FLASHBACK: June 1982

JUNE 1982

New South Wales’ critics reported a return to normal service after the Blues won the first match of the inaugural State of Origin series in 1982, with the Queensland side rocked by a contract drama on the day of the Lang Park match.

When Origin kicked off in 1980, it was a stand-alone fixture, with the John ‘Cracker’ McDonald coached Queenslanders winning 20-10. Queensland, with Artie Beetson the new coach, also won the stand-alone 1981 fixture. It was decided to make Origin best of three in 1982, although if either State won the first two games, there would not be a third ‘dead rubber’ clash.

New South Wales survived a brilliant finishing burst by Queensland at Lang Park in Game 1, to win 20-16, with winger, Ziggy Niszczot scoring two tries.

The Queensland side was almost changed only hours before kick-off, when Colin Scott, Mark Murray and Gene Miles hesitated to sign the official QRL contracts, which required players to remain in Queensland the following year.

QRL chairman, Ron McAuliffe threatened the trio with the axe, saying he already had three fresh players ready to fill the void. Under that sort of pressure, Scott, Miles and Murray signed on the dotted line. McAuliffe, a former Senator, was a formidable figure, and the players knew he was not bluffing.

Perhaps the ‘mini revolt’ was playing on the minds of the Queenslanders when they took the field, as they were held try-less for 67 minutes.

But the Maroons staged a storming finish.

“The screaming, stamping, clapping capacity crowd almost tore the Lang Park stands apart when Queensland scored two tries within two minutes late in the second half,” wrote The Courier-Mail’s Lawrie Kavanagh. “The tries, by John Ribot and Mitch Brennan, after exhilerating attacking bursts by (Man of the match) Mal Meninga, were the first and only tries by Queensland, and brought the scores from 17-8 to 17-16 with 11 minutes remaining.”

The stage was set for a gripping finish after Meninga threw the final pass for Brennan’s try, making the score 17-16 to the Blues. But replacement winger, Brad Izzard, scored in the corner, to silence the fans, at least for 90 seconds or so. Queensland put up a bomb a minute before fulltime, with Riverina product, Greg Brentnall leaping high to safely take the ball.

NSW hooker, Max Krilich won the scrums 10-4 against Queensland debutant, John Dowling from the St Gorge club in Sydney. Dowling had won 10 scrums in a row in a club match the previous weekend, but in the Origin match he was lining up against his club loose head prop, Craig Young.

New South Wales, coached by Frank Stanton, had arrived in Brisbane the day before the match, and held a light training run at Davies Park, West End. Beetson took his players through their paces at Neumann Oval, followed by a light run at Brisbane Gammar on the morning of the match. Prop, Rod Morris was a late scratching with a leg injury, his place going to Bob Kellaway. Kellaway was about to leave Brisbane Markets on his delivery run, when QRL Managing director, Ross Livermore phoned to say he was in the side.

“They wouldn’t have been able to get me all day, if Ross had missed me then,” Kellaway told The Courier-Mail’s Barry Dick. (This was long before mobile phones).

Ipswich beat Brisbane 14-11 in an under-18 curtain raiser to the Origin, with halfback, Nev Langer one of the stars for Ipswich.

Footnote: Lawrie Kavanagh surmised that the non-sellout of the Origin (the crowd was 27,500) could have been the result of over-promotion, with the game advertised as a sellout days beforehand. He also blamed the ABC’s highly acclaimed television show, ‘Brideshead Revisited’ for keeping people in their lounge rooms on the Tuesday night.

Mal Meninga

Ross Livermore (left) and John McCoy

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