of the advent of the Crushers, and capitalised on the fact top level league was available in town every weekend.
Brisbane Easts’ Queensland Residents’ forward, Ian Stains announced his retirement. Stains is the older brother of international forward, Dan Stains.
1 Darryl Van de Velde playing for Souths against Wynnum in the 1970s. That’s Pat Phelan in the background, while Gary Seaton is on the right.
2 Winger, Mick Hancock scores a try for the Broncos against Wests at QEII Stadium. The Wests’ defenders are Brandon Costin (left) and Darren Willis.

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