FLASBACK: June 1980

JUNE 1980
Australian centre, Chris Close was sent off by referee, Jack ’10 yards’ Percival, after a wild brawl in the tour match against a veteran Maori side at Hastings in New Zealand.
Close, who was under contract to Redcliffe in Queensland, had been one of the Kangaroos’ best up until that stage, having scored a try in a match which finished 10-all. Australia’s other try scorer was former Brisbane Brothers’ centre, Graham Quinn, who was contracted to St George in Sydney.
Australian coach, Frank Stanton, who was also coach of Redcliffe in the Brisbane competition, took nothing away from the Maori effort, saying they had handled the heavy conditions better than his side.
Australian Associated Press reported that Close was unlucky to be the one dismissed by Percival, who earned his ’10 yards’ nickname during the 1968 World Cup, when he regularly marched teams for back chat.
“Fists flew everywhere, but Close appeared to be the unlucky one, who threw a punch, and was spotted by Percival,” reported AAP.
The Maori certainly had plenty of players capable of putting up a good account of themselves in the fisticuffs department, headed by prop, Kevin Tamati, a heavyweight boxer. Tamati and Test centre, James Leuluai scored tries for the Maori, whose line-up included former ‘boy wonder’ Kiwi backline star, Dennis Williams, who had made his Test debut in 1971. 
At a meeting of the New Zealand Rugby League Council after the match, Close was given a severe reprimand.
Australia had opened the seven match tour with a 27-6 win over New Zealand in the First Test at Carlaw Park, Auckland, after leading 20-4 at halftime. Five eighth, Alan Thompson scored two tries, while centre, Mick Cronin kicked six goals.
The Kiwis’ best was lock, Mark Graham, who was having his first club season in Australia, with Norths in Brisbane, where fellow Kiwi, Graham Lowe was coach. Kiwi legend, Ces Mountford was Test coach in 1980, and remained in the position until 1982, when he was succeeded by Lowe.
Just 48 hours after the Hastings match, Australia played Central Districts in Wellington, winning 23-0 on another heavy pitch.
In Brisbane club football, Valleys defeated Souths 25-13 in the President’s Cup final at Lang Park, with five eighth, Peter McWhirter scoring two tries for the undefeated Diehards. The try of the match was scored by Valleys’ hooker, Paul Richards after a scintillating 60 metre movement.
The Courier-Mail rated it the best – and toughest – game of the year, and praised Souths for their grit, given they played 37 minutes with 12 men, following the dismissal of prop, Dave Brown by Test referee, Eddie Ward.
The send-off, which made front page news in The Courier-Mail, followed a gang tackle on Valleys’ captain-coach, Ross Strudwick.
An all-in-brawl followed, with young Souths’ centre, Mal Meninga in the thick of things, and handing out plenty of punishment.
Brad Sully was brilliant ay halfback for Souths, while country signing, George Moroko had his best game since joining the club at the start of the year. Valleys’ best were lock, Wally Lewis;  Strudwick and goal kicking centre, Mick Neill.
Brothers defeated Souths 25-12 in the reserve grade final, while Norths accounted for Souths 20-9 in C grade.
Strudwick urged referees and touch judges to pay more attention to back play, claiming that rising star, Lewis was being unfairly targeted.
Lewis was flattened several times in back play against Souths, but stayed on the field, against the advice of Dr Tom Dooley.
“Wally is only 20, and I think he will play for Australia one day,” Strudwick said. “If he isn’t pounded out of the game.”
1 Alan Thompson
2 Dennis Williams
3 Dave Brown
4 Paul Richards

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