Wallaby stars, Bob Honan and George Ruebner switched to rugby league with South Sydney and Balmain respectively, but it was a lesser known University union player from Brisbane, who was to have the biggest impact on the 13-man code.
Paul ‘Porky’ Morgan, a 19-year-old breakaway at the time, signed at Wests Panthers for the 1967 Brisbane season, after starring for University in local club rugby. Wests’ captain-coach was legendary Test halfback, Barry Muir.
Morgan, the brother of Queensland Sheffield Shield pace bowler, Sandy Morgan, would go on to become a founding director, and later chairman, of the Brisbane Broncos and one of the code’s movers and shakers. He was heavily involved in the early stages of the Super League ‘revolution’.
Having studied economics at University, Morgan also set up a stock broking business, which achieved enormous success and backed the filming of ‘Crocodile Dundee’, starring Paul Hogan.
Morgan, who had toured Fiji with the Queensland Union side in 1966, made his league debut in late January, 1967 – against Toowoomba Valleys – in a pre-season double header at Corbett Park, Grange, played under the new four tackle rule.
The Courier-Mail’s chief league writer, former international, Jack Reardon, said Morgan was Wests’ best tackler in the first half and also used the ball intelligently.
In 1967 Wests also welcomed back hefty forward, Ray McCarron, who had spent the 1966 season playing in the Auckland competition in New Zealand. The club also regained the services of State utility, Kev Lingard, a school teacher, who had returned to Brisbane from Rockhampton. It was timely, given 1966 custodian, Doug Walker had been transferred in his work, to Sydney.
Wests lost 14-6 in the 1967 trial against the Toowoomba club, whose halves, Wally Walker and Ray Lattermore dazzled their rivals.
In the early game, premiers, Norths beat their 1966 grand final rivals, Brothers 15-12 with forwards, Bob Duncan and Johnny Bates causing havoc in the rucks. Indigenous centre, Henry Hegarty was the best of Norths’ backs. Brothers’ best were prop, Dennis Manteit and centre, Barry ‘Tubby’ Dowling.
Redcliffe had organised a trial against Kilcoy, at Kilcoy for early in February.
Bob Honan signed with South Sydney from the Brisbane Brothers’ Union club, while Ruebner switched from Randwick in Sydney. Both men were considered unlucky omissions from the Wallaby touring side to Britain and France late in 1966, but Australian union had a surfeit of quality backs in those days. The opposite was true of the forwards.
Honan would go on to play in two grand final winning sides with the Rabbitohs, while also representing Australia in two Tests, and touring New Zealand in 1969. Ruebner won a premiership with Balmain in 1969 – against a Souths’ side which included Honan. Ruebner did not represent Australia in league, but played for New South Wales.
Morgan won a Bulimba Cup with Toowoomba, in 1970, when he was playing club football on the Darling Downs. Toowoomba were coached by former Test centre, Bob Hagan, and beat Brisbane in the final in a major upset, with Morgan the Clydesdales’ best forward.
Morgan got to know young fullback, Wayne Bennett during his time at Toowoomba, and in 1987 signed Bennett as inaugural coach of the Broncos. Morgan died of a heart attack on January 26, 2001, while playing golf.