Almanac Rugby League – From the Lang Park terrace: State of Origin 1985

I have strong memories of a State Of Origin at Lang Park in 1985.

JP Strano rang me that morning and suggested we go.

In those days, you could stroll at lunchtime to the ticket sellers in the City and procure tickets at an affordable price.

As Jack and I walked out onto the street, it began to rain. It rained all afternoon.

We met at 5pm at the Bookies Club in Wharf St. It was run for many years by the ex-pugilist “Fearless” Fred Casey.

After a few beers with some of Jack’s workmates, we were chauffered to the ground by one of them in his wife’s florist van. She had a florist shop somewhere.

This bloke was an expert at parking. He just drove the van up onto the footpath in a side street near Caxton St and left it there.

We gathered at the Caxton for a few beers and some fish and chips from Gambaros next door. All the while the rain kept falling.

We participated in the now banned, but important Queensland ritual, booing the NSW bus as it proceeded slowly down Caxton St. Sports psychologists talk about mental preparation for an athletic event. This was how Queensland spectators had prepared for many years.

AT 7:45pm, we left for the ground, but not before buying half bottles of scotch that would fit neatly into coat pockets.

We took up our places on the muddy terraces at the Milton Rd end where we were joined by such luminaries as Bobby Stevenson and Dr GW Mallory. The said Bobby had the foresight to buy some sand crabs at Gambaros. We ripped these apart and devoured them washed down with the Scotch. It made a change from a can of XXXX ( in those days they still sold cans) and chips.

Around us stood Queensland’s finest citizens shouting out the choicest of obscenities at the NSW players and the referee while urinating in the mud. There was too much to see and do by wasting time going to the dunny.

The only  blemish on the night was that wonderful centre Michael O’Connor who scored all NSW points including two tries. NSW 18 d Qld 2.

As we left the ground, a huge brawl erupted on the terraces. We skirted it and got out safely. However, the redoutable JP Strano was very well under the weather and walked straight through the melee. Punches were flying everywhere, people were being pushed and falling over, but he was untouched.

When we met up and asked if he was ok, he merely enquired ” What was that?”

I caught the train. My suit was soaked through. There were people drinking cans and empties littered the floor.

It was the Joh era. The cops only targeted aboriginees, uni students and trade unionists.

JJ Leahy


  1. Hi. This was the very first game of football that my Dad took me to, and I was seated with him in the outer at the southern (Milton Road) end. I was 12, and it was an eye opener. I had caught a train into town and met Dad with three of his work mates. One of the blokes was from down south, and would call out “Go Sydney!” whenever things where going his way. We got spray with a bit of beer that night. Anyway, one time he went to the toilet and returned gingerly with some blood running down his nose. Someone had taken exception to his cheering for “Sydney” and he was much more subdued after that.

    These days I am a Broncos member and attend games with my kids, still at the Milton Road end. Times have changed.

    Anyway, thanks for this story.

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