Redcliffe captain-coach, Arthur Beetson blasted his side for conceding cheap tries, despite the Dolphins’ convincing 21-10 win over Souths in the 1981 Brisbane Rugby League major semi-final at Lang Park.

The win saw Redcliffe advance straight to the grand final, where it was expected they would meet bayside rivals, Wynnum-Manly, Souths’ opponents in the preliminary final.

The stage was set for a fairy tale return to Brisbane football for Beetson, who had left Queensland for Balmain in Sydney, after helping the Dolphins to a 15-2 win over Valleys in the 1965 grand final. Beetson played second row in 1965, alongside George Gledhill. In 1981 he was in the front row, with Bob Abbott the hooker and Peter Griffiths his co-prop.

Redcliffe’s pack had too much weight and power for Souths in 1981, and aided by a mountain of possession wore down their much lighter opposition. The Dolphins led 16-2 after 64 minutes, but then conceded tries to hooker, Billy Johnston and centre, Mal Meninga.

“We should never have let them in for those tries,” said Beetson. “I hate cheap tries. When you have a team in a position like that, you should be rubbing their noses in defeat.”

Beetson said he did not care who the Dolphins played in the grand final. “We’re there, so I guess some other team will turn up,” he said.

Redcliffe president, Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner tipped Wynnum (with another veteran forward, Des Morris the captain-coach), to be too good for the wounded Magpies. Wynnum had beaten Easts 20-9 in the minor semi-final.

Former Test halfback, Greg Oliphant was the star of Redcliffe’s 19-6 win over Easts in the reserve grade major semi-final. Future Test forward, Wally Fullerton Smith scored Redcliffe’s first try – from an Ashley Malone bomb. Redcliffe’s other try scorers were Nat Lohman and former Queensland centre, Peter Leis. Rowan Brennan and Keith ‘Cow’ Neller scored tries for Easts, with Michael ‘Phone’ Booth missing the conversions. Norths beat minor premiers, Valleys 10-3 in Third Grade.

Sydney coaches, Frank Stanton (Balmain) and Ron Willey (Norths) were in the Frank Burke Grandstand at Lang Park for the Brisbane major semi-final, with Peter Griffiths believed to be in Stanton’s sights after his Test prop, Rod Morris indicated he would retire. Stanton had coached Redcliffe in 1980.

In the build-up to the match, Souths’ lock, Chris Phelan, 25, had won the Rothmans Gold Medal as the Best and Fairest Player in the competition, polling 22 points, with referees the judges. The runner up was Valleys’ State skipper, Wally Lewis with 19. Redcliffe’s Trevor Benson had been named ANZ Colt of the Year at a separate function.

Special guest at the Rothmans Medal night at the Crest Hotel was former Great Britain forward, Vince Karalius, who terrorised Australian packs in the late 1950s and early 1960s. When Rothmans first contacted Karalius at his home, on the Isle of Man, he thought they were referring to a function in Wales, not realising they wanted him for their Gold Medal dinners in New South Wales and Queensland. Easts’ halfback, Kevin ‘Horrie’ Hastings won the Sydney Rothmans with 29 points, two clear of Cronulla skipper, Steve Rogers.

Karalius retired from working life aged 48, having made his fortune from the scrap metal business in his home town, Widnes, Cheshire. He started his rugby league career aged 14, when a friend asked him to fill-in after a team member failed to show. It was Vince’s first taste of body contact sport, and he was hooked.

The son of an Irish mother and a Lithuanian father, he was nicknamed ‘The Wild Bull of the Pampas’ because of his uncompromising style, playing for St Helens, and then Widnes. He played 12 Tests for Great Britain, and toured Australia and New Zealand in 1958. In 1975, Karalius coached Widnes to a Challenge Cup final victory over Warrington at Wembley.

“I loved playing rugby league and getting paid for it,” he said. “It was like winning the Pools”.

In 1981 Karalius told The Courier-Mail’s Lawrie Kavanagh he still worked out six days a week, mainly on weights, and did not drink.

“I wouldn’t care if they shut all the pubs down,” he said.

Southport Tigers won their second Gold Coast premiership in a row with a 28-12 result against Tugun-Coolangatta Seahawks at Pizzey Park, Miami. Second rowers, Chris Jensen and Drew Woodward led the way for Southport. Tugun’s star five eighth, Pat Shepherdson played with an injured shoulder, and was a passenger.

FOOTNOTE: Souths, coached by Bob McCarthy, went on to beat Wynnum 16-12 in the preliminary final to earn another crack at Redcliffe, and on grand final day, Souths won 13-9, thanks to a last gasp try to winger, Mick Reardon, with Phelan and Meninga involved in the build-up.

Souths Magpies’ coach, Bob McCarthy (in the Aussie rules jersey) watches his men train
Arthur Beetson in action for Redcliffe in 1981

Brisbane Rothmans Gold Medal winner, Souths’ Chris Phelan
British league legend, Vince Karalius and his wife, Barbara

One response to “FLASHBACK: SEPTEMBER 1981

  1. Redcliffe’s Ashley Malone, had the good fortune to play with and against Ashley at school boy and U 18 level in the South Burnett during 1975. I seem to remember Frank Malone playing 5/8 too for Redcliffe during that 80s period. Maybe I am confusing both as Redcliffe players. Frank played for Wondai, Ashley for Cherbourg or Murgon. Can’t quite remember. That year, 1975, Kingaroy won all three grades in the South Burnett comp. Titans and former Broncos chairman, the then South Burnett Times journalist, Dennis Watt, missed the Grand Final with if I remember right a broken arm. Test forwards Dave Brown and Brad Tessman played in the u18 winning Kingaroy Redants side. I’ve still got our team photo behind the Wondai grandstand. Bryan Niebling, Qld, Australia was likely in the U16 Murgon side that same day. Memories eh?

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