FLASHBACK: January, 1982


Test rugby league fullback, Garry Dowling signed for the Burleigh Bears in what shaped as a major coup for the inaugural Winfield State League, in which the eight Brisbane clubs were to compete with the six country divisional teams, one of them the Southport based, Gold Coast Vikings.

Dowling, Man of the Series in Australia’s two Test campaign in New Zealand in 1980, signed for one year with the Bears, for a five figure sum. Burleigh were coached by former Queensland fullback, Tony Scott, while the Vikings also boasted a former elite level fullback as coach – former New South Wales Country, Canterbury, North Sydney and Wynnum-Manly star, Peter Inskip.

Originally from Oakdale in Sydney’s South West, Dowling played for Canterbury Bankstown from 1971 to 1978 before having two years at Parramatta, followed by one season with Wests Magpies. He represented New South Wales in 1975, and again in 1981.

In 1976, the great Clive Churchill rated Easts’ Roosters’ star, Russell Fairfax the best fullback in Australia, but Churchill said he believed Fairfax should play five eighth, to allow Dowling to be fullback.

Dowling moved to the Gold Coast for business opportunities, probably more so than the football, but said he had not given up on playing at representative level, at the same time acknowledging it would be difficult to leapfrog players from the Sydney premiership into New South Wales and Australian teams.

Dowling was eligible for the Queensland Country side, coached by Henry Holloway, which would contest the KB Cup. Arthur Beetson was appointed coach of the Brisbane representative team, getting the nod ahead of his former Australian teammate, Bob McCarthy. Beetson coached Redcliffe, while McCarthy was in charge of Souths Magpies, who had beaten Redcliffe in the 1981 grand final, when Beetson was captain-coach.

Former Queensland fullback, Tony Obst started training with his new club, Brothers, at Corbett Park, Grange, after his shock switch from Redcliffe, where he had spent 11 seasons. Obst played second row in the ’81 grand final. Brothers, coached by Wayne Bennett, had finished last in 1981.

Kentucky Fried Chicken announced a $132,500 sponsorship desal with the QRL, with Colonel Sanders’ head to appear on the front of the jerseys of seven of 14 sides in the State League. They were North Queensland, Wide Bay, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Souths, Redcliffe and Brothers. The other seven clubs had sponsorship deals which covered front of jersey display. For instance – Gold Coast were to have XXXX on their jersey, while Valleys were sponsored by Avco Finance.

International prop, Rohan Hancock announced he would continue to play his football on the Darling Downs, and turn out for Toowoomba in the State League. But former Valleys and South Sydney forward, Charlie ‘Hit Man’ Frith said he would retire from football, to concentrate on running the family cattle property near Roma.

Test prop, Rod Morris also announced his retirement, after three seasons with Balmain in Sydney. It was expected the former Ipswich and Brisbane Easts’ star would turn out for Wynnum-Manly, given older brother, Des was coach, and was looking for an experience forward leader.

Morris told Jack Craig from ‘The Courier-Mail’ he was satisfied with the deal offered to him by Wynnum, but found it hard to motivate himself for training.

In North Queensland, the Burdekin League had applied to host the Foley Shield final at Ayr, as a feature of the district’s Centenary celebrations. Burdekin offered NQ the use of its Ayr ground (Rugby Park), rent free, along with the right to all gate proceeds and profits from beer sales. The local league only wanted to retain the right to food sales.

The Foley Shield Final’s traditional home was the Townsville Sports Reserve, where ground rentals and liquor sales went to the Sports Reserve Trust. It was thought the allocation of the final to Ayr would prove a financial bonanza for rugby league. As things transpired, the final went ahead in Townsville.

And Rod Morris ultimately played, making his return to football late in the State League campaign. He went on to play for Queensland in the first ever Origin series (which the Maroons won); for Australia in two Trans-Tasman Tests, and then for the Kangaroos on their undefeated tour of Britain and France. He hung up the boots at the end of the tour.

Oh. And he captained Wynnum to their first ever BRL Grand Final premiership.

Garry Dowling in action for Canterbury-Bankstown

A 1980s Winfield State League launch.

One response to “FLASHBACK: January, 1982

  1. Everytime since Garry Dowling’s unfortunate death on that Albert River bridge at Mundoolan I think of him and those times when I venture to Beaudesert. It’s the nature of road travel and death I suppose. Checked it out, he was only 30 years old. Then rediscovered that Garry was the Canterbury Grand Final fullback for my first attended SCG event in ’74. I was still 15 and the entire 3 grades of Cities RL club flew Ansett to the event with our own club old boy Artie Beetson captaining the victorious Eastern Suburbs Roosters. Stayed at the Wentworth Hotel, a far cry from club favourite, Tim Galton’s Empire Hotel in Roma. One of 10 pubs in town. Then the Cross Saturday night, what an eye opener for a 15 year old country boy. Caught a plane Sunday morning to the Sportsmen’s Hotel Brisbane before the wet and still raining Valley V Brothers grand final viewed from the soakened outer terraces. In someone’s car I suppose for the 7 hr trip home for school Monday morning. How did we ever survive? Call it the 70’s.

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