FLASHBACK: June, 1976

JUNE 1976

Brisbane Souths released exciting young winger, Mitch Brennan from a three-year contract to allow him to play in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts.

Under the heading ‘Brennan to Play Gridiron’, The Courier-Mail’s David Falkenmire said 20-year-old Brennan would be a running back for the club, with the Canadian season beginning in July and ending in November.

Brennan, 183cm and 85kg, went to Canada during the off-season to see his sister, with the idea of the playing the Canadian brand of football. He managed to secure a trial, but wasn’t expecting anything to come of it.

Sydney Roosters’ star, Mark Harris trialled in the NFL three years earlier, but finished up playing in Canada with the Montreal Alouettes.

Brisbane Souths’ secretary, Alan Davey said Brennan went with the club’s blessing, although he wasn’t sure what the procedure was in terms of a clearance, and whether the Candian club even required one.

Souths could have done with Brennan a few days later when Brothers thrashed the Magpies 43-4 at Corbett Park, Grange, with Brothers’ new State centre, Graham Quinn in outstanding form. Fullback, Alan ‘Seaweed’ Power, who had joined Brothers from Surfers Paradise Pirates in the off-season, also was in fine touch. Winger, Ian Dauth scored a try and kicked eight goals to become the first Brisbane player to pass a century of points for the season. Dauth’s co-winger, Noel Russell rattled defenders with his fearless runs.

Brothers’ pack was superbly led by Test forward, David Wright, who had willing co-workers in John Short, Alan Rafton and Paddy Hannan.

It was not just the loss of Brennan which hit Souths. Test centre/winger, John Grant and halfback, John Salter (who would go on to play for Queensland the following year) had been dropped by English coach, Tom Berry mid-week, Grant for being late for training and Salter for not turning up. They played reserve grade and then sat on the line for first grade, both of them getting a run.

The class of Steve Williams at five eighth, and Chris Wellman at lock, lifted a 12-man Redcliffe to an exciting 24-13 win over Norths at Bishop Park. Referee, Stan Scamp sent off Redcliffe fullback, Tony Obst in the 21st minute for a late shot on Norths’ goal kicking five eighth, Bruce Warwick. (Obst was later suspended for three matches). Norths led 8-2 at halftime, thanks to tries to wingers, Athol ‘Doc’ Gear and Shane ‘Cocky’ McMahon.

While Warwick was lining up the conversion of McMahon’s try two minutes from halftime, Redcliffe coach, Barry Muir produced his trump card. He swung on Williams and Wellman to replace Ernie Edwards and State lock, Terry Donnelly respectively. With Redcliffe playing a five-man scrum, Wellman went to inside centre.

Williams sharpened the attack and combined brilliantly with Wellman, with the Dolphins’ backs getting plenty of chances thanks to hooker, Bob Jones’ domination of the scrums. Wellman and beach sprint champion winger, Brian Gardiner scored two tries each for Redcliffe.

Redcliffe fullback, Ian ‘Bunny’ Pearce kicked six goals. The Courier-Mail’s Lawrie Kavanagh wrote that Pearce had ‘started like a school girl and finished like a champion’. Lawrie would be in trouble for that sort of reporting today.

Norths’ coach, former British Test halfback, Tommy Bishop filed an official protest against the performance of Scamp. Bishop had said before the match it was Norths’ grand final – a loss, and they could not make the semis.

Easts belted Valleys 31-6 in the match of the weekend at Lang Park, surging to the top of the premiership ladder ahead of premiers Wests, on percentages. Wests suffered a shock 10-9 home loss to Wynnum-Manly at Purtell Park, Bardon on the same day.

State centre, Ron Milne and former Murwillumbah Brothers’ hooker, John Dowling were outstanding for Wynnum, while Test winger, Wayne Stewart was Wests’ best.

Rodger ‘the dodger’ Kuhn was devastating for Easts, scoring two tries and having a hand in three others in the Tigers’ big win over Valleys.

The Courier-Mail’s Jack Reardon reported that there was ‘some vicious head tackling’ in the opening minutes and Valleys’ giant young forward, Al McInnes from Harrisville near Ipswich, left the field with a double fracture of the jaw.

Test hooker, John Lang ensured Easts enjoyed the majority of possession. Centre, Ron Gurnett was the best on a badly beaten side. Valleys had beaten Easts in their previous meeting, and had won four of their previous five games.

FOOTNOTE: Visa problems prevented Brennan from playing in Canada, and he returned to Souths where he remained until he joined St George in Sydney in 1978, after ‘The Micky Lane Affair’. But that’s another story.

Mitch Brennan in action for Souths

Canadian Football

Brothers’ lock, Alan Rafton. John Short is the teammate, while Valleys’ Bruce McLeod is the opponent

Norths’ Tommy Bishop when he was captain-coach. Bruce Warwick in number 2. The ref is Bernie Pramberg

Rodger Kuhn (BRL photos from the Jim Fenwick Collection donated to the QRL History Committee).

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