Norths Devils experienced the highs and lows of rugby league in a three day stretch, courageously winning a Brisbane premiership game, and then being humiliated by a Sydney club, in a televised knock-out match.
An inexperienced Norths’ side caused a major upset by beating Redcliffe 15-10 on April 10, but on April 13 lost 60-0 to Sydney Wests, with 17-year-old future international, Gavin Miller scoring three tries for the Magpies.
The Courier-Mail’s Lawrie Kavanagh was left dumbfounded by what he saw, in the floodlit, Amco Cup match at Lang Park.
“For a Brisbane club team to have 12 tries scored against it, with almost no opposition, is a blow to Queensland’s reputation in league,” Kavanagh wrote. “It follows Central Queensland’s crushing 74-3 loss to Cronulla last week. Norths started looking overawed, and got worse as the game went on.”
Wests’ fullback, Wayne Smith scored four tries and was named man-of-the-match. But Miller, playing in the centres, might have got the award, except for coach, Keith Holman’s decision to rest him at the 50 minute mark. Miller was all class, with Kavanagh predicting big things for the Goulburn product. Miller’s co-centre, Ron Giteau scored three tries, while former rugby union player, Peter Rowles kicked 12 goals from 13 shots.
Richlands State High School defeated Marist Brothers, Rosalie, 24-13 in the Amco Shield curtain raiser.
Norths’ win over Redcliffe at Bishop Park, three days before the Wests’ debacle, was full of merit, given the Devils fielded three first grade debutants – schoolboy, Bevan Baptiste; centre, Peter Dutton and winger, David Eastley. Baptiste, 17, more than matched his opposite, State five eighth, Steve Williams. Second rower, Gary Seaton had a strong defensive game for Norths, while winger, Bruce Warwick kicked six goals from as many shots, which proved the difference. Ralph Michaels scored Norths’ only try, while Peter Leis and Ian ‘Bunny’ Pearce crossed for Redcliffe.
Brothers became outright leaders of the competition when they defeated Souths 18-9 at Lang Park, with winger, Ian Dauth kicking six goals from eight shots. There was plenty of ‘needle’ in the match, and early in the first half a brawl erupted in front of the Frank Burke Stand, with at least 10 players involved.
“It was over quickly and there were a few surprising fisticuff performances, with increased respect for at least two individuals,” wrote Jack Reardon in ‘The Courier-Mail’. He did not identify the two impressive pugilists.
Former Brothers St Brendan’s centre, red haired Kerry Fraser, tackled magnificently for Souths, while Darryl Van de Velde’s ball skills were also a feature of the Magpies’ game. Brothers’ defence cracked only once in the first half, with lock, Pat Phelan scoring after backing up a break by captain-coach, Wayne Bennett. Souths led 9-4 at halftime, but Brothers equalised 10 minutes after the resumption, when second rower, Pat Hannan scored in the corner after good lead-up work by centre, Mark Thomas.
Brothers’ hard working prop, John Short was carried from the field with an ankle injury 15 minutes from fulltime and his replacement, future Olympic swim coach, Vince Raleigh, plunged over for Brothers’ second try a few minutes from the end.
In the Saturday Lang Park match, Valleys beat Easts 28-9 with lock, John Ribot scoring two tries and landing five goals. Centre, Alan Beauchamp also scored two tries.
In the other match of the round, hooker, John Dowling starred for Wynnum-Manly in their 29-7 win over Wests in the Monday Lang Park clash, scoring two tries and setting up winger, Phil Bliss for one of his two tries. Dowling also kicked a goal.
Dowling was a teammate of mine at Murwillumbah Brothers, with his father, Pat one of the founders of the club, in 1958, after previously having played for Murwillumbah High School Old Boys. John and his older brother, Gary had played for Easts in Brisbane, with John the understudy to Test hooker, John Lang. Gary moved to Gundagai in 1975, and went on to represent New South Wales Country.
Wynnum were showing signs of developing into a fine attacking unit, under the coaching of former Test halfback, Dennis Ward. International forward, Lew Platz and centre, Greg Perrett pushed Dowling for man of the match honours, with all three receiving points in ‘The Courier-Mail’ Best and Fairest Award.
Wests suffered a setback before the match against Wynnum, with the withdrawal, through injury, of hooker, Gary Prickett, his place going to Shane McNally, who scored all of the Panthers’ points, through a try and two goals. In the days of contested scrums, Dowling gave Wynnum a huge advantage in possession, winning the ball 21-11. Injuries in the pack saw Wests’ skipper, Harry Cameron move from centre to the second row in the second half, with Mark Hogan the new man in the backs. Hogan had represented North Coast of New South Wales against Great Britain at Grafton in 1974, from the Taree United club.
At Wondai, in Queensland’s South Burnett region, the local Wide Bay representative side was beaten 23-13 by Toowoomba in a Carlton Cup fixture. Wide Bay led 11-2, and looked set for a convincing win. But former Brisbane Valleys’ forward, Jeff Gill changed the complexion of the game when he came off the bench late in the first half. Gill scored a try and worked well with representative stars, Rohan Hancock and Allan Smith. Former State winger, Harry Pickering scored two tries for Wide Bay, while future State of Origin star, Brad Backer, also crossed for a try.
Footnote: Gavin Miller joined Easts Roosters in 1978, but played most of his career with Cronulla. He represented Australia against the Rest of the World in Sydney in 1988.