Queensland hooker, Nick Geiger outplayed his highly regarded New South Wales’ rival, George Peponis in the first match of the 1977 inter-state series, under the lights at Brisbane’s Lang Park. The Courier-Mail’s former Kangaroo Tour vice-captain, Jack Reardon tipped Geiger for Test honours in the World Series Tournament, which was to be played in June and July.
Geiger won the scrums 16-7 against Peponis, who was being groomed as a future Australian captain. Born in Greece, Peponis’s family had migrated to Australia when he was 18 months old. He attended Canterbury Boy’s High, and later studied medicine.
Despite enjoying a glut of possession, Queensland had no answer to the class of New South Wales, with the Blues winning 19-3, in front of a crowd of 18,000.
It poured rain for most of the 80 minutes, but the Blues still displayed slick handling, to run-in five tries to one, with Test lock, Greg Pierce named Man of the Match, winning $300 as a result. Pierce was pushed for the award by skipper, Arthur Beetson, the legendary Queenslander, who was playing for the Blues in the pre-State of Origin days. The other Queenslanders in the NSW line-up were Rod Reddy, Ray Higgs and Mark Harris, while Queensland boasted two New South Welshman – Brian Gardiner and Greg ‘Slippery’ McCarthy.
Rival halves, Greg Oliphant (Queensland) and Tom Raudonikis (NSW) had an absorbing duel, while Reardon rated Queensland five eighth, Steve Crear one of the best backs on the field.
“Young Brothers’ centre, Mark Thomas, playing in his first inter-state match, showed tremendous promise,” Reardon wrote. “His defence was sound and he instigated Queensland’s only try with classical centre play, in which he got around his opposite (Mick Cronin) and put John Callus over in the corner.”
Goal kicking from both sides was poor in the testing conditions, with Cronin landing only two from seven shots, while Qld lock, John Ribot missed all five of his attempts, in his debut inter-state appearance. But Ribot was sensational in cover defence, frequently running down rivals, when they looked set to score, or set up a try.
Queensland had warmed up for the match by playing a trial against Wide Bay at Eskdale Park, Maryborough, as part of a training camp at Hervey Bay, where the players were put through their paces by renowned sprint coach, Ken Trewick, a former Brisbane Australian rules player. The Maroons scored an unimpressive 12-0 win over a Wide Bay side which featured former Test prop, Dennis Manteit. Manteit, who lived at Hervey Bay, frequently found holes in the Queensland defence. But the best player on the field was Wide Bay’s former State lock, Gary Pearson. Wide Bay were captained by fiery halfback, Alan Henrick and featured future Broncos and Gold Coast Titans’ chairman, Dennis Watt, at fullback, and future State of Origin forward, Bob Kellaway. Prop, Rod Morris was Queensland’s best.
Muir consulted with legendary Toowoomba coach, Duncan Thompson about tactics, and brought in former Test prop, Duncan Hall to work with the forwards. On their return to Brisbane from Hervey Bay, the Queenslanders stayed at the Melbourne Hotel, South Brisbane. Team manager was Geoff Wall
Muir said his players had gained in confidence as the match progressed against New South Wales, and he was confident the Maroons would provide a number of players to the Australian side.
Muir nominated Geiger, Mark Thomas and Greg Veivers as short priced favourites for National selection, and also tipped one of his backrow forwards, either of the Platz brothers (Greg and Lew) or Bob Cock, to get the nod. As things transpired, Geiger, Thomas, Veivers, Crear and Morris all represented Australia during the World Series, under the coaching of Terry Fearnley, who also coached New South Wales.
In Brisbane club football, leading up to the start of the inter-state series, young forward, Darryl Brohman reacted to his omission from the State side with one of the best all round performances seen in the Queensland capital. Brohman was the instigator of many of the Devils’ attacking raids in a 37-2 win over Wynnum-Manly at Lang Park, and also had the Seagulls on the back foot with well placed kicks.
Brohman had played for City against Country and for South Queensland against New South Wales Country, but missed out on the State squad, a major disappointment for the Wavell High School graduate, who had turned his back on four lucrative Sydney offers, to instead sign a two-year deal with the QRL and Norths. Skipper, Bruce Warwick scored 22 points from two tries and eight goals in the win over Wynnum, whose best player was hooker, John Dowling.
Rival props, John Barber (Redcliffe) and Max Williamson (Wests) were sent off by referee, Stan Scamp after they clashed in a scrum in the Sunday Lang Park match, won 16-10 by Redcliffe. Lock, Ian Thinee and fullback, Ian ‘Bunny’ Pearce were Redcliffe’s best, while second rower, Rod Bradshaw shone for Wests.
At Corbett Park, Grange, home side Brothers accounted for Easts 23-15, with Brothers’ winger, Ian Dauth proving the difference with his accurate goal kicking. The Beaudesert product landed seven goals from as many shots, and also scored a try.
The star of the match was Brothers’ centre, Paul Beauchamp who continually broke the line, and always knew when to pass the ball to supports.
The Courier-Mail’s Lawrie Kavanagh referred to Beauchamp as a ‘gadabout attacker, who had Easts’ defence tied up in knots.”
In the other match, Valleys defeated Souths 21-5 at Davies Park, after Souths had led 5-4 at halftime. Valleys played the game in the forwards, with Mal Arbuthnot, Ian Sommer and Tom Duggan showing the way. Souths’ best player was nuggety forward, Mal Connell.
Footnote: Dr George Peponis made his Test debut against the Kiwis in 1978, and captained Australia in the home series against Great Britain in 1979. He also captained Australia on the 1980 tour of New Zealand.