FLASHBACK: April 1997

APRIL 1997

Wendell Sailor was sent to the sin bin by referee, Bill Harrigan after a melee in which the Broncos’ winger hit Cowboys’ centre, Paul Bowman with a flurry of punches in a heated Super League premiership clash, watched by a record crowd of 30,122 at Townsville’s Stockland Stadium.

Sailor blamed ‘impatience’ for his uncharacteristic display of fisticuffs as the Broncos cruised to a 42-16 win, to maintain their undefeated start to the season. He said a few “niggling things” might have contributed to his fighting effort, but essentially it came down to his frustration at not getting much of the action.

“My job is to  cross the line and I had scored five tries leading into this match,” he said. “But this was a forward’s match. I’m not a patient layer. I’ve played second row and fullback in State of Origin, and I thought I might have gone back to fullback when ‘Locky’ (Darren Lockyer) went off injured.”

Lockyer was taken from the field on a medicab, concussed, after being flung to the ground by five eighth, John Doyle. Lockyer hit the ground head first, his arms pinned by the tackler. Lockyer returned to the field in the second half.

Sailor and Cowboys’ forward, Paul Galea were the players marched by Harrigan after the second half fracas, which started after Sailor took exception to something, as he tackled Bowman. Sailor went at Bowman like a thrashing machine, with Galea rushing to his teammate’s aid.

Cowboys’ coach, Tim Sheens said the class of Broncos’ five eighth, Kevin Walters on the edge of the rucks was a major factor in the Broncos’ win. Centres, Steve Renouf and Tonie Carroll and inter-change forward, Peter Ryan each scored two tries, while hooker, Jason Death crossed twice for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys won a fiery reserve  grade clash 16-6 and also got up in the under19s – 34-14. Second rower, Ben Heath scored three tries for the Cowboys 19s. The Broncos won the under-17s, 24-14.

Reserve grade finished an hour before the first grade and the gap was filled by Country and Western music, part of Super League’s promise to make each match day experience, an ‘event’. Ninety minutes after fulltime, vehicles were at standstill on roads around the stadium. (I know, because I was stuck in the traffic).

Broncos’ second rower, Gorden Tallis, who had a great personal duel with Cowboys’ Test forward, Ian Roberts, took umbrage at comments from Canterbury coach, Chris Anderson that Solomon Haumono was “way in front of Tallis”, as a ball runner and tackler.

“As a runner he could be anything. He’s just a tremendous athlete,” Anderson said of Haumono, after he had scored two tries in Canterbury’s 34-22 win over Adelaide at Belmore Oval. “He can belt a bloke in defence and he’s simply devastating in attack.”

“That’s just Chris Anderson isn’t it,” Tallis said. “If you asked 10 different blokes, they would name 10 different second rowers as the most damaging in the game. It’s horses for courses. I can’t score a try like Steve Menzies, but I can do other things.”

Other results from round 6 were: Cronulla 20 Perth 6 at the WACA; Penrith 36 Hunter 24 at Penrith. (Fullback, Robbie Ross scored two tries for Hunter); Auckland 31 defeated Canberra 24 at Bruce Stadium. Former All Black, Marc Ellis kicked five goals from six shots and slotted a field goal for Auckland. Laurie Daley scored two tries for the Raiders.

Leading up to Round 6, Super League’s Tri-series was launched in spectacular fashion in Sydney, with the naming of the New South Wales squad at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, with Premier Bob Carr reading out the names. Cowboys’ coach, Tim Sheens was in charge of the Blues, while Broncos’ coach, Bennett had the Maroons. Bennett’s co-selectors were his brother-in-law, Greg Veivers and Des Morris. Former Queensland centre/five eighth, Peter Jackson was part of the management team.

Veivers noted a shortage of quality props nationwide, in Super League’s Telstra Cup and the ARL’s Optus Cup. (There were two club competitions in 1997 following a two year battle for control of the game – the ‘Super League War).

“There are hardly any (props) around from a Queensland point of view, and there are none in the juniors,” he said.

Super League television ads showed Queensland players arriving at the ground in limousines and leaving in ambulances.

The Queensland team was to go into camp at the Hyatt Coolum on the Sunshine Coast. New Zealand was the other side in the Tri-series, and they were to be coached by Graeme Norton from Northcote.

Former Brisbane Rothmans Gold Medal winner, Steve Calder was announced as coach of the Queensland under-19 Super League side. His squad included the likes of Broncos, Shaun Berrigan and Shane Walker, as well as North Queensland’s Nathan Fien. Calder won the Rothmans while playing for Norths Devils in 1975.

Utility star, Terry Cook opted to remain in rugby league after being cut by ARL club, South Queensland Crushers. A member of the 1995 Queensland State of Origin winning side, Cook had trained with Brothers Rugby Union at Albion, before signing with Norths Rugby League at Nundah. In his first match for Norths, he was penalised for a high tackle on Easts’ prop, Chris Beattie, as the Devils crashed 28-14 to the Tigers at Langlands Park, in a Queensland Cup fixture.

Broncos’ star, Darren Lockyer rocked by a tackle by Cowboys’ Coffs Harbour product, Mark Shipway. Steve Renouf is the other Bronco

Queensland Super League selector, Des Morris with State skipper, Allan Langer

New South Wales Tri-series skipper, Laurie Daley (centre) with teammates, Matt Adamson (left) and Sean Ryan at the naming of the Blues’ side in Sydney

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