20 years of Cup Competition ... 1999 by Mike Higgison (Rugby League Historian)
The 1999 Queensland Cup competition changed its format when the disappointing loss of four teams (Brothers, Gold Coast, Townsville and Bundaberg) was tempered with a fairer 12-team full home and away season with a top five finals format.
The loss of the Gold Coast Chargers at NRL level saw the Burleigh Bears benefit from numerous quality signings. However, diehard Brisbane rugby league fans were shocked at the demise of the Brothers club, which had its roots in the local competition from as far back as 1917 as Merthyr and Carltons, before becoming Brothers in 1920.
With Wayne Bennett’s former playing club the Brethren now defunct, the Broncos commenced their affiliation with the Toowoomba Clydesdales. ABC TV continued its Saturday coverage of the competition, with Fox Sports now also broadcasting a Monday replay of the televised match.
Again the season gave rise to plenty of talent, with names like Michael Roberts and James Hinchey at Redcliffe; Jason Bulgarelli and Shaun Valentine at Wests; Shane O’Flanagan and Aaron Douglas at Burleigh; Wade Fenton and Matthew Dux at Norths; Craig Teevan and Brian McCarthy at Ipswich; Graham White and Sime Busby at Central Queensland; Brett McPherson and Dion Cope at Easts; Brad Nairn, Gene Ngamu and David Seage at Wynnum; Paul Fisher and Brendon Lindsay at Logan City; Shaun Berrigan, Lote Tuqiri, Shane Walker, Carl Webb and Dane Carlaw at Toowoomba; Shane Muspratt and Denny Lambert at Cairns; and Matt McCosker and Nathan Squassoni at Souths.
From the outset, Easts, Norths and Redcliffe were the standout Brisbane clubs, while the powerful Burleigh and Toowoomba sides were the best from the country. Only for a fleeting moment did Easts drop out of the top five at the hands of Wests, but the Tigers superior percentage saw them leapfrog the Panthers for a last-gasp finals spot.
Norths incredibly rattled up 791 points during the season at an average of nearly 36 per game, amazingly without a player in the competition’s top 15 try scorers. But with John Wilshere (Norths), Mick Roberts (Redcliffe) and Ben Lythe (Burleigh) all passing 200 points for the season, their clubs were always well on the way to the finals.
Souths propped up the table that year, having received a number of hidings, but they did manage to break the duck with a tough win over their 80s rivals Wynnum at Kougari Oval.
In the finals, coach Rick Stone and skipper Grant Adamson had their Bears team firing on all cylinders, when they edged out Norths then Redcliffe to be the first team into the grand final. The win over Redcliffe was their first in three outings against the competition benchmarks.
The Broncos-packed Toowoomba side and Easts both dropped out in elimination finals with disappointing performances. It was then left to minor premiers Redcliffe and second-placed Norths to fight out the other grand final spot.
In one of the toughest Queensland Cup finals ever played, the big Dolphins forward pack led the way to an edge-of-your-seat 26-22 victory, and a fourth showdown with the Burleigh Bears.
Dolphins half Roberts took both major player awards in 1999, and his performances went a long way to guiding his team to the minor premiership. Wynnum’s David Seage was also voted Colt of the Year, and Devils coach Mark Murray took the coaches award. Norths flying winger John Wilshere again topped the points scoring with 246, ironically the same total as the previous season. Michael
Roberts wasn’t far behind Wilshere, with 214 for Redcliffe. The top try-scorer was Burleigh’s Aaron Douglas with 28, while Wynnum centre Matt Fisher finished not far behind on 26.
On grand final day, it was nothing short of a dogfight between the best team all year in Redcliffe, and the form team in the finals Burleigh. The crowd was kept on its feet and roaring for more from the opening whistle. Burleigh drew first blood with an early Ben Lythe penalty goal, before stamping their dominance with a flashy backline try in the 20th minute.
Centre Darren Anderson finished off a slick move by powering onto a perfect Grant Adamson pass. Lythe’s conversion left Burleigh ahead 8-0. With still nothing between both teams, the Dolphins struck back in the 33rd minute, with a perfect backline movement for winger Trent Leis to crash through. Centre Mixie Lui set it up beautifully with a step that wrong-footed Reggie Cressbrook.
Trailing 8-4 at the break, Redcliffe threw everything at the Bears early, only coming up with a Leis penalty goal following an indiscretion in the ruck. Both teams continued to pepper each other with near misses, before the Dolphins broke the shackles in the 60th minute.
Another backline move saw lock Tony Gould throw a 20m pass to flyer Ricky Hewinson to dive over and put Redcliffe ahead 10-8. But 8 minutes later, Bears custodian Jamie Mahon chimed into a backline move to get down low and crash over for the winning 12-10 lead.
Burleigh desperately held on from there to take their maiden premiership. In the end, it was only goal-kicking that separated the two sides, the delirious crowd on its feet cheering both sides right to the death.
1999 premiers Burleigh: 1. Jamie Mahon 2. Aaron Douglas 3. Darren Anderson 4. Frank Napoli 5. Faron Anderson 6. Craig Freer 7. Grant Adamson (c) 8. Tony Priddle 9. Ben Lythe 10. Shane O’Flanagan 11. Bill Dunn 12. Hamish Smith 13. Dean Allen 14. Brad Middlebosch 15. Ali Brown 16. Justin Bryant 17. Reggie Cressbrook