One of Queensland Rugby League’s great warriors, former Test hooker, Brian Fitzsimmons died on Wednesday (June 22), aged 74, after a long battle with ill health.
It was fitting Fitzsimmons passed away on the day Queensland wrapped up yet another State of Origin series, given his love for the Maroon jersey.
The North Queensland product represented his state 22 times between 1965 and 1971, 18 times against the old enemy, New South Wales.
He played four Tests for Australia, two against New Zealand and one each against Great Britain and France.
Fitzsimmons played club football at Mareeba, Tully, Babinda, Ayr, Cairns and Gladstone, as well as turning out for Brisbane Brothers towards the end of his career, helping the “Fighting Irish” to the 1974 BRL Grand Final, when they were beaten 9-2 by Valleys in a tryless match.
In 1964 he won a Foley Shield title with Innisfail. He was a member of the first North Queensland side to beat Great Britain – a memorable 17-15 win over the 1966 tourists at the Townsville Sports Reserve.
He made his Test debut against the 1967 Kiwis at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and the following year played a World Cup match against France at Lang Park.
A lightning fast striker for the ball in the days when scrums were contested, Fitzsimmons was often targeted by rival props, and it was almost par for the course that he was left flat on the ground after early scrums in inter-state matches, as rival forwards sought to bash him out of the contest.
It was a tribute to his skill and toughness that he made the Australian side as often as he did, particularly as he played in an era when NSW dominated inter-state football.
But it is also true that he was a handy scapegoat if Australia lost a Test, as they did during 1970 home Ashes series against Britain.
Australia won the First Test of that series 37-15 at Lang Park, with South Sydney's Elwyn Walters at hooker. Fitzsimmons was tipped to be hooker in Brisbane, but was unavailable because of mumps.
With Walters sidelined for the return clash in Sydney, Fitzsimmons got a start, and won the scrums 12-9. But he was axed for the decider, along with fellow Queenslanders, Col Weiss and Ray Laird. Britain won 21-17, scoring five tries to one.
On his retirement as a player, Fitzsimmons had a number of business interests, including a hotel in Townsville. He also tried his hand at club coaching in Townsville.
He was member of the steering committee which did the ground work for the admission of the North Queensland Cowboys into the national competition in 1995.
In 2008 he was named hooker in the North Queensland Team of the Century.