Part seven - 1985
30 years on it is almost surreal writing about this game, this season. We had set an amazing record of four consecutive premierships in the Metropolitan League and here we were, the new guys in a different competition. The pressure was on from the start as the Public Service League had their gun teams who weren't about to let Normanby dominate. Joining us from the Metro League were former Public Service teams SGIO and Main Roads. SGIO gave us a really tough game in the semi's in 84 and were a very good side. The Public Service had some real heavyweights in Firefighters, Brisbane City Council, Police and Mines. Headquarters was Nash Oval at Kalinga and the league was run by a very good committee led by Barry Whitaker. No doubt they were very happy to have three Metro teams join their comp in the same year.
Coach Harry Donnelly made sure our preparation was as good as possible and thing were looking just fine as we won our three trial games in good style. Our first trial each year was against Stanley Rivers who played in the Sunshine Coast League and were a very good outfit. Our patron in the early Eighties, Courtney Allen was from that area and arranged the first trial and we kept it going for a few years. 85 would be the first year we beat Stanley Rivers in a trial. We beat Newspapers comfortably in the second trial and had a hard fought win over SGIO in our last trial. We would meet them three more times that year. I remember our first game in the Public Service League well. It was played at Nash Oval against heavyweights Brisbane City Council. Their coach was none other than Johnny Smith, Hansens coach in our first three Grand Final victories in the Metropolitan League. I am sure he moved leagues to get away from us and must have got some surprise when we turned up in 85. He had his boys primed for us and we were outplayed to the tune of 28-12. Things got no better the following week when SGIO made up for us knocking them out of the 84 finals by beating us 18-11. The Public Service were probably thinking what duds we were after losing our first two. It was no coincidence we met the top two teams first up to test us out. To his credit, Harry remained upbeat and confident we could turn things around. We did so in quite dramatic style by losing only two more games from the next seventeen. Although every game we played our opposition lifted because of our record in the Metropolitan League.
As in 1984, we once again had an influx of new players with another seven joining us for the first time. I have nothing but admiration for a lot of our guys who just didn't get a lot of game time but would turn up for training and games every week. It is worth remembering in those days once you came off you couldn't go back on and there was only two replacements allowed after halftime. A lot of guys just didn't get on the field. Around this time we had thirty players for one team and the bond was as strong as ever between us all. Quite a juggling act for the coach and selectors.
The Police and the Firefighters were always tough games. You could always depend on a fiery game with the coppers. I think it was their one chance to have a few blues with members of the public and not have to explain themselves. The Firefighters would often turn up for their game in their firetrucks while obviously on duty and be picked up again after the match. Our first semi was against the Firefighters which we won 29-6 and the following week we would meet BCC in the preliminary final. After beating us 28-12 in the first game they belted us in second round 34-14 so we knew we were in the fight of our lives to advance to the Grand Final. It was a tough affair with a huge crowd in attendance. As was the case in previous years, our fitness showed through and we progressed to our fifth straight Grand Final with a solid 24-10 win in probably the best game of the season.
This Grand Final would be vastly different than the previous four. We seemed flat for no known reason from the start. We had had two really tough semi's and I think this had a bearing on our game. Ian Dobbs kicked two early penalties to give us a 4-0 lead before SGIO scored in the corner and converted for a 6-4 lead. This was stretched to 8-4 with a penalty to them just before halftime. Ten minutes into the second half, they scored under the posts thanks to some great work from their halves Langdon and Matty Baxter who was probably the best attacking player on the field that day. We struggled to contain them. They now led 14-4 and our supporters could have been forgiven for writing us off. Around this time, our fullback Wayne Thomsen injured his ankle badly, fielding a bomb on our line. Thommo had been one of our best but had to go off and was replaced by Mara. Mara injected himself into the game immediately with some bruising runs and outstanding defence. With ten minutes remaining, Brian Donnelly scored from dummy half and Dobbs converted to get us within four points at 14-10. The side really lifted from this point and our fitness once again enabled us to go on the attack. Halfback Chris Farley, who was having a blinder, chip kicked in his own half and regathered to set us on the attack down the left touchline. A quick play the ball saw Gary Cooper send a twenty metre spiral pass that hit his mate Donny Pennant on the chest. Don then passed to Mara who dummied to create an overlap then passed to centre Bobby Taylor who crossed wide out on the right side of the field. 14 all with minutes remaining. SGIO can't beleive it. They were leading by two tries with ten minutes to go and now Dobbsy is lining up the kick of his life to give us the lead. Just like his previous kick, this one never looked like missing but the drama wasn't over. A couple of tackles into our next set we are tackled into touch. Not the plan the skipper had just laid out to his team. SGIO's halves go on the attack again. Baxter has stepped through three or four of us without a hand being laid on him. He is ten metres out from scoring the winning try under the post when Mara comes up with the tackle of the match. With one minute remaining, SGIO have one last chance to snatch the win. They have a scrum feed five metres out from our line. There weren't too many scrum wins against the feed that afternoon but we got that one and held on for a win against the odds.
Normanby 16 (Brian Donnelly, Bob Taylor tries, Ian Dobbs 4 goals) d. SGIO 14.