Wynnum-Manly’s Test rugby league skipper, Wally Lewis welcomed the prospect of a Brisbane side entering the New South Wales competition in 1987, describing it as the salvation of football in the Queensland capital.
Lewis said a team from Brisbane needed to get the green light almost immediately, if league was to survive as the number code in Queensland, with Australian Rules entering a team in the national competition in 1987.
“It will also mean a stronger Sydney competition, which will be for the overall good of Australian Rugby League,” he told The Courier-Mail’s Paul Malone. “I’m sure every footballer’s ambition is to play in the Sydney competition, and now they can live here and play in Brisbane. It is the best of both worlds.”
Lewis had just left the Lang Park playing area after leading second placed Wynnum to a 24-6 win over his old club, third placed Valleys, with forwards, Darryl Jenner and Bob Lindner in great touch. Second rower, Gavin Allen was Valleys’ best.
Competition leaders, Redcliffe were enjoying the bye, and their coach, Darryl Van de Velde was in Sydney with his brother, Marcel, talking to power brokers from both sides of the border about the expansion plans they had set in motion.
Mackay born, Darryl Van de Vele represented Queensland against Great Britain in 1977, and retired as a player at the end of the 1978 season. Marcel had played league at school, but concentrated on the banking business after graduating.
If the new venture was to get the green light, it would have to field first grade, reserve grade and under-23 sides, which would mean more than 50 players being taken from the nine clubs in the Brisbane competition, and from regional areas.
Rugby League officials were finding it hard to come to terms with the prospect of private enterprise running clubs, with colourful doctor, Geoffrey Edelsten already floating the prospect of operating Cronulla-Sutherland in 1987.
QRL managing director, Ross Livermore, said something had to be done.
“We just can’t put up with thed ‘we breed-’em, you feed-on-’em approach approach by Sydney clubs,” Livermore said.
The QRL and BRL had tried their best to promote their competitions – the State League in the case of the QRL, and the Brisbane competition, incorporating Ipswich, in the BRL. There was a lavish launch for the State League, and sponsorship remained strong across the board. But crowds were declining on the back of the annual exodus of players to Sydney clubs.
In the remaining BRL games at the start of August, 1986, Brothers thrashed Easts 40-6 at Langlands Park; Souths staved off a brave Ipswich Jets for a 20-18 win at North Ipswich Reserve, while Norths defeated Wests 18-14 at Bishop Park.
Speedy utility, John Tapp scored four tries in Brothers’ demolition of Easts, playing at centre. Second rower, Shane McErlean and winger, Jeff Burns also were in scintillating touch for the victors.
Rising stars, Allan Langer and twins, Kerrod and Kevin Walters rose to the occasion for an under-strength Ipswich against Souths, with Jets’ coach, Tom Raudonikis, a former Test halfback, particularly impressed with his number 7, Langer, who also captained the side.
Australian Rugby League vice-president, Ron McAuliffe visited the Jets’ dressing room after the match, and told the locals he believed they could win the premiership by 1988.
It took field goals by halfback, Wayne Cullen and centre, Jason Stafford in the final five minutes for Souths to claim the two premiership points. When the scores were locked 18-18, Langer made a break from the scrum base and raced into the clear, only to be brought down five metres from the goal line by Souths’ winger, Steve Gibson.
Souths’ centre, Peter Jackson confirmed he would play the off-season with English club, Leeds, unless a Brisbane team entered the Sydney premiership. Jackson had resigned from the Queensland Police Force a month earlier, intent on making a living from football. Leeds had earmarked him as the replacement for fellow Australian, Tony Currie.
Guy ‘Slug’ Harvey kicked five goals in Norths’ 18-14 win over Wests, and that proved the difference, with Wests scoring three tries to two. Second rower, Darryl Duncan and centre, Matt Carter were outstanding for Norths, while skilful forward, James Donnelly caused the Devils’ defence all sorts of problems.