Five Star Cinemas at New Farm hosted a World Movie Premiere with a difference on November 4, with the ‘A Listers’ all broken down, old footballers.
It was the first showing of ‘Brothers Close and Far’, and the stars of the red carpet were the likes of Eric Gelling, Reg Cannon, Stan Damro, David Wright, Ian Dauth, Mark Thomas, Joe Kilroy, Peter Gill, Trevor Bailey and Clinton Mohr, all former Brisbane Brothers’ stars.
The movie was produced by Anthony O’Brien and follows on from the great job he did with the story of foundation club, Fortitude Valley – ‘Return of the Diehards’. Whereas the Valleys’ movie was shown at the club’s current HQ at Emerson Park, Grange, the Brothers’ movie got the royal treatment at a flash cinema, followed by drinks at the Brunswick Hotel.
The title refers to the far reach of the Brothers Confraternity in Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, something unique in rugby league in Australia, and perhaps in any football code.
The two-hour production covers the birth of the club in 1920, and its journey through the decades to its final big match triumph – a 26-8 win over Redcliffe in the 1987 Brisbane Grand Final.
As the ‘promo’ says – ‘The Fighting Irish’ (Brothers) won the battle, but lost the war, given the club went into receivership in 1988, and today is represented at senior level in the Brisbane Second Division.
I was one of many people interviewed by Anthony O’Brien for the movie, given I played for Brisbane Brothers in 1976 and ’77, and covered rugby league in Brisbane from 1980 to 2012. It was surreal sitting in the cinema, alongside former Test centre, Mark Thomas, watching myself on the big screen for the first time, and feeling humbled to be included in the production, obviously because of my long experience as a league writer, not because of my efforts on the field for Brothers.
When I moved to Brisbane in August, 1975, I immediately looked up the Brothers’ club, because I had played for Murwillumbah Brothers from 1968 until 1975 (although I finished the 1975 season with Wingham Tigers). Brothers at Murwillumbah played in the blue and gold of Marist Brothers, whereas the Brothers’ network in Queensland was aligned with the Christian Brothers.
That didn’t matter, as I fronted up for training and was immediately embraced (figuratively speaking) by the likes of Pat Hannan, Murray Schultz, Ian Dauth, Alan Power and Mark Thomas. I had played against Alan in the Group 18-Gold Coast competition.
Brisbane Brothers won 10 premierships, the first in 1926, with future Kangaroo tour skipper, Tom Gorman the superstar. Brian Davies was ‘The Man’ when Brothers won titles in 1956 and ’58, while in 1967 and ’68, the likes of Peter Gallagher, John Gleeson, Eric Gelling and Dennis Manteit were the stars.
Wayne Bennett played fullback when Brothers were beaten 9-2 by Valleys in the 1974 Grand Final, while David Wright, Ian Dauth, Bob Cock and Graham Quinn were some of the stars of the 1976 side which won the Presidents Cup, but lost 18-10 to eventual premiers, Wests in the preliminary final.
In 1986 Brothers showed enormous courage to lead the star-studded Wynnum-Manly side 6-4 at halftime in the Grand Final, before going down 14-6. In the movie, coach, Ross Strudwick and captain, Trevor Bailey are certainly frank in their appraisal of the performance of Test referee, Eddie Ward.
Eddie was in charge again in 1987 when Brothers triumphed, and the film’s coverage of the match and the celebrations, was enough to bring a tear to the eye, realising it was the end of an era. Mick Moore, the former Brothers’ player who went on to become Melbourne Storm Football manager, and died in a mishap in Auckland in 2000, features in footage of the players back at the leagues club.
There were many funny moments, such as Shane McErlean crash tackling ‘Struddy’ in the leagues club, as he did a television interview. ‘Struddy’ carried on as if nothing had happened.
One of the ‘stars’ of the movie was former winger, Noel ‘Oodles’ Garvey, who recalled the days when the club’s base was the future home of Queensland Rugby union, Ballymore. There were no club facilities there, so the players would have to get the bus to the Valley for as beer afterwards. The way Noel told his stories had the audience chuckling. He’s a natural yarn spinner.
Former skipper, David Wright said the saddest aspect of Brothers’ demise was the loss of their home base at Corbett Park, Grange, with so many people having put so much time, money and effort into the footy fields and the impressive leagues club, which became a place of pilgrimage for Brothers’ people from throughout the state.
Of course, you always learn something at these events, or are reminded of things that you may have long forgotten.
For instance: Brothers goal kicking winger, Ian Dauth was also a fine cricketer, and was picked in a Queensland senior squad for a match against North Coast at Lismore. Sam Trimble and co. took him to the Workers Club the night before, and got him drunk on schooners of Tooheys. “I wasn’t used to those big glasses,” ‘Dauthy’ said. Ian, a Beaudesert High student, also won a State under-17 long jump title at Lang Park (the sand pit was at the southern end of the ground). “I turned up in shorts and bare feet, and all these private school types had tracks suits and spikes. My teacher said to make the first jump count, and I did. No-one bettered it.”
St George Illawarra were keen on signing Brothers’ utility back, Vince O’Brien, but Vince was ruled out of the 1987 finals because of injury, and Mark Coyne took his place. The rest is history.
If you want a great taste of Queensland and Rugby League history, get hold of a copy of Anthony O’Brien’s: ‘Brothers. Close and Far.’