FLASHBACK: May 1981

MAY 1981

Great Britain Test forward, Brian Lockwood equalled legendary halfback, Alex Murphy’s record of winning at Wembley with three different clubs, when he played a key role in Widnes’ 18-9 triumph over Hull Kingston Rovers, on May 2, 1981.

Lockwood had found glory with Castleford in 1969 and 1970, and then won the Lance Todd Trophy as Man of the Match in Hull KR’s win over Hull in 1980.

The much sought-after veteran then moved across the country, to Cheshire club, Widnes to play under the coaching of another Great Britain star, Doug Laughton.

Widnes had been through a substantial rebuilding process since their 1979 Challenge Cup Final win over Wakefield Trinity. Four of that team – Reg Bowden, Mal Aspey, Dave Eckersley and David Hull – had left to help establish a new club at Fulham, in London.

Besides Lockwood, Widnes had also recruited Welsh utility, Eddie Cunningham; winger, Keith Bentley; halfback, Andy Gregory and backrowers, Les Gorley and Eric Prescott.

Widnes were captained by Great Britain forward, Mick Adams in the Wembley final, while Hull KR were led by the fiery, Len Casey.

Widnes’ fullback, Mick Burke, the Lance Todd Trophy winner, scored the first try, running wide from an Eric Hughes’ pass, before punting ahead and then cruising past three opponents to retrieve the bouncing ball.

Burke struck again in the 26th minute, receiving a line-splitting pass from Lockwood, before drawing the defence and sending centre, Mick George over for the next try and a 10-2 lead.

A Mick Adams’ field goal saw Widnes lead 11-4 at half time, with winger, Steve Hubbard having kicked two penalty goals for Hull KR.

When 20-year-old halfback, Andy Gregory scored a great individual try just after halftime, the game was as good as over.

Hull KR coach, Roger Millward had captained the club to Cup glory the previous year, but could not repeat the effort in his first year with the clip board.

The Cup was presented to Mick Adams by Sir Douglas Bader C.B.E., the famous RAF, World War II fighter pilot.

The crowd was 92,496.

On the same day, in steamy Townsville, the Datsun Country Championships were held, with North Queensland hanging on for an 8-5 win over Gold Coast, after Gold Coast led 5-3 at halftime. The winning try was scored by lock, Chris Williams, the son of former State lock, Stan Williams, a legend of Cairns Rugby League.

Ipswich caused a major upset by beating Toowoomba 12-10, with fullback, Ray ‘Gas’ Ovens scoring a try five minutes from the end, to make the score 10-10. Ipswich’s former Kiwi Test centre, Bernie Lowther landed the conversion.

Replacement five eighth, Gary Coyne was the star for Ipswich, with halfback, Cliff Langer also in outstanding form.

Former State hooker, Gary Prickett was the star of Wide Bay’s 21-8 win over the Barry Muir coached Central Queensland. Prickett had asked to be excluded from representative football in 1981, but Wide Bay selectors were not impressed with the quality of hookers on display in the selection trials, and went ahead and picked him anyway.

One of Wide Bay’s best was Bundaberg’s David Adams, the son of former Test winger, Don ‘Bandy’ Adams, from Maitland. Five eighth, Adams and his halfback partner, Eric Cassagrande turned in polished displays. Big winger, Shane Beatson and forward, Richie Sommers each scored two tries. 

I extend my thanks to Graham Morris and John Huxley and their excellent book ‘Wembley Magic’, for information on the 1981 Cup final. I should also mention that Mick Adams was a mate, and it was devastating to learn of his passing four years ago, aged 65 following a heart attack at Tamworth, the Australian city he made his home after marrying a local girl. Mick’s mother, and Eric Hughes’ wife, stayed with my wife, Marie and I at our Wooloowin (Brisbane) flat, during Great Britain’s visit to South East Queensland in 1979.

Widnes centre, Mick George celebrates his try at Wembley in 1981. Stuart Wright (left) and Eric Prescott join him.

Brian Lockwood (right) after his man of the match effort for Hull Kingston Rovers in 1980. Roger Millward (his jaw broken) holds the cup, chaired by Phil Hogan.

Gary Prickett playing for Wide Bay against Central Qld in Townsville

Ray Ovens (right) in action for Ipswich against Toowoomba in Townsville.

One response to “FLASHBACK: May 1981

  1. Morning Steve,
    Growing up a Balmain fan I, as most of us at Leichhardt, was so fortunate to see Brian Lockwood play many times. Indeed he was a ball playing genius and I can recall the hill crowd at Leichhardt standing to applaud his great skills though he rarely scored a try.
    Over a 10 year period the Tigers were blessed 2 champion ball players – Artie Beetson and Brian Lockwood.

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