The struggling South Queensland Crushers were labelled the ‘Redcliffe Mafia’, after Dolphins’ stalwart, Steve Bleakley was appointed head coach, replacing sacked former Test lock, Bob Lindner, for the 1997 ARL Optus Cup season.

The Crushers’ chairman was legendary former Redcliffe boss, and Queensland State of Origin manager, Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner, while recruitment chief, Paul Bunn was also ex-Redcliffe, as were fellow staff members, Peter Murphy and Keith Welsh.

Bleakley played for Redcliffe from 1980 to 1988, and had a stint with English club, Leeds in 1984-85. A knee reconstruction put an end to the former Caboolture banana farmers’ playing career, while he was contracted to another English club, York, in 1989.

On his return to Brisbane, Bleakley became Trevor Day’s assistant coach at Redcliffe. The Crushers recruited him in 1995 to coach their team in the Brisbane competition, and in 1996 he took the Crushers Reserves to the ARL semis. He was the popular pick among the players to succeed Lindner.

Bleakley defended the right of the Crushers to appoint so many people from Redcliffe.

“From memory, Wayne Bennett had plenty of people from Souths (Brisbane) with him, when the Broncos first kicked off (in 1988),” Bleakley said.  “We are here because of what we can contribute to the place, and we will be judged on that, and nothing else. At the end of the day, I won’t be telling my players any bullshit. A few of them need a few home truths. I will be encouraging my players to get part-time work, and we’ll try to mould their training around their commitments. There has to be an outlet outside of football.”

The Crushers were reportedly in the market for veteran Manly-Warringah forward, David ‘Cement’ Gillespie, following the loss of Grant Young (Warriors) and Tony Hearn (St George). The Crushers had been cleared to sign players, after creditors accepted a Deed of Company arrangement from the club’s administrators.

Two days earlier, John Quayle had resigned as chief executive of the New South Wales and Australian Rugby Leagues, a step seen as a breakthrough in the bid for reconciliation between the ARL and the News Limited backed Telstra Cup, Super League competition.

ARL chairman, Ken Arthurson said his board had tried to convince Quayle to change his mind, “but John felt it was in the best interests of the game.”

Queensland Rugby League managing director, Ross Livermore said Quayle had simply had a gutful of the 12 ARL clubs putting out their hands for more money, despite the size of the rescue package he had negotiated with Optus Vision, the rivals of Super League’s Fotxtel.

“He has often been treated badly here (in Queensland) by people who don’t know the standards he sets and the loyalty he has to the game,” Livermore said. “Some of the things that have been said about him are outrageous. In the past few years, he has worked under enormous pressure, and kept the ARL flag flying against the attack of an outside pirate.”

In other news, ARL’s Wests’ Magpies announced they had extended coach, Tom Raudonikis’s deal by two years, to the end of 1999. And Super League’s North Queensland Cowboys confirmed Kiwi international, John Lomax would join his former Canberra coach, Tim Sheens in Townsville, on a two-year deal.

Steve Bleakley with his partner, Karen Marsh at Redcliffe in 1996

Queensland manager, Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner embraces Sam Backo (left) and coach, Wayne Bennett after a Maroons’ win. Wally Lewis is behind Turner, while Allan Langer is interviewed in the background.

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