There is nothing new about the struggle to get kids to play that toughest of all team body contact sports, rugby league.
When I was growing up Murwillumbah in the Tweed Valley, in the 1960s, we struggled to get one team for each weight division, while hockey and soccer had multiple teams in many age groups.
When it came to under-18 level, where there were club affiliations, it was a little easier to get lads to play, because of the high profile of the sport, and the fact big crowds turned up.
In 1981, ‘The Courier-Mail’ carried a story with the headline: ‘Redcliffe youth give Artie cold shoulder’.
Lawrie Kavanagh wrote that Redcliffe officials were stunned at the lack of interest from the youth of the peninsula city, in coaching clinics to be conducted by the club’s captain-coach, the legendary Arthur Beetson, who had captained Queensland to victory in the inaugural State of Origin match, the previous year.
“At this stage, we will not be able to field an under-17 team,” said Redcliffe secretary, Don McLennan. “And there is very little interest in the under-18s.
“We thought the young blokes in the Redcliffe, Pine Rivers and Caboolture districts would be fighting for the chance to be coached by Artie. We are at a loss to know what the young people do with their time. I suppose they must all have cars and spend their spare time at the Coast.”
Beetson was returning to Redcliffe after 15 years in Sydney, first with Balmain, then with Easts and finally Parramatta. He was signed by Balmain after playing in Redcliffe’s win over Valleys in the 1965 Brisbane grand final.
Redcliffe had not won a title since then, when Arthur succeeded Australian coach, Frank Stanton, who had returned to Sydney, after serving just one year of a three-year deal with the Dolphins. In addition to coaching Redcliffe, Beetson was to manage the Moreton Bay Hotel.
He also was appointed coach of the Brisbane representative side, replacing Henry Holloway, who was Redecliffe’s captain-coach in ’65.
Redcliffe’s major gain for the 1981 season was international halfback, Greg Oliphant, from Balmain.
Big things were expected of three graduates from the under-18s – Trevor Benson, Nat Lohman and John Boxsell.
The only major loss from 1980, was utility back, Dave Roberts, with the likes of Ian ‘Bunny’ Pearce, Peter Leis, Chris Close, Tony Obst and Bob Jones remaining with the club.
1 Arthur Beetson playing for Easts in Sydney
2 Arthur Beetson playing for Redcliffe against Valleys in 1981. That’s Mick Neill on the left
3 Redcliffe hardman, Tony Obst cleans up Souths’ Adrian Higgs.