Huston, we have a problem was heard loud and clear, But for Uni Rugby League, these were the golden years. Three from three in 70 as the Club stood proud and tall. And by the time 79 came round, seven was the final haul.
When the committee was successful in the bid for entry into A Grade, they were not only confident of fielding a strong A Grade side, but just as strong Reserves and Under 19s. What a start! 1970 was clearly the greatest year in the Club s history. Premiers in all three grades and Joe was the coach of all them. At the 1970 TRL AGM, Kett Kennedy revelled in reminding the TRL board of their long-haired young poofs remark of the previous year. They called to the kitchen for some bacon, because, there was already egg all over their faces.
With the Club jam packed with talent, they were the dominant force in the early 70s. With Keith Shiels leading the way and ably supported by NQ and Qld Country Rep, Bill Phillips, the 1971 A Grade team backed up the previous year s result with another premiership and then after a brief hiatus in 1972, the trophy returned to UNI again in 1973 together with the Under 19s.
In the first three years of the 70s, UNI had won an amazing six premierships. WOW! And they still hadn t cut their hair. The 70s were not only the Golden Years but the
Hair Years as well. The mid 70s went without premiership success, but not for lack of trying, nor the necessary personnel. The Club had speed to burn in the 70s with the likes of Tony Bone Bacic, Peter Meecham, John Cox and Peter Garbutt all taking out the annual Foley Shield Sprint in various years.
As Muhammed Ali floated like a butterfly, Andy Rankine flew like a falcon and in 1975 earned himself a TRL Medal for his season performances. The first of five in the Club s history.
Everyone knows that footballers love The Nags. Not the ones they married, but the ones with four legs that race around a track. UNI was no exception and in the 70s we had our own Black Caviar and White Caviar for that matter.
On the day of each Foley Shield Final, as half time entertainment, the league would see who was the fastest footballer over 100m and also the mile, with footballers from all over North Queensland competing. UNI s own White Caviar was Peter Garbo Garbutt. Garbo was a regular Townsville representative selection and would don the Blue & Gold on Foley Shield day to regularly blitz the field in the annual footballer s sprint. While he did not have the same number of wins as Black caviar, he certainly had the same number of losses zero! Garbo collected quite a few of these titles during his reign.
However, UNI also had a Black Caviar in the form of Lawrie Kerr who played for a couple of years around the same time as Garbo. Lawrie had a laid back approach to his game, which is to say that he enjoyed playing but found training to be a bit of a bore. Sometime around the end or the 70 s the TRL sanctioned a one off event, a relay between the eight clubs to establish once and for all where all the pace was. This is where Garbo finally met his match. In the run off for starting positions before the big event, he was soundly beaten by Lawrie with Dave Stringini and
Jim Bryans still half way down the track in 3rd & 4th. Before the run off, Bryans was heard to remark to his lifelong aboriginal friend Lawrie, that he was going to kick his black ass in the race. Lawrie let his legs do the talking as usual, but after the race, could not resist the comeback, Hey Bryans, you know that black ass you were talking about? Did you get a good look at it?!
With Garbo leading out and followed by Stringini & Bryans with Lawrie anchoring, Souths may as well have been on another planet. They certainly were flogged in each leg to finish well behind and so UNI had continued its dominance of the track.
With racing comes controversy and corruption, farce and fixing. UNI was no exception and conjured up it s own Fine Cotton affair and our Bold Personality was Glen Gorton. Now, for all intents and purposes, Gorto did not really exist at Uni Rugby League, except on paper. He appeared year after year on Uni Under 19 or Reserve Grade team sheets for enough games to qualify for the end of year mile event, but nobody ever recalled him pulling on a jersey. He was a phantom, a tall, lanky fuzzy haired ghost with similar complexion. That is, until Foley Shield final day where he regularly belted the field in the gala mile race.
To top it off, UNI had a couple of its own bookies in Cruncher & Joumpie (names withheld due to unknown statute of limitations on this offence?) One year they hatched a plan for Gorto to hang back a bit so they could pick up some loot. Gorto was brilliant! By halfway through the race he was half a lap behind Charlie Martel from Hughenden, who was no slouch himself. So, Cruncher & Joumpie took a barrow load of bets from the snake pit punters and then right on cue, Gorto took off. He won by half the length of the straight and Cruncher & Joumpie had just financed their next semester at University.
UNI has had many characters over the years, but few could boast a reputation as legendary as one Anthony Gerard BENNETT. With the wise words of St Augustine s College brother Roger, ringing in his ears ( Benn means good and Nit means nit, so that makes you a good nit ), the Buzzard left for Townsville to make St Paul s college his home.
Buzzards car the flapper, aVW beetle with no exhaust, could be heard out at the Uni as he left the Vale Hotel to come home. Or, perhaps more accurately, the Vale Hotel was his home and he d come to Uni for a feed. A food connoisseur of sorts, Buzzard had a penchant for fine sauces, as long as it was Worcestershire. His skills were not restricted to food, as he was also a wordsmith and coined such classic phrases as more piss and wider roads .
Buzzard was the undisputed 1975 Pantsman Champion, but received the award more for his efforts than any successes. In the wise words of Rector Edwin Nelly, never has one tried so hard, for so long, for so little . Another award winner in that year was, Brian Chisel Milanovic for Chunder Bowl Champion. At the end of 1975 some students were asked to leave St Paul s College due to repeated pranks on B Block Floor 1 and although the guilt was wide spread and there were perpetrators aplenty, everyone knew it was Buzzard s fault.
As the University continued to grow in the 70s, there were many changes to the Club as students came and then went to pursue their careers. The changes were not just in the playing roster, but also in administrative positions and many were willing to put up their hand to take on the responsibility. One of those was Brian Tits Letizia
Now a life member, Brian started as a player in 72 and has held executive positions, committee positions, was the club fitness trainer and now also a reunion committee member, and he s done that over all those years without aging a bit. He found the fountain of youth in the 70s and drank from it in copious amounts after games.
Another life member, Bill Ryan was also heavily involved in the 70s and also took on roles as trainer/strapper for the Townsville Foley Shield teams and towards the end of the decade the Ace Family arrived on the scene. Neil & Gloria often provided a bit of extra spending money for some of the students by employing them to pick pumpkins and melons on their farm in Giru. Although, some of the blokes argued that they were just being used as slave labour but never argued about the free beer on offer.
After going undefeated in 1978 but losing the grand final, the Under 18s made up for it with a premiership in 1979 and this was to be the start of a string of junior grade premierships.
A transition was occurring in the way the Club had to be managed. Professionalism had become essential in order to maintain competitiveness and significant challenges lay ahead during the 80s.