NZ RUGBY LEAGUE NEWS:
Queensland Team of the Century named Written by:Michael Hillier June 11th 2008 12:05 PM The Queensland Team of the Century was unveiled last night at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre in front of more than 1700 enthusiastic guests.
All five Queenslanders in the Australian Team of the Century – Arthur Beetson, Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Noel Kelly and Duncan Hall – made the Queensland team.
The star-studded side included seven State of Origin players.
Six players – Cecil Aynsley, Tom Gorman, Mick Madsen, Jimmy Craig, Duncan Thompson and Herb Steinohrt – played in the 1920s, an era often referred to as the golden age of Queensland Rugby League.
Wally Lewis was named captain, with Wayne Bennett the coach.
Queensland Team of the Century
1. Darren LOCKYER
2. Cecil AYNSLEY
3. Tom GORMAN
4. Mal MENINGA
5. Denis FLANNERY
6. Wally LEWIS ©
7. Allan LANGER
8. Mick MADSEN
9. Noel KELLY
10. Duncan HALL
11. Brian DAVIES
12. Arthur BEETSON
13. Bob LINDNER
14. Jim CRAIG
15. Duncan THOMPSON
16. Gene MILES
17. Herb STEINOHRT
Coach: Wayne BENNETT
Club: Brisbane Broncos 1995–2008
Darren Lockyer is a Roma lad, who was discovered by the Broncos’ super talent scout Cyril Connell. Like most true champions, Lockyer stood out from an early age — a product of the Queensland under-age teams, he played first grade at the Broncos in 1995 at 18 years of age, as a five-eighth.
His exceptional skills marked him as something special. He had great hands, could both punt and place-kick, was sure under the high ball, was deceptively fast, having an ability to go up a gear as he went for an opening, and he could tackle. He also never lost that shyness and modesty characteristic of many country people.
Perhaps 2003 was Lockyer’s most sensational year, as he won the player-of-the year award at the Broncos and led the Kangaroos, only the fourth Queenslanders to do so, after Tom Gorman, Wally Lewis and Mal Meninga.
One of the features of his play was his consistency, as well as the ability to rise to the occasion. He won the Clive Churchill Medal in 2000, and in 2006 led the Broncos to the premiership, Queensland to an Origin series, and Australia to victory in the Tri-Nations tournament. The all-round nature of Lockyer’s game was seen in 2004, when he moved from fullback, where he played most of his football during the previous seven seasons, to five-eighth, and handled the switch with aplomb.
Club landmarks: Won premierships with Brisbane 1997–98, 2000, 2006 (captain); Holds Brisbane club record for most appearances (275); most points (1134) and most points in a season (272);
Games for Qld: 29 (1997–2007; includes 27 State of Origins 1998–2007);
Tests for Australia: 36 (1998–2007) — 20 as captain; World Cup matches: Five (2000)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 2001, 2003 (captain); World Cup 2000; Tri-Nations tours 2004–05 (captain)
Clubs: Federals, Charters Towers 1918–21; Western Suburbs, Brisbane 1922–1925, Starlights; Ipswich 1926–30; Rochdale Hornets 1930–35
An electrifying winger, Cec Aynsley contributed to Queensland’s interstate dominance of the 1920s. The Queensland Rugby League Gazette of 1946 said he ‘was idolised by the crowds, not only because of his uncanny wing pace and elusiveness, but because of the wizardry of his goal kicking’.
Originally from Charters Towers, North Queensland, Aynsley played first grade at the age of 16 before heading south in 1922 to join Brisbane’s Western Suburbs. He won a premiership in his first year with Wests and became a regular for the Maroons throughout the 1920s, scoring 12 tries in 16 interstate matches. He performed phenomenally on Queensland’s 1925 tour of New Zealand, scoring 31 tries in 10 tour games.
Aynsley’s rise to Test honours was equally rapid. In 1924, he played alongside legendary three-quarters Harold Horder, Tom Gorman and Cec Blinkhorn in the first Ashes Test in Sydney, scoring Australia’s only try; a feat he repeated in the second Test played five days later. In the third Test, he was part of an all-Queensland backline that helped salvage a 21–11 victory at Brisbane’s Exhibition Ground.
Aynsley’s final Test appearance was in the first Test against Sullivan’s English tourists of 1928. A serious knee injury ruled him out for the remainder of the series and cost him any chance of touring with the 1929–30 Kangaroos. He joined the Rochdale Hornets club in 1930 and stayed five seasons.
Club landmarks: Won Brisbane premiership with Wests 1922
Games for Qld: 22 (1923–30);
Tests for Australia: Four (1924–28)
Representative landmarks: Toured New Zealand with Queensland 1925
Clubs: Toowoomba Brothers 1920–25; Brisbane Brothers 1926–30
The views of men who played alongside Tom Gorman tell more of him than anything else ever could. Duncan Thompson wrote: ‘Tommy Gorman was an artist … he shunned such crudities as power and beat men with acceleration and swerve that was just sheer grace. Having once seen him, I knew I had seen greatness.’
In 1929–30, on the tour of Chimpy Busch’s famous no try in the third Test, Gorman became the first Queenslander to captain a Kangaroo team, taking his men to within an inch of the Ashes and winning enormous respect for his leadership. ‘Tom Gorman’s presence in this country will be remembered for years to come by all who have met him and seen him play,’ declared George Mott, chairman of the Council at Ilkley, home base of the Kangaroos. Herb Steinohrt — when picking his best Australian side from the years 1922 to 1940 — had no hesitation in putting Gorman in the centres, alongside Dave Brown.
Gorman holds a special place in the story of rugby league in Queensland.
Born in Charters Towers, he became an integral part of the Toowoomba football miracle of the 1920s, forging a famous centre partnership with Nigger Brown. For 12 years, he was an automatic selection in the Queensland team. ‘If you can imagine such a thing as a mixture of that quick-thinking animal the fox, the speed of an Arab horse and the slipperiness of an eel, you have Tom Gorman,’ commented the journal Midweek Sports in 1926.
Club landmarks: Won Brisbane premiership with Brothers 1926
Games for Qld: 34 (1921–30); Tests for Australia: 10 (1924–30) — seven as captain
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tour 1929–30 (captain); Queensland tour of New Zealand 1925
Clubs: Souths Brisbane 1979–85; St Helens 1984–85; Canberra 1986–94
Mal Meninga’s endless list of records and achievements stands as a testament to the strength and perseverance he displayed over a magnificent 17-year career in top level football. The former police cadet burst onto the scene with Souths in Brisbane in 1978 and was a Queensland representative the following season and an Australian rep soon after his 22nd birthday.
Meninga had been blessed with size and strength and used those qualities to their fullest. He is the only player to tour four times with the Kangaroos and the only player to make two Kangaroo tours as captain. And he achieved much of this after he withstood the pain and frustration of four broken arms during the 1987–88 seasons.
Meninga recovered from the setbacks as a more mature and more consistent player. ‘The true test of a champion is not just what he does as an individual,’ said Bob Fulton of Meninga. ‘It’s what he does for the players around him.’ Meninga was renowned for charges through the defence, and captained Canberra to three premiership wins. Perhaps his most memorable performance came at Old Trafford in 1990; when he helped Australia to salvage the Ashes with a barnstorming try in the final minutes of the second Test.
Mal Meninga wrote in My Game, Your Game: ‘Geno was my toughest opposition when it came to making the Test side. When Geno had the ball you had to make a concerted effort to tackle him. He was very quick for a big man, he had a step and if you did get to him he had a good off-load. His defence was strong and Geno was always willing to work hard to take pressure off other players.
Club landmarks: Won Brisbane premierships with Souths 1981, 1985; Captained Canberra to premiership wins 1989–90, 1994
Games for Qld: 42 (1979–84; includes 32 State of Origins 1980–94); Tests for Australia: 45 (1982–94) — 23 as captain; World Cup matches: One (captain)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1982, 1986, 1990 (captain), 1994 (captain); The only player to tour four times with the Kangaroos; Holds records for most Tests for Australia, most points for Australia, most appearances for Queensland and most points for Queensland.
Club: Ipswich Brothers 1947–58
Denis Flannery was one of Queensland’s rugby league greats of the 1950s. A champion sprinter and a winger possessed of a sweet sidestep and a swerve that made opponents look like amateurs, Flannery was a regular in Australian sides for much of that decade.
A product of Nudgee College and Ipswich Grammar School, Flannery made his debut for Queensland in 1948 and won his first Australian cap in the second Ashes Test of 1950, when Australia stunned Great Britain 15–3 at the Brisbane Cricket Ground. He stood 6ft (183cm) tall, and weighed 13 stone (82.5kg), and played Test football in 1951 and 1952, was in the Australian World Cup squad in 1954, and continued to represent Queensland and Australia until 1956, bowing out of big-time football after the 1956–57 Kangaroo tour. On the ’52–53 Kangaroo tour, he scored 23 tries in 14 games, including hat-tricks against Featherstone Rovers, Doncaster and Hull Kingston Rovers.
Flannery continued with Brothers, serving as player-coach in 1957 and 1958 before retiring at the age of 30. Flannery married Norma Dempsey, the daughter of the former great Kangaroo Dan Dempsey, and he and Norma became the owners of the famous Ulster Hotel at Ipswich.
Games for Qld: 26 (1948–56);
Tests for Australia: 13 (1950–57); World Cup matches: Two (1954)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1952–53, 1956–57; World Cup 1954
Wally LEWIS AM
Clubs: Brisbane Valleys 1978–83; Wakefield Trinity 1983–84; Wynnum-Manly 1984–87; Brisbane Broncos 1988–90; Gold Coast 1991–92
‘King’ Wally Lewis came to embody State of Origin football. A young lock forward in the inaugural Origin game in 1980, he made 30 appearances as five-eighth and captain between 1981 and 1991, winning eight man-of-the match awards.
Lewis made his Test debut in 1981, against France, the only Queensland-based player in the side. He lost the starting five-eighth job to Brett Kenny on the 1982 Kangaroo tour, but regained the No. 6 jumper in 1983 and was unchallenged as Australian captain from 1984 to 1989.
Lewis was tough, brave and passionate, with a magnificent kicking game and a brilliant pass. In the second Test at Wigan in 1982 he came on in the second half and threw a 25–metre bullet that set up a try for Mal Meninga. His kicking display on a muddy SCG in game two of the 1984 Origin series was phenomenal, as he kept turning the Blues around to seal the series. At the Sydney Football Stadium in 1989, with Queensland shattered by injury, he inspired one of the most courageous victories seen in modern rugby league. That last performance convinced even NSW fans of his greatness.
Lewis dominated Brisbane club football in the ’80s, with Valleys and then Wynnum-Manly. He was a good but rarely great player with the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Seagulls, but his legendary status was already sealed. Following his retirement, a bronze statue was erected at Lang Park, and in 1999 he was named an ‘Immortal’.
Club landmarks: Won Brisbane premierships with Valleys 1979, Wynnum 1984, 1986
Games for Qld: 38 (1979–91; includes 31 State of Origins 1980–91); Tests for Australia: 33 (1981–91) — 23 as captain; World Cup matches: One (1988 — as captain)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1982, 1986 (captain); World Cup 1988 (captain); Captained Australian tours of New Zealand 1985, 1989; Inducted as an Immortal 1999
Clubs: Ipswich Norths 1984–85; Ipswich Jets 1986–87; Brisbane Broncos 1988–99, 2002; Warrington 2000–01
There has to be something about Ipswich, as it has been the breeding ground of so many great rugby league players, such as Dud Beattie, the Walters boys, Henry Bichel, John Cleary, Dan Dempsey, Frank Doonar, Denis Flannery, Eric Frauenfelder, Hec Gee, Ron Griffiths, ‘Monty’ Heidke, Noel Kelly, Doug McLean, Gary Parcell, Bill Paten, Les Sellers, Bill Smith, Bob Tubman and Joe Wilson. There was also Jimmy Craig, but he was an import. Great players all, but in the eyes of most critics, Allan Langer would reign supreme among them.
A man of jockey-like size, Langer was never daunted by bigger players, bringing them down with remarkable ease. His first Origin game was in 1987, when his selection was criticised but he proved the sceptics wrong, and his last in 2002, a year after he returned from Warrington in England, where he had been playing, to inspire the Maroons to a series win. His final club game was the 2002 preliminary final.
Langer won a Rothmans Medal in Brisbane, the Clive Churchill Medal, led the Broncos to three grand-final wins and a Super League crown and captained his country. Wayne Bennett wrote of him in Don’t Die With The Music In You: ‘Pound-for-pound … he was rugby league’s top performer of the 1990s. Day in, day out. Year after year. By “performer”, I’m not just talking natural gifts. He has those, but what he also has is a determination and dedication to always put in.’
Club landmarks: Led Brisbane to premiership wins 1992–93, 1997–98
Games for Qld: 38 (1987–2002; includes 34 State of Origins 1984–2002); Tests for Australia: 22 (1988–99) — two as captain; World Cup matches: Two (1988–92)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1990, 1994; World Cups 1988, 1992; Most State of Origin appearances for Queensland
Peter ‘Mick’ MADSEN
Club: Brothers Toowoomba 1921–37
In 1982, when Rugby League Week magazine assembled a most distinguished panel of judges in the game’s history to pick a ‘Hall of Fame’ Australian rugby league XIII, their most discussed choice was front-rower ‘Mick’ Madsen. The judges were emphatic in placing him alongside fellow Queenslander Duncan Hall and Easts’ Sandy Pearce in the front row.
An immensely strong man, Madsen was a foundation stone of Queensland and Toowoomba’s rise to the dominant place in Australian rugby league in the 1920s. He represented Toowoomba every year from 1925 to 1937, played 40 games for Queensland, nine Tests and 37 tour matches for Australia. With regular captain Frank McMillan injured, he assumed the leadership for the second Ashes Test on the 1933–34 tour. In the 1970s, Duncan Thompson named Madsen and Herb Steinohrt as the greatest of all prop combinations, describing them as ‘rough men in rough positions, yet surprisingly polished in ball handling and distribution’.
Madsen was a big man, 6ft 1in (185cms) and 15 stone (96kg), who played with his sleeves rolled up. Stories of strength and courage accompanied him through his career. ‘Nature’s gentleman … tough as they come,’ said Joe Pearce.
An enduring symbol of the stoutness and honesty of the country player, Madsen retired in 1937 and the great administrator Harry Sunderland would write poignantly of a powerful run he made in his final interstate game. ‘We who have known his true worth as a gentleman and a player,’ Sunderland commented, ‘will never allow to fade from our memories that last charge that he made.’
Club Landmarks: Represented Toowoomba every year from 1925 to 1937
Games for Qld: 40 (1928–37);
Tests for Australia: Nine (1929–36) — one as captain
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1929–30, 1933–34
Clubs: Ipswich Brothers 1958–59; Ayr 1960; Western Suburbs 1961–69; Wollongong 1970
By touring with the Kangaroos in 1959–60, 1963–64 and 1967–68, Noel Kelly earned the distinction of being the first front-rower to make rugby league’s most distinguished journey three times. In all, Kelly played 25 Tests in the Australian engine room at a time rugby league was at its roughest and toughest.
Statistics from Kelly’s career give a clue to how tough the game was … and how tough he was. In his career with Wests in Sydney, ‘Ned’ was sent off 17 times, though some were for scrum ‘wheeling and dealing’ in days when every scrum was a mini ‘war’. In the second Australia–New Zealand Test of 1967, he and the big Kiwi Robin Orchard were sent off in the first 90 seconds, Ned having rendered Orchard horizontal with a left hook.
Events such as that one and plenty more (such as his joyful dive for a try during the record-breaking 50–12 second Test win that claimed the Ashes in 1963) made Kelly one of the most robust and popular players to ever pull on a boot. Originally from the Queensland country, and a hooker, Kelly became a Test prop alongside another hard man from the bush, Ian Walsh, and remained equally effective in both positions. At Wests, he was a natural leader, taking over as captain-coach in 1966. After leaving the Magpies, he played and coached briefly in Wollongong, and then stepped back into the spotlight in the 1970s, as coach of Norths for three lively years.
Games for NSW: Six (1963–67); Games for Qld: Eight (1959–60); Tests for Australia: 25 (1959–68); World Cup matches: Three (1960)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1959–60, 1963–64, 1967–68; World Cup 1960
Clubs: Christian Brothers Rockhampton 1945–47; Brisbane Valleys 1948–49; Home Hill 1950; Newtown, Toowoomba 1951–52; Brisbane Wests 1954–57
Queensland-born Duncan Hall has long been regarded as one of Australia’s greatest post-war front-rowers. He rose to prominence in the period immediately following World War II, toured twice with the Kangaroos and played in two Ashes-winning series for Australia.
Hall had accepted a playing position at Alpha in Central Queensland in the mid-1940s, but a railway strike meant he was unable to take up the position, and instead he moved to Brisbane, where he linked up with the Valleys club. From there he made a meteoric rise to representative football, first with Brisbane, then Queensland and in little more than three months he was selected in Australia’s Test side to play New Zealand.
Hall became a mainstay of Australian teams for the next seven years, contributing mightily to Australia’s Ashes triumphs in 1950 and 1954. Hall played his entire domestic career in Queensland, moving from Valleys back to his home town of Home Hill in 1950, before stints in Toowoomba and with Brisbane Wests. A knee injury cost him the opportunity of a third Kangaroo tour in 1956.
‘Hall had an equal distribution of brawn and brains which put him in the near genius class,’ Duncan Thompson wrote. ‘There certainly never was a better ball distributor. Whatever a champion prop needed, Duncan Hall had. He was surprisingly fast and truly tough.’
Club landmarks: Won Brisbane premiership with Wests 1954
Games for Qld: 24 (1948–55);
Tests for Australia: 22 (1948–55); World Cup matches: One (1954)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1948–49, 1952–53; World Cup 1954
Position: Second Row
Clubs: Brisbane Brothers 1948–58, 1964; Canterbury 1959–62; St George (Qld) 1963
Brian Davies ranks as one of Queensland’s greatest and most distinguished forwards. Great Britain’s great five eighth David Bolton, who tangled with him in the 1958 series said, ‘Davies was as fit and as determined as any man I have ever played against.’
That ’58 series, although a losing one for Australia, was a crowning achievement of Davies’ career, as he had the honour of leading Australia in all three Tests against Alan Prescott’s tourists. His first taste of international football had come long before — back in the history-making series of 1950 when he was a reserve in the Australian squad but didn’t get to put a foot onto the field of battle. In 1951, as a second-rower, he made his debut, playing in all three Tests against the French.
Graduating to prop, Davies made two Kangaroo tours and played in the first two World Cups. On the arrival home of the 1952–53 Kangaroos, team manager Latchem Robinson identified the greatness of Davies, naming him man of the tour. Said Robinson: ‘Davies developed into a colossal forward overseas and must now rank with the all-time great second-rowers.’
Four years later, Britain’s Official Rugby League Yearbook nominated Davies as the most constructive of the Australian forwards. In 1958, his last international campaign, captain Davies was the only resident Queenslander in the Australian team which fell 2–1 to Great Britain.
Club landmarks: Won Brisbane premierships with Brothers 1956, 1958
Games for Qld: 37 (1950–58); Tests for Australia: 27 (1951–58) — three as captain; World Cup matches: Six (1954–57)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1952–53, 1956–57; Australian tour of New Zealand 1953; World Cups 1954, 1957
Arthur BEETSON OAM
Position: Second Row
Clubs: Roma Cities 1963; Redcliffe 1964–65, 1981; Balmain 1966–70; Hull Kingston Rovers 1968–68; Eastern Suburbs 1971–78; Parramatta 1979–80
Arthur Beetson’s future talents as a ball-playing front-rower were honed in his teenage years when he played at centre or five-eighth in his home-town of Roma in western Queensland. It wasn’t until he arrived in the big smoke of Brisbane in 1965 that coach Henry Holloway suggested a move into the forwards. There, Beetson established himself as arguably the finest ball-playing front-rower of a generation.
He headed to Sydney a year after claiming a premiership with Redcliffe and made his name at Balmain, where he was coached by Harry Bath. Beetson represented Australia in his first season in Sydney, earning the nickname ‘Half-a-game Artie’ after a marvellous cameo in the Ashes-deciding third Test against Great Britain. Struggling with a shoulder injury, Beetson laid on tries for wingers Johnny King and Ken Irvine that helped to secure the Ashes for Australia.
Beetson switched to Eastern Suburbs in 1971 where he developed his skills further under coaches Don Furner and later Jack Gibson and led the Roosters to consecutive premiership wins. He captained Queensland in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980, which ushered in a new era for the game. Beetson was named Rugby League Week’s seventh Immortal in 2003.
Club landmarks: Won Brisbane premiership with Redcliffe 1965; Captained Easts to premiership wins 1974–75
Games for NSW: 18 (1966–77); Games for Qld: Three (1980–81; includes one State of Origin 1980); Tests for Australia: 14 (1966–74) — two as captain; World Cup matches: 14 (1968–77) — six as captain
Representative landmarks: Captained Queensland in first State of Origin 1980; Kangaroo tour 1973; World Cups 1968, 1972; World Series 1975, 1977; Inducted as the game’s seventh Immortal 2003
Clubs: Brisbane Souths 1983–84; Wynnum-Manly 1985–86; Castleford 1986–87; Parramatta 1987–88; Gold Coast 1989; Western Suburbs 1990–92; Illawarra 1993; Oldham 1993–94
Bob Lindner, a big, bustling forward, was a virtual automatic pick for Queensland and Australia between 1986 and 1993. A mighty forward despite three broken legs at critical points of his career, the highlight of his football life was probably the 1990 Kangaroo tour. This is what the experts said:
Peter Frilingos (Telegraph Mirror): ‘I haven’t seen Bob Lindner play even a moderate game on tour … he’s been the outstanding performer.’
Tony Durkin (Rugby League Week): ‘Lindner’s performances after the first match were nothing short of magnificent.’
Ray Hadley (Radio 2UE): ‘I’d have to take Lindner as the best player from Glenn Lazarus ...’
Mal Meninga wrote of Lindner in My Game, Your Game, ‘There has been no greater competitor than Lindner, whose Test and State of Origin performances often won him man-of-the-match status … Bobby is in the Bradley Clyde mould of perpetual motion and has the speed and strength to match any back-rower of his era.’
Lindner also went on the 1986 Kangaroo tour, and the 1992 World Cup. At Oldham in England he was captain-coach and averted their relegation to the second division. He was recruited by the South Queensland Crushers as a player in 1995, but retired and took over as coach until their demise in 1997.
Club landmarks: Won Brisbane premiership with Wynnum 1986
Games for Qld: 26 (1984–93; includes 25 State of Origins 1984–93); Tests for Australia: 23 (1986–93); World Cup matches: One (1992)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1986, 1990; World Cup 1992; Australian tour of New Zealand 1993
Clubs: Balmain 1915–17, 1919–21; University 1922; Starlights, Ipswich 1923–28; Western Suburbs, Sydney 1929–30
In the rugby league seasons between the two World Wars, the name Jimmy Craig was synonymous with versatility. A Balmain junior, Craig could play any position in the backline and was even known to fill in at lock forward or hooker. In seven Tests for Australia he played fullback, centre and halfback and was once described by the legendary Dally Messenger as the greatest player he ever saw.
Craig figured in premiership wins for Balmain in 1915–17 and 1919–20. Significantly, in 1918, when Craig did not play for the club, Balmain failed to win the title. He was a star of the 1921–22 Kangaroos and later took his talents to Queensland, where his Ipswich team became a power of the game in the Bulimba Cup.
Craig returned to Sydney in 1929, joining Wests, and as captain-coach led the club to its first premiership success in 1930. During that season, Craig appeared in four positions in one game against Easts. The Evening News reported that Craig, who started at halfback, packed into the second row at one point of the first half while hooker Bob Lindfield was down injured. Later in the half, according to the paper ‘Craig occasionally went in to lock the scrum’. And in the minutes before halftime, ‘Craig had now fallen to fullback, with McMillan an extra five-eighth’.
Club landmarks: Won premierships with Balmain 1915–17, 1919–20; Captained Wests to premiership win 1930
Games for NSW: Three (1921–29); Games for Qld: 23 (1923–28); Tests for Australia: Seven (1921–28) — three as captain
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tour 1921–22
Clubs: St Paul’s Ipswich 1911–15; Newcastle Wests 1915; North Sydney 1916, 1920–23; Starlights, Ipswich 1919; Toowoomba Valleys 1924–25
Duncan Thompson was regarded as one of the sharpest halfback tacticians ever to play the game. His ability to create an overlap, to surprise opponents with a blindside rush, or to beat a man with a pass was said to be years ahead of its time.
Thompson’s career was almost cut short by World War I, when he suffered a gunshot wound that led to doctors informing him that he would never play sport again. But Thompson defied the medicos, resuming his rugby league career in 1919. A transfer with the bank resulted in Thompson linking with North Sydney in 1920, where he was to guide the club to successive premiership victories in 1921–22 (the second year as captain). He played nine Tests for Australia, including the second Test against England in 1920 when Australia won the Ashes for the first time at home. Thompson was a controversial selection, but he silenced any detractors with a display that was regarded as one of the finest ever by a halfback.
Thompson returned to Queensland and was a force behind the emergence of the Toowoomba Clydesdales as a powerhouse of the game. To the great Queensland and Australian front-rower Herb Steinohrt, he was ‘without a doubt the best attacking halfback in the history of the game’. Thompson later turned to coaching where many of his philosophies became the accepted practice throughout the game.
Club landmarks: Won premierships with North Sydney 1921, 1922 (captain)
Games for NSW: Two (1921–22); Games for Qld: 17 (1915–25); Tests for Australia: Nine (1919–24)
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tour 1921–22; Australian tour of New Zealand 1919
Position: Centre/Second Row
Clubs: Townsville Souths 1978–80; Wynnum-Manly 1981–87; Brisbane Broncos 1988–91; Wigan 1991–92
Gene Miles was an immensely powerful player, equally adept in the centre or the forwards, and was one of those who put back into the game almost as much as he got out of it. In 2007, he was still playing a vital role in selecting Queensland Origin teams.
There have been few greater sights on the playing field than Miles in full stride, holding off a would-be tackler and throwing his virtually patented one-handed pass to one of his team.
Born in Townsville, Miles made an immediate impact with Wynnum-Manly in 1980, and played his first Origin match in 1982. A member of two Kangaroo touring squads, 1982 and 1986, his top years were arguably from 1984 to 1986. In 1990 he retired from international football, but captained the Broncos until 1991, when he was Dally M captain of the year. He then left for Wigan, where he experienced wins in the Challenge Cup and League Championship.
Club Landmarks: Dally M captain of the year
Games for Queensland: 20
Tests for Australia: 14
Clubs: Warra 1919–21; Toowoomba Valleys 1922–38
Born in 1899, raw-boned Herb Steinohrt grew into one of champion forwards of the 1920s and 1930s. Steinohrt was renowned for his hardness and great strength. A prop and second-rower, he came to Toowoomba in 1922 and represented the city 125 times during the legendary era of the ‘Galloping Clydesdales’. He also played for Queensland continually from 1925 to 1933, and for Australia 31 times, including nine Tests.
Steinohrt was a key figure in the Queensland teams that dominated NSW in the 1920s, was an automatic selection for three straight Test series, in 1928, 1929–30 and 1932, and he had the honour of leading Australia in all three Tests against England in 1932. One of those Tests in ’32 was the infamous ‘Battle of Brisbane’, a game that Australia won heroically despite a number of players, including hooker Dan Dempsey and lock Frank O’Connor, were badly injured. At the final whistle, the crowd carried captain Steinohrt from the field in triumph.
A champion player and a man who worked for rugby league throughout his life (he was still a coach and administrator at 75!), Steinohrt remains a revered figure in the story of Queensland sport, tagged an ‘Immortal’ in a tribute by long-time QRL President Ron McAuliffe. Those who played with him were rich in their praise. Duncan Thompson claimed that ‘he had stamina and strength, and the football brain to go with it’, while Mick Madsen, Steinohrt’s famous forward partner of many battles, remembered him as ‘one of the great tacticians of the game’.
Club landmarks: 125 games for Toowoomba.
Games for Qld: 42 (1925–33); Tests for Australia: Nine (1928–32) — three as captain
Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tour 1929–30.