The Queensland Rugby League State of Origin ‘brains trust’ had a new look, heading into the 1995 season, with Wayne Bennett returning as coach, replacing Wally Lewis.
Bennett made it a condition of his return that he had a vote on team selections, a privilege denied his predecessors.
The selectors for the 1994 series were Les Geeves, Dud Beattie and Hugh Kelly, with only Geeves seemingly guaranteed his position for the next 12 months. Geeves, Beattie and Kelly had come in for their share of criticism, with claims they were out of touch with modern football, because of their age.
Mind you, the NSW panel wasn’t exactly made up of spring chickens with Johnny Raper, Don Furner and Eddie Lumsden all products of pre-limited tackle football, the same as the Queensland trio.
After three series wins in a row under coach, Phil ‘Gus’ Gould, critics in New South Wales were tipping a Blues’ dynasty, because of that state’s amazing depth of playing talent.
North Queensland’s Ben Wall was named new manager of the Qld side, following the retirement of Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner. Wall joined Chris Close on the management team.
Bennett brought with him, Broncos’ trainer, Kelvin Giles who had been critical of the approach to physical preparation in Origin camps.
.Divisional annual meetings had been held throughout Queensland, with the only major surprise the dumping of Toowoomba’s Bob Batemen in the South West, with St George’s John Barrett the new man.
Brisbane Souths’ chief executive, Graham Kerr survived a stiff challenge to his QRL Director’s post, from Second Division chairman, Ted Beaumont, Brisbane’s alternate director.
Frank Dolan (Brothers) stood down from his Brisbane Division director’s position, for business reasons, with his place going to Peter Kennedy.
.Former Brothers and North Sydney skipper, Tony Rea signed with London Broncos in England, despite having 12 months left on his Bears’ deal.
Rea said he was looking forward to the challenge of helping London gain promotion to the top division, and he saw opportunities in administration and marketing at the club, after he retired as a player.
Brisbane Broncos’ pair, Kevin Walters and Michael Hancock had considered offers from London, before electing to stay in Queensland. London’s coach was former Brisbane Souths’ prop, Gary Grienke.
Rea left for England in top shape, given he had trained the off-season with physical fitness freak, Des Hasler from Manly-Warringah.
FOOTNOTE: In 1995, Queensland won the Origin series 3-0 against the Phil Gould coached Blues. But the coach of the Maroons was ‘Paul’ Fatty Vautin, after Bennett stepped down when it was revealed he was part of the Super League rebellion against the ARL, which of course, meant the QRL. as well.
1 The calm before the storm. The Queensland brains trust named for the 1995 State of Origin series (from left): manager, Chris Close; coach, Wayne Bennett; trainer, Kelvin Giles; co-manager, Ben Wall.
2 1994 Qld selector, Hugh Kelly.