The final round of Winfield State League fixtures in 1982 was full of drama, with the comeback of Test rugby league star, Rod Morris; the sin binning of a player for a high shot on Queensland skipper, Wally Lewis; and the sad return of Maroons’ coach, Arthur Beetson, to his home town of Roma. There also were possible career ending injuries to promising young players, Chris Holmes and Grant Glasby.
Morris, who had returned to Queensland after three seasons with Balmain, made his comeback in Wynnum-Manly’s 16-7 win over North Queensland at Parramatta Park, Cairns. Initially Morris had turned down approaches from his older brother, Des to play for the Seagulls, but it proved to be more a case of saving himself for the Brisbane Premiership.
In 1982, the eight Brisbane clubs contested a State League, with the six Country Divisions, and once that was out of the way, the BRL resumed, with its guarantee of a 30,000 plus crowd for the Grand Final in September. Wynnum had never won a first grade premiership, and Des Morris was regarded as the club’s ‘great white hope’, given he had achieved remarkable success with Easts, as a player and coach, in the 1970s.
Rod missed the hot summer of pre-season training; the Woolies’ Pre-Season Competition and the first five rounds of the State League, but kept himself in good shape. He sat on the bench for the first three quarters of the match in Cairns, and when he was injected into the play, with 18 minutes left, was involved in an all-in-brawl from a scrum. Referee, John Willey sent Morris and North Queensland forward, Darryl Higgs to the bin for five minutes.
Gold Coast Vikings’ prop, John Turner was the man sent to the sin bin – for 10 minutes – following a high shot on Valleys’ star, Wally Lewis at Owen Park, Southport. It was a spiteful game, and Valleys were not without fault, with two forwards – Chris Williams and Bryan Niebling – sent to the sin for high shots on halfback, Steve Kavanagh and five eighth, Bradley Garrett, respectively. Garrett scored Gold Coast’s only try, a brilliant individual effort from a chip kick. Valleys won 19-5.
There were reports that Redcliffe coach, Arthur Beetson would play in the Dolphins’ match against Toowoomba in Roma, from where he had been first recruited by Redcliffe, back in 1964. ‘Artie’ ran on with the team, and performed a ceremonial kick-off, but did not play. His mother had died earlier in the week, and while Beetson was delighted with Redcliffe’s 37-0 win, he was naturally in a sombre mood.
I drove to Roma, with photographer, Roman Biegi, to cover the match for the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’. I also filed a story for Rugby League Week, at the request of their Queensland editor, Tony Durkin.
The match never rose to any great heights, with Redcliffe always in command. Big winger, Jim Talbot scored two tries, as did skilful forward, Terry Webb. Vic Tighe and Steve Bullow also impressed in the Redcliffe pack, while halfback, Colin Part skilfully directed play. Toowoomba halfback, Robert Walmsley defended gamely, while forwards, Joel Duke and International prop, Rohan Hancock held their own with the Dolphins’ set. Fullback, Tony Loxley displayed plenty of class when he came off the bench.
Prior to the trip, Redcliffe had been rocked by the news former Theodore lock, Chris Holmes faced the rest of the season on the sidelines because of impending eye surgery, which also threatened his playing career.
Wide Bay finished the State League in triumph, with a 13-10 win over the Wayne Bennett coached Brisbane Brothers side at Eskdale Park, Maryborough. Clever halfback, David Adams, a son of former Test winger, Don ‘Bandy’ Adams, was the star for the Bulls, and was given tremendous support by five eighth, Mick Argeros and slightly built lock, Greg Henry. Wide Bay prop, Peter Marles celebrated his 21st birthday with a running battle with Brothers’ Queensland representative, Bob Kellaway. Lock, Gary Walker was Brothers’ best.
Bennett revealed just before the match that talented prop/second rower, Grant Glasby was unlikely to play again, following knee surgery. “The doctor said he had never seen such a bad sporting injury. Both main ligaments in the knee were torn,” Bennett said.
Glasby had been injured late in the round 5 match against Gold Coast, when he made a tackle out wide, and collided with teammate, Bligh Davidson. Glasby had joined the Brisbane club from Murwillumbah Brothers at the start of the 1981 season. A former hockey star, he had been recommended to Bennett by former Queensland fullback, Gary Dobrich, who also was a Murwillumbah Brothers’ product.
Lang Park was the scene of a State League double header in the final round of fixtures, with Souths beating Easts 20-14 in an all-Brisbane affair, while Brisbane Norths belted Central Capras, 30-8.
Easts led Souths 14-7 after 45 minutes, but when State of Origin centre, Mal Meninga pressed the go button, the Magpies hit the front, thanks, first of all, to one of his trade-mark, blockbusting tries, followed by a powerful run which started a movement which led to a try for winger, Gary Thompson. Meninga’s sideline conversion gave Souths a 15-14 lead. Souths final try was scored by inter-change forward, Lyndon Cullen, who had an outstanding match.
For Easts, the most encouraging aspect of the game was the form of Queensland State of Origin forward, Paul Khan, whose skill with the ball should have resulted in more tries.
Winger Shane ‘Cocky’ McMahon and prop, Shane Bernardin each scored two tries for Norths in the early match at headquarters. Norths’ lock, Paul Bartier was the best player on the field, although he was pushed for those honours by Capras’ five eighth, Stewart White. Former State lock, Ian Thinee was at his brilliant best in defence for Central, and it was no coincidence that Norths scored three tries, while he was spending 10 minutes in the bin, after he earned the displeasure of Gold Coast referee, Joe Ticehurst.
In the other match of round 6, Wests defeated Ipswich 34-21 with Gold Coast referee, Gary Ward dismissing Ipswich hooker, Gordon Reid early in the second half after an ugly, all-in-brawl. Replacement forward, Gary Coyne was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes as a result of the same brawl, leaving the Jets with 11 men.
Ipswich had no answer to Wests’ crisp attack, in particular the devastating running of indigenous fullback, Tony Currie. Centre, Rory Jackson and five eighth, Tony Quinn each scored two tries, while halfback, Kevin Langer grabbed a double for Ipswich.
Wests and Redcliffe were the only undefeated teams in the competition, while Ipswich were the only team not to win a game. The final table was: Redcliffe, Wests 12 points; Souths, Easts, Wynnum-Manly 10; Norths 9; Brothers, Valleys 8; Gold Coast 7; North Queensland, Wide Bay 4; Toowoomba, Central Queensland 2, Ipswich 0.
Easts went on to beat Wests 13-6 in the semi-finals, while Redcliffe accounted for Souths 17-13 in the other semi. Easts then had the honour of claiming the first ever State League Trophy, beating the Dolphins 23-15 in the Grand Final at Lang Park.
Sydney Rugby Union and League circles were rocked by the news of the sudden death of John Ryan, a former Wallaby winger, a graduate of Eastwood Marist Brothers. Ryan, who played six Union Tests and three seasons with Penrith, was only 33. A post mortem revealed he had died from heart failure.
In England, Widnes and Hull played out a 14-all draw in the Challenge Cup Final at London’s Wembley Stadium, in front of a crowd of 94,147. This meant a replay had to be played later in the month – at Elland Road, Leeds. Hull won the replay 18-9. My good mates, Eric Hughes and the late Mick Adams. played for Widnes.
FOOTNOTE: The day after the Toowoomba v Redcliffe match, I interviewed former Valleys and South Sydney forward, Charlie ‘Hitman’ Frith at his cattle property, north of Roma. Frith had resisted all attempts to lure him out of retirement.