Part three - 1981
The 81 season saw us move to Gilbert Park, Red Hill from Jubilee Oval at Bardon. Jubilee was a cricket ground with no rugby league line markings and only one light which made ball work very interesting. The move to Gilbert Park was engineered by President Jack Bastin who would be at the helm of the club over the next five years and was backed by a strong committee. As Wests Juniors had the lease on Gilbert Park, a strong link was formed with Darryl Laine and his committee over the next decade. I have no doubt the new facilities at Gilbert Park played a role in the success that was to come. The Broncos still enjoy a great training facility today.
Still, despite less than desirable training facilities, we made the semi's in 1980 under the coaching of Bill Roderick but were knocked out by SGIO in the first week of the finals. Bill made sure we were fit, flogging us relentlessly with the help of Wests conditioner Happy Lawrence. Bills favourite description of us was "Bleedin Fairies" which only a Welshman could get away with. Every night before training he would send us off on a road run up Coopers Camp Road, along Waterworks, down and up Jubilee Terrace and then back down Coopers Camp to the field.
As mentioned earlier, some Samford boys had come over that season and we had quite a mix of talent to work with. We were playing in the Metropolitan League which was the biggest and strongest in Brisbane next to the BRL. Other leagues operating then were Commercial, Sub Districts (second division) Public Service and Church leagues. Lots of football going on. The Metropolitan League headquarters was at Gibson Park, Stafford with four fields in use every Sunday with up to twelve games played during the day. 1981 was Peter Younger's first year as coach. He would coach us for three years and win three premierships. Some record. The Metropolitan League would grow over the next couple of years to field almost sixty teams in A1, A2, Reserve, B & C grades. Normanby always prided itself on being in the strongest grade, the A1.
The 1981 Grand Final was played at Newman Oval at Albion which was at the time the home ground of the famous Valleys Club (now Alan Border Oval). We were to play Hansens who were the favourites for the title. We would meet them in three grand finals in a row between 81 and 83. On paper they were clearly the favourites, boasting several Brothers First Grade players and former Brisbane and Queensland halfback Johnny Smith as coach. People say you have to lose a grand final to win one. While we were nervously getting changed in the sheds, coach Younger asked how many of us had played in a grand final before. It was pretty quiet. Still, we were happy to be there and knew we would give a good account of ourselves.
Hansens scored first but we hit back with two tries. The first after some good hands through the backs. And the game was sealed by a try from dummy half with ten to go. The game was very open with both sides attacking from the start but it was our defence in the second half that got us home and would be our strength over the following four premierships. As you can imagine the clubhouse was the place to be that night and the Normanby Hotel the next day for the 10 to 10 celebrations. I have purposely not mentioned players names from the game as we were all in it together and never thought of ourselves as individuals which would show through in the years to follow. This was just one of the traits brought to the club by Peter Younger.
There were many outstanding performances that Sunday afternoon. Doug Lulham our great masseur who was helped by Jimmy Johnson to get us massaged and ready before the game and strappers John Taplin and Tony Spencer who looked after us during the game. They had plenty to do as it was pretty rugged and at times a bit heated. Highlights of our win would take top billing over the BRL on channel Nine's sport segment that night as Normanby stalwart Ren Winders was Nines news editor. Ren always organised a channel Nine cameraman to shoot our Grand Finals. We would get top billing on the six o' clock news for a few years to come.
By Brian Donnelly