FLASHBACK: April, 1971


APRIL 1971
Young Toowoomba winger, Wayne Bennett scored two tries as the Clydesdales emerged 21-19 winners over Ipswich, in a round one, Bulimba Cup (inter-city) fixture at the Athletic Oval, Toowoomba.
Bennett, who had been part of the Queensland Rugby League’s intensive training squad’s two-month camp at Lang Park, had limited opportunities, but when they came his way, he capitalised.
Lawrie Kavanagh covered the match for ‘The Courier-Mail’, and had this to say about the man who would become an Australian representative later in the season, and then go on to become one of the greatest coaches in rugby league history.
“Although starved for the ball, he (Bennett) showed tremendous determination, with splendid runs, brushing off defence like flies. Not far behind Bennett was State winger, Doug Muir, who recently recovered from a bout of hepatitis.”
Bennett first came to prominence in 1970, when he played for Queensland Colts against Cronulla-Sutherland in an end-of-season game. Bennett’s preferred position was fullback, but he could not dislodge John Cowley from the job at Toowoomba.
Toowoomba had prepared for the match against Ipswich, with a sandpit tackling session, something Bennett introduced at Broncos’ training when he was the coach. Toowoomba’s coach in 1971 was former Test winger, Des McGovern, but the sandpit concept was first introduced by Toowoomba’s ‘super coach’, Duncan Thompson, back in the 1950s, when the Clydesdales dominated the Bulimba Cup.
Toowoomba official, Reg Reardon (not to be confused with Reg Reagan) said McGovern had asked the League to “resurrect the tackling pit”.
“We had 24 cubic yards of sand poured into it,” Reardon said.
Defence was fierce in the early stages, with Ipswich referee, Ian Wallace penalising a number of players for spear tackles. Toowoomba centre, Ron Beauchamp’s tackling stopped many dangerous situations in their infancy, while stocky forward, Bob Costa, boosted his reputation as one of the State’s most rugged defenders. Toowoomba’s five eighth was Peter McDonald, a younger brother of Test centre, John ‘Cracker’ McDonald, who was playing for Manly-Warringah in 1971.
The star of the match was Ipswich halfback, Lionel Tewes, who shattered the Downs’ defence a number of times, while also setting up his supports for long runs. Tall Ipswich second rower, Ken Churchill also impressed, with Kavanagh comparing him to Australian forward, Ian Robson. Tewes and Churchill both scored tries. The crowd was 1,270 with gate receipts $764.
Meanwhile, State centre, Max Anderson advised Brisbane Norths he had re-signed with Rockhampton Norths, despite having trialled with the Brisbane club. The Devils claimed Anderson had signed a contract (possibly on the back of a beer coaster), and they planned to protest to the QRL.
Ron Gurnett was seen as the man to replace Ray Smith in the centres at Valleys, with Smith having returned to Australian rules, signing with a VFL club, after graduating from university at the end of the 1970 season. Gurnett, now a stalwart of the Valleys’ Old Boys, had himself been an Australian rules player, before switching to league in 1968.
Valleys’ forward, Arthur Miers confirmed he had signed a lucrative contract to play with the North Beach club in Perth. But the Diehards had a ready-made replacement in Russell Hughes, who had switched from Wynnum-Manly.
1 The 1971 QRL Intensive Training squad. Wayne Bennett is third from the right in the backrow
2 Ipswich product, Ken Churchill playing for Wynnum-Manly.

One response to “FLASHBACK: April, 1971

  1. Some really talented players in that squad including current QRL CEO Bruce Hatcher. Thanks Steve, great tales from a very tough and talent laden era in Rugby League.

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