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What Test rugby league looked like in 1982

Forty years ago, back in July 1982, I attended the Australia versus NZ Test at Lang Park. Luckily I still have the program and decided to leaf through it the other day.

The first thing I noticed was a full page advertisement informing that apparently the Queensland rugby league team all chose to wear Stubbies shorts (in tough hard wearing nylon). That was no great surprise, as I’m pretty sure I, along with 90% of the crowd, was also wearing them.

Then a message from the President, Mr. Humphreys, announced each Kangaroo would receive $4000 for a win and $1000 if they lost, thanks to the kind folk at Winfield.

Of course this was followed by a full page advertisement that said “ …anyhow* have a Winfield 25s” (Five smokes ahead of the rest.)

These ads always had an asterisk that didn’t appear to reference anything. Perhaps they were foreshadowing the asterisked premierships of the Storm in 2007 and 2009 as well as Newcastle in 1997.

There was also an ad for Elastoplast proudly proclaiming that “Half your favourite team is probably plastered.” Very witty, but I doubt it would get past the censor today, although I still giggle a bit when I hear players might need some strapping at half time.

Something unbelievable to the modern reader is another ad stating that the CBC Savings Bank was offering 11% p.a. on call on deposits in your savings account. I seem to recall mortgage rates were about 17% so perhaps not as generous as it sounds.

There is also a full page proclaiming that “Yellow Pages works” and no doubt back then they did.

Before the Test, the main curtain raiser was NSW Universities and Colleges versus Queensland Tertiary Colleges. These institutions aren’t renowned breeding grounds for NRL players, although Bob Lindner played lock for Queensland on that day.

The program urges clubs to offer academic scholarships to players, in the manner that Canterbury did for former Test captain George Peponis.

In the Test match all the familiar names are there: Brentnall, Ribot, Rogers, Cronin, KW Lewis, Mortimer, Price, Boyd, Morris, Young, Krilich, as well as Rohan Hancock. I’d forgotten that Hancock was selected from Toowoomba club football. And I’m sure I never imagined that one day his daughter Steph would captain the Australian rugby league team.

And as I watched Craig Young running backwards into the defense, I had no idea his son Dean would one day be on the end of an Inglis shoulder charge that would lead to its removal from the game.

Steeden Rugby League Generic

(Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

The pen pictures of the players are a little more frank than those we read today. Olsen Filipaina is described as having “trouble with his weight and his approach to the game” although the program quite correctly concedes that “on his day he is a match winner.”

There is also the occasional splash of humour with lines like “Australian teams have been noted for their good behaviour in recent years”.

The program informs that the last time these two teams met, Australia won 15-6 at Carlaw Park, despite NZ referee Jack ’10 yards’ Percival penalising Australia 13-2 in the second half. If Percival was getting the Aussies back 10 yards then perhaps he was simply a man ahead of his time. I don’t recall the program getting a $10,000 fine for bringing the game into disrepute by criticising a referee.

Strangely I recall nothing about the actual game, not even who won. My only memory is that the crowd was relatively small and quite sedate, especially when compared to the heaving masses I remember from State of Origin games of that era.

Perhaps we were only cheering for half the Australian team, as well as Mark Graham, a very popular player for Brisbane Norths at the time, which made him almost an honorary Queenslander.

I search engined up the result and found Oz won 11-8, with the only try scored by John Muggleton coming off the bench.

This match was played just after Queensland had won the first ever State of Origin series. I think we were still trying to figure out how we won the series but could only get five players in the Test team. Thank goodness that over the decades we’ve all moved on from those petty interstate rivalries.

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