Space shuttles flew into space and then came back again. Macca made the Club fly high then we partied like mad men. And as disco hit the scene, and market crashes caused a rage, Fitzy put another premiership on the Clubs history page.
The 80s started like the 70s finished with UNI dominating the Junior grades.
A three peat of Under20s premierships in 80, 81 & 82 was garnished with the 1981 Reserve Grade premiership. The Queensland and Australian University teams of the early 80s were chocker block full of UNI talent from those teams: Max Webster, Tony Green, Neil Mallet, Richard Blackman, Wayne Wharton and Colin Thomas.
The junior grades were excellent on the field and a little less exemplary off it. Particularly when at an Under 18s welcome BBQ the pig on a spit caught fire and so did the house. Lucky they had enough refreshments to put it out. One Sunday arvo after footy, some of the boys tucked into some lunch at the Teacher s Residences . All was good until Steve Valente decided to drop his pants and impersonate a lunar eclipse and one of the other blokes blocked the corona with a banana.
The successful 20s teams of the late 70s and early 80s progressed to make up the A Grade team which was coached by Georg Radeck, fresh from his pre-origin Queensland representation. The Radeck family stuck strong with UNI and Doreen Radeck was an excellent Club treasurer in the late 80s at a time when the Club needed strong committee positions to reign in some debt. Their daughter, Nanette, became the UNI and TRL Queen and son Aaron was a member of the 1995 Premiership team. Georg s early 80s team comprised of the likes of: Peter Murphy, Wayne Conlan, John Kirkwood, Mark Nicholson, Noel Leeson, Lex Williamson, Terry Huston, Mick Bus and current Club president, Alan Yardley. They were young, partied hard and played just as hard. In 1982 another young bloke from Giru called Rolando Taviani showed up to the Club purely by accident. Tav liked the idea that playing for UNI made him sound intelligent, but, the only thing he ever passed was the ball.
1985 was a turning point in the Club s A Grade fortunes during the decade.
Current life member, Tony Mooney, was the club president and he was at the Uni Oval for the first training run of the year to announce the new A Grade coach, John Macdonald. In his first address to the players, Macca made it clear that mediocrity was unacceptable and introduced everyone to his henchman, Bill Caulfield. Here were a couple of skinny old men that looked like a good green apple would kill them. Wrong! Macca was a disciplinarian with a wise football brain and with Billy getting the team fitter than any other in the competition, UNI was back. Controversy prevented them from winning the 1985 Grand Final, but the Club has never been a sore loser and dignity prevails upon us to defer that page to history. Nevertheless, history will also show that the after party and Mad Monday that ensued, was epic.
There are those who recall vividly waking up on Mad Monday beside Colin Thomas on the floor of Ken Sprouster s house and feeling a cold sweat descend down their bodies as they looked down on Colin s face. His eyebrows were shaved and the remaining bare skin painted red. Colin wasn t too perturbed about the eyebrows, however, his screams could be heard throughout the town when he went to shower and discovered that the shaving, and painting, had not been restricted to his eyebrows. Throughout Mad Monday, at every pub, Colin felt it necessary to show of his family rubies . The crowning moment being at the Causeway Hotel, when during one of his showings, the other players threw him out of the pub and locked the door. There he was outside, naked, shaven and with his crimson jewels on display for all to see. Not enough to embarrass Colin though and one can only wonder what all the drivers thought as they travelled home from work at 5pm, at one of the Town s busiest intersections and there was this naked, decorated bloke, directing cars in the middle of the road like a Bangkok traffic cop. Priceless!
If there was one thing that UNI dominated without question in the 80s, it was the TRL New Faces night. With Tav coordinating the acts and ably supported by Russ Cook, Andrew Speedie, Jay Thomson, Steve Macdonald and many other willing actors , the Club was so good that it inadvertently caused the event s demise, as the other TRL Clubs refused to put in performances just to run second.
In 1987 ex-international Brian Fitzsimmons was appointed A Grade coach and with some strong recruiting, the team was primed for a good year. Rod McAskil returned to the Club to stiffen up the front row and Graham Hardwick soon looked like becoming the best acquisition of the season and Fitzsy quickly slotted him into the Captain s role. A young skinny bloke with some A Grade Sydney experience with Wests also arrived. Peter Worth went on to win two club Player of the Year awards and represented, Townsville, NQ, Qld County and Qld Residents before having a couple of seasons in France, only to return to Townsville and UNI to make it home. Worthy had the best dummy in the history of Rugby League, not just Townsville Rugby League. Many an opposition team s defensive game plan revolved around not falling for Worthy s dummy and many an opposition captain got used to asking his players why they fell for it as they assembled under their own goal posts.
Billy Caulfield worked the Club hard that year, but many questioned his tactics of taking the team on an 8km road run on the Tuesday before the Grand Final. After tries to current life members, Peter Worth and Mario La Fauci, UNI were to good and held on to beat Souths, 21-16. As Graham Hardwick held up the premiership trophy, Bill proudly boasted, it was that road run that got us over the line.
Footy trips are folklore at UNI. They were taken by plane, train or automobile and whether it was PNG, Cairns, Mackay, Brisbane or Sydney, it didn t matter, as there was always a story to be told. In 1988 UNI was invited to play Yepoon in a pre-season trial as a lead up match to the Broncos v Invitational team.. UNI provided a couple of players for the invitational side, but that didn t matter. What was important was the nine hour road trip, each way. With a couple of buses loaded up and eskies to match, they took off.
By they time the buses got to the Marlborough stretch all the boys had had a fair old skin full and felt like they could eat a zebra carcass out of a lions mouth. So, a lonely old roadhouse at the start of the stretch looked like a potential source for a good munch. Well almost. There was food and there was a kitchen, but no cook. He d called in crook for the night. No problems for a resourceful bunch like the UNI boys, we ll cook it ourselves if it s okay with you. So, half a dozen UNI boys got busy cooking, frying, dicing, slicing and that julienne thingee. Both bus loads were fed, the kitchen was cleaned spotless and all orders were paid up in full. Another bus load of tourists arrived just as the UNI boys were saying their goodbyes to the owner who protested loudly, you can t leave now. Who s going to cook for this lot? Give an inch and take a mile hey?
On a much smaller trip to Bowen, who were in the TDRL competition in the latter part of the decade, one of the newbies from a southern state, happened to be travelling in the same car as Billy Caulfield when they overtook a bloke riding a bike on the highway. Opportunity knocked and Bill answered. Later that afternoon as the players relaxed in the stands waiting for one of the lower grade games to start, the same bike rider came past the fields at Merinda, which were adjacent to the highway. The newbie proceeded to explain to everyone how the cyclist was completing a marathon challenge sponsored by local radio stations and Kelloggs. He had to ride non-stop between Ayr and Bowen for a whole year only to stop to eat a bowl of cornflakes at the radio stations in each town before turning around. Needless to say, the players were skeptical and asked how he knew this. “Billy told me.” Some players almost injured themselves falling off the back of the stands. The poor kid would have taken that story to his grave if the players hadn t of set him straight.
On that same trip to Bowen, some of the players stopped half way on the return trip at Brandon to attend Isi Dalle Corte s bucks party. The next morning, car seats for the trip back to Townsville were at a premium. Some decided to hitch hike until there were seven left and only one car. Two in the front, four in the back and Russ Cook in the boot. They were all aware of the dangers, so, the plan was that when Cookie started struggling for breath he would knock and yell and the backseaters would relay the message to the driver, who would then flick the boot release mechanism so Cookie could raise the boot for a moment to get some fresh air. Many a bemused driver travelling behind wondered if the bloke sticking his head out of the boot of the car in front had been abducted and was trying to escape.
The end of the 80s saw Macca return for another stint as coach, but with the financial burden of the 1987 premiership still hanging heavy, the Club was unable to deliver him the personnel required, in what was becoming an increasingly mercenary TDRL competition. Nevertheless, the Club still boasted its second ever TDRL medal winner in 1989. Brett Holmes had played in the 1987 premiership team as an 18 year old and quickly earned the reputation as an outstanding five eighth. Holmesy played a lot of seasons for the Club, mainly because it took him a long time to get through University. The president at the time used to remark to him, Brett, you ll get life membership of this Club before you get your degree.
Disco filled the 80s and outrageous hair was everywhere, but when Mark Muguira & Jay Thomson showed up to training one night with their hair permed and wearing tank tops that didn t quite reach their navals, the other players quietly backed themselves up against the wall just to be safe.
The 80s had outlived their usefulness and it was time to move on.