25 Years ago - NQ and Wide Bay in Thriller

by Mike Higgison
25 Years ago ... 1981 Datsun Country Championships (Townsville 2,3,4 May 1981)
IPSWICH -Ray Ovens, Allan Landers, Bernie Lowther (capt), Graham Air, Brian Dobinson, Peter White, Cliff Langer, Ken Wilson, Kym Douglass, Stephen George, Peter Meehan, Greg Conlon, Sid Faulkner, Bernie O'Doherty, John McCabe, Gary Coyne, Bernie Patell, Graeme Leo, Coach - Jim Foreman

CENTRAL QUEENSLAND - Andrew McDonald, Chris Binney, Greg Reynolds, Larry Norton, Robert Rayne, Doug Kelly, John Hunter, Steve Crear (capt), Pat Smith, Perry Mason, Glen Mooney, Trevor Johnson, Wayne Guivarra, Ross Radel, Darryl O'Leary, Chris Rothery, Fred Smith, Michael Gorde, Kevin Manderson, Coach - Barry Muir

GOLD COAST - Gary Thomas, Billy Yandell, David Skeen, Keith Farrelly, Terry Hansen, Jim Clancy, Wayne Homer, Pat Shepherdson, Jimmy Crane, John Turner, Greg Jones, David Gould, Drew Woodward, Paul Mooney, Wayne McInnes, Rick Nagel, Phil Price, Laurie Oar

TOOWOOMBA - Rick Werribone, Warren Green, Scott Barkla, David Ragh, Gary Ladbrook, Barry Davidson, Bob Swain, Gary Harm, Malcolm Green, Rohan Hancock, Garry Sutton, Joel Juke (capt), Ian Lindenmeyer, Col Simmons, Nick Muir, Jeff Betts, Dennis Hintz, John Argus, Len Dimtrovoski, Ron Hanna, Brad Guymer, coach - Jeff Gill

NORTH QUEENSLAND - Frank Daisy, John McDonald, Tim Cornforth, Kel Darvy, Archie Tanna, Chris Williams, Col Moore, Paul Laffin, Doug Slater, Howard Wicks, Brian Mann, Marshall Colwell (capt), Eddie Muller, Doug Nortaris, Paul Bartolo, Bruce Middlin, Steve Perry, Gary Dales, Kelvin Newton, Max Churchill, Coach - Peter Luppi

WIDE BAY - Gary Crawford, Shane Beatson, John Adams, Greg Nelson, Neville Watts, Greg McMahon, David Adams, Greg Henry, Steve Kichter, Paul Gardner, Richie Sommers, Gary Prickett (capt), Doug Drew, Kevin O'Neill, John Booth, Eric Cassagrande, Duncan Campbell, Col Gilmore, Tony Elliott, Danny Toya, Coach - Gary Pearson
Results of qualifying matches
North Qld 24 d Central Qld 5 - Two tries by rampaging forward Marshall Colwell sealed the match against a disappointing CQ.
Toowoomba 19 d Gold Coast 8 - Minus a number of stars, the makeshift Clydesdales steamrolled a fatigued Gold Coast.
North Qld 8 d Gold Coast 5 - A match which lived up to its billing as the best of the weekend, could have gone either way.
Wide Bay 23 d Ipswich 0 - An injury-riddled Ipswich was never in the hunt against the crisp and fast-running Capras.
Ipswich 12 d Toowoomba 10 - The upset of the carnival saw Bernie Lowther and Ray Ovens run rough-shod during the match.
Wide Bay 21 d Central Qld 8 - A forgettable match with poor defence and one-out rucking, with the better side winning easily.
Final : North Qld 17 def Wide Bay 16
NQ - Cornforth, Wicks, Williams tries; McDonald 4 goals
WB - Beatson 2, Nelson, Sommers tries; Nelson 2 goals
Scrums : Wide Bay 11-7 ; Penalties : North Qld 7-6

NORTH QUEENSLAND STEAL A THRILLER
From Rugby League Week - 7 May 1981
Young Maryborough centre Greg Nelson must have wanted the ground to open up and swallow him after North Queensland beat Wide Bay 17-16 in the championship final. Nelson had a touchline conversion attempt after the fulltime bell to give his side the title.
But the kick was bad and gave North Queensland yet another championship.

The final was a fitting end to a well-organised carnival and the result was always in doubt. North Queensland led 5-3 at halftime and then shot to a 10-3 break after only two minutes of the second half. But Wide Bay hit back with a good try by prop Richie Sommers.

With 22 minutes remaining and the score at 10-8, it was open slather again. Greg Nelson put Wide Bay in front for the first time after he finished off a good backline move to score in the corner. His near-touchline conversion gave Wide Bay a 13-12 lead.

But the second half scoring spree continued. North Queensland hit back two minutes later with a bullocking try by second-rower Howard Wicks. John McDonald converted the try and North Queensland looked home and hosed at 17-13. The partisan North Queensland crowd assumed the title was in the bag, but wide Bay, and particularly their big strong pack of forwards, had other ideas.

With the clock showing fulltime, prop Richie Sommers took a pass from the ruck about 10 metres from the North Queensland line. He held the ball up for what seemed a minute, and threw three dummies, before sending big winger Shane Beatson over in the corner. Nelson missed the kick and North Queensland had gained a deserved victory, despite the 3-4 try count against them.

They attacked more purposefully and had the better of the match territorially. North Queensland would have been desperately unlucky to lose this one. Best for the winners were fullback Paul Bartolo, halves Col Moore and Paul Laffin, 2nd rower Chris Williams and hooker Eddie Muller.

The pre-match selection surprise, when coach Peter Luppi moved Frank Daisy from fullback to lock and brought young Paul Bartolo into the side, paid handsome dividends. In an unlucky Wide Bay side, Greg Nelson, five-eighth John Booth, and forwards Doug Drew, Richie Sommers and hooker Gary Prickett were outstanding.

The Queensland Country squad selected for the annual clash with City, and a Tooth Cup match against Manly-Warringah, was as follows :- Paul Bartolo (Mackay), John McDonald (Proserpine), David Ragh (Toow.), Greg Nelson (Mary.), Robert Payne (Rock.), Col Moore (Cairns), David Adams (Bund.), Pat Shepherdson (GC), Chris Williams (Cairns), Howard Wicks (Mackay), Marshall Colwell (Mackay), Gary Prickett (Sun. Coast), Rohan Hancock (Warwick); Reserves - Rick Nagel (GC), Shane Beatson (Gympie), Paul Laffin (Mt. Isa), Paul Gardner (Sun. Coast), Greg Jones (GC), Eddie Muller (Mackay); Coach - Barry Muir
As a sidenote, the Combined Brisbane side selected for the Tooth Cup match against Newtown, and the match against Qld Country was as follows :- Joe Kilroy (Norths), Brad Backer (Easts), Mal Meninga (Souths), Chris Close (Redcliffe), Bligh Davidson (Bros.), Ray Kelly (Easts), Greg Oliphant (Redcliffe), Wally Lewis (Valleys), Bryan Niebling (Valleys), Chris Phelan (Souths), Arthur Beetson (Redcliffe) capt/coach, Jay Hoffman (Bros.), Trevor Deakin (Redcliffe); Reserves - Mick Neill (Valleys), Gene Miles (W/Manly), Tony Obst (Redcliffe), Greg Dowling (W/Manly), Terry Saunders (W/Manly), Brad Rowcliffe (Wests), Bob Kellaway (Bros.)


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For those local history buffs - Ted Weber has just released his new book "Hard Yards" a recollection of Maryborough Rugby League 1910-2010, it is available form the Maryborough District Family History Society, first floor Heritage Building, Wharf Street Maryborough, cost of $35 per book.