Take what excels, is decent, respectable, and typical of the true essence of rugby league. Then double it. For 15 years we’ve been privileged to follow the parallel careers of Brett and Josh Morris.
Can you believe that New South Wales won only two State of Origin series in the 1980s?
Sure Queensland were red hot, but the Blues fielded all-star-level teams up there, yet wins were few and far between. Super coach Jack Gibson even gave coaching NSW a shot and found out how hard it was.
For nostalgia’s sake I wanted to put together a New Wouth Wales side that could scare Queensland before they even put on a boot. So before the current series is over let’s take a walk down memory lane and have a discussion.
1. Garry Jack
An all-time great fullback, I’ve lost count of how many times he beat the first tackle. When a Queenslander makes a break, you want him there.
2. Eric ‘Guru’ Grothe
The most intimidating winger in the history of the game, his semi-final try against Canterbury is still mentioned by Ray Warren on NRL telecasts, and his strength and power is the reason. It still staggers me that he didn’t represent Australia post-1984.
3. Chris Mortimer
A centre with incredible defence. He’s the type of player who would pull out pins in his hand to play. He’s one of the main reasons New South Wales actually did win two series in the 1980s.
4. Michael O’Connor
He was a great centre whose pace, brilliance and goal kicking were a worry to the power centres of Mal Meninga and Gene Miles.
5. John ‘Chicka’ Ferguson
He was the most evasive running back in the history of the game. He was creaming tries when 35 for the Canberra Raiders. This winger would have ten ‘hardest to tackle’ awards in Rugby League Week polls.
6. Brett Kenny
He was the second greatest five-eighth of the 1980s, and if he wasn’t playing in that position, you were playing into the Queenslanders’ hands.
7. Tom Raudonikis
Loved punching any opposition player wearing Maroon, whether it was Queensland or Manly. This street fighter would be crucial in any game at Lang Park, and when the going got tough, this is the player you wanted on your side. He is to New South Wales what Arthur Beetson is to Queensland.
8. Steve Roach
A true enforcer whose size and block-of-units build gave it to Queensland hardmen like Greg Dowling.
9. Mario Fenech
A rugby league hooker in an era of fighters, Mario had one of the toughest jobs in sport, packing down in scrums in the 1980s. A true give-it-all player, whether it was Souths, Norths or NSW, and no need to bring up the Crushers.
10. Peter Kelly
To back up Steve Roach you need someone just as tough. Peter Kelly was that prop. Winning premierships with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and turning the chocolate soldiers at Penrith into Mountain Men.
11. Ron ‘Rambo’ Gibbs
His most famous contribution to rugby league in the 1980s was the line, “Pearce off Jack, Gibbs on” in the Twelfth Man comedy tapes. He was a formidable second-rower, and his nickname Rambo was no joke. He never played Origin. but he should have.
12. Mark Geyer
Tall, tough and skilful, he had to include the guy whose confrontation with Wally Lewis is still on Origin promotions all these years later.
13. Les Boyd
The most ‘white line fever’ player in the history of the game. He’s a player who didn’t read the room and see the new era of league that was cracking down on thug play. He was still an intimidating force for any Queensland opposition.