FLASHBACK: September, 1980

Souths’ hooker, Billy Johnstone was sent off by referee, Eddie Ward for a high, late shot on Valleys’ captain-coach, Ross Strudwick three minutes from the end of a dramatic Brisbane Rugby League major semi-final at Lang Park.
Souths’ fans were irate, accusing Strudwick of taking a dive, while the Diehards’ faithful were equally adamant it was part of a vendetta by the Magpies.
Souths’ coach, Bob McCarthy said it was the first time Johnstone, a noted boxer, had been sent off for violent conduct, his only previous dismissals coming as the result of repeated scrum infringements. Strudwick was carried off after the incident.
Player of the match was young Souths’ centre, Mal Meninga, whose crash tackling style tested the nerves of his rivals.
Souths’ celebrations went well into the night at their Davies Park HQ, as all three senior sides qualified for the grand final.
Fullback, Ken Spencer scored three tries in the Magpies’ 28-10 win over Brothers in reserve grade. Souths’ former State halfback, John Salter pushed Spencer for man of the match honors.
Souths’ third grade had a well-deserved 11-6 win over minor premiers, Easts, although Easts played the last 10 minutes a man short, after centre, Russell Smith was sent off by referee, Terry Canavan, who charged Smith with two counts of violent conduct – swearing at the referee and running into the referee. (Smith was playing the wrong code, obviously).
Redcliffe’s Test rugby league coach, Frank Stanton took aim at the ABC’s telecast of Brisbane football.
“Channel 7’s efforts were obviously more professional than those of the ABC,’ he wrote in his Courier-Mail column.
Meanwhile, Wynnum-Manly announced that State forward, Des Morris would captain-coach the Seagulls in 1981. Morris had played at Wynnum in 1980, under the coaching of ‘Big H’, Henry Holloway. Prior to that, Morris, an Ipswich product, had spent 10 seasons at Brisbane Easts, and as captain-coach, took the club to two titles.
Morris’s former Easts’ teammate, John Lang had been appointed coach of Easts for 1981, even though he was still playing for the Roosters in Sydney. One of Brisbane Easts’ first signings was Parramatta forward, John Mann.
Norths’ fullback, Joe Kilroy was named Brisbane ANZ Colt of the year. Kilroy, 20 at the time, started playing league at St John’s Convent, Nundah and joined Norths St Josephs Junior club in 1972. He came through the grades with Norths’ brilliant young hooker, Greg Conescu.
Willie Weatherall from the Oakey club was named the Toowoomba player of the year, and won a new Datsun.
In Sydney, defending champions St George flexed their muscles to halt South Sydney’s run, in a bruising ‘sudden death’ semi-final, winning 16-5. St George coach, Queenslander, Harry Bath was delighted with his men, who missed only seven tackles in the 80 minutes.
Centre, Robert Finch scored two tries, with skipper, Craig Young and former Brisbane Brothers’ centre, Graham Quinn doing the lead-up work for his first.
Canterbury-Bankstown defeated Wests 22-17 in the preliminary semi-final, with Riverina products, Peter Mortimer and Greg Brentnall scoring tries for Canterbury, as well as the Hughes brothers, Mark and Graeme.
Queenslanders, John Ribot and John McLeod scored tries for Wests, along with tall forward, Bob Cooper, who had played for New South Wales in the inaugural State of Origin match in August. Steve Gearin kicked five goals for Canterbury, while Ron Giteau (father of Matt) kicked four for Wests.
Newtown prop, Geoff Bugden won the Sydney Rothmans’ Medal as the competition’s best and fairest. A prop?
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Rugby League named six new caps in the squad to tour Britain and France. They were Rick Muru (Waikato), Gary Kemble (Auckland), Nolan Tupae (Wellington), Bernard Green (West Coast), Bill Kells (Waikato) and Bruce Gall (Taranaki). (Kemble would be the only one to establish himself as a Test player, and also went on to coach his country). Brisbane Norhs’ lock, Mark Graham was named tour skipper.
Footnote: Billy Johnstone was banned for three games for the hit on Strudwick, but successfully appealed, and was fined $350 instead.
1 Souths’ Billy Johnstone rakes for the ball, back when scrums were scrums
2 Ross Strudwick (far left) at a QRL coaching clinic
3 Ross Strudwick, nursing prop, Al Mcinnes relaxes with the Valleys lads
4 Greg Conescu, with juniors from his old club, Norths St Josephs.

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