FOGS keep Dick ‘Tosser' Turner’s legacy alive with the Maroons

The 203 men who have worn the Queensland Maroons jersey with pride have had the Former Origin Greats organisation by their sides throughout their careers.

And that’s before, during and after achieving what is the greatest honour for a Queensland rugby league player at the interstate level.

Matt Gillett became the 30th player to be awarded the FOGS Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner Medal this year for notching a 20th State of Origin game for the Maroons, one of three FOGS awards given to Queensland players on reaching significant Origin landmarks.

It is fitting that one of those awards be named in honour of the late Dick 'Tosser' Turner, who founded the FOGS in 1997.

Dick 'Tosser' Turner. Photo: QRL Media
Dick 'Tosser' Turner. Photo: QRL Media

Gene Miles, the executive chairman of the FOGS today, said it was impossible to overstate the influence of Turner and his legacy, through the FOGS, on rugby league in Queensland and in particular the Maroons.

While he never represented his state in rugby league, you just have to speak to Maroons players about the eternal influence Turner has on the Maroons and what it means to be a FOG.

"In 1997 we felt that players should be rewarded for playing X number of games and Tosser was part of that," Miles said.

"So we voted to have the FOGS Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner Medal for achieving 20 Origin games and that was the way to repay the Godfather of Origin."

Turner had taken the young Maroons, from the early 1980s, under his wing and built a real sense of unity and spirit in the group.

"Arthur Beetson was the coach and Tosser was the team manager and they were a winning combination. Back then they didn’t have the budgets they do these days and Arthur said that we needed to have an activity to do so Tosser suggested go-kart riding out at Wanless Go-Karts in Oxley," Miles chuckled.

“We were playing on a Tuesday night back then so this would be on a Monday night before the game. We’d go out there and it was crash, bang… but it was great for team morale and bonding. It was all funded by Tosser Turner because he could see what it meant to the team. Wally would drive the team bus out to the go-kart track and we’d have a stack of fun, and the next night we’d go out and perform.

"Tosser funded a stack of things and made the Maroons family what it is today, and it is my responsibility as chairman of the joint to continue that legacy on. That is why the FOGS awards that we have instituted mean so much to the guys now."

Miles said to play 20 Origin games was "an achievement in itself".

Gillett was presented with his FOGS Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner Medal in camp in Perth before Game II.

Cameron Smith and Matt Gillett. Photo: NRL Images
Cameron Smith and Matt Gillett. Photo: NRL Images

"The FOGS Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner Medal is very similar to the Dally M medal and the guys love receiving that," Miles said.

The award for playing 30 games for the Maroons is known as the FOGS Statesman Award. Only 10 players have achieved those lofty heights.

The word "statesman" in the sporting context is appropriate as it reflects a person who is a leader who wins great respect through their integrity and actions.

"Thirty games, that is 10 series if you don’t get injured,” Miles said.

"When the guys move on to the FOGS Statesman Award they receive a Tag Heuer watch which retails for $12,000 to $15,000.

"The guys who are recipients of that wear that watch on their wrist very proudly.

"I remember a game night down in Sydney when Johnathan Thurston was getting on the bus but realised he had forgotten his watch. The bus waited as Johnathan went back up to his room to get the watch because he wanted to wear it to the game. That says something in itself.”

The FOGS Cameron Smith Award, for playing 40 Origin games, is the elite of the elite and has only been awarded to the Storm skipper, FOG No.140.

Cameron Smith. Photo: QRL Media
Cameron Smith. Photo: QRL Media

"Initially we couldn’t think of anyone to name the 40-gamers after because we’ve only ever had one, so we thought why not name it after the great man himself," Miles said.

"There is only guy that has received the FOGS Cameron Smith Award and I don’t think I’ll see another in my time."

Rugby league has been a vehicle for the FOGS to drive positive change in communities and one of its main aims remains an enduring commitment to raise funds for causes and charities that help achieve that lofty ambition.

Once again, Turner's influence on that ethos has been massive.

"Tosser appreciated the support the Queensland public gave the Maroons sides in the early days and his way to return those favours was to assist people and football clubs that were struggling, particularly in remote areas," Miles said.

"Tosser wanted to repay the public that turned out and supported the game in the 1980s and early 1990s."

One of those many programs honours the Maroons’ first captain, whose influence reaches every corner of Queensland rugby league.

"Arthur is Origin as far as everyone is concerned, hence him being the FOG #1. For the past 11 years we have been doing the ARTIE program, which is an acronym for achieving results through Indigenous education," Miles said.

Arthur Beetson. Photo: QRL Media
Arthur Beetson. Photo: QRL Media

"I went to Arthur and I said 'we have some funding from the government and we are doing this Indigenous school attendance and I’d love to call it the Artie Beetson Academy', and he was just overwhelmed. Our first gig was with Artie and Sam Backo on Mornington Island where they both made the kids at school breakfast to attract them to school and make sure they got some brain food."

The FOGS, and what they represent, live in every Maroon and prospective Origin player throughout the state.

There is an abiding belief that when you wear a Maroons jersey, anything is possible.

Mark Coyne’s miracle try in 1994 is a case in point. It was the spirit of all the previous Maroons running through the Queenslanders that night when Coyne scored the greatest Origin try of all time.

How "right" that one of the iconic images of the aftermath of that moment was an image of Turner hugging coach Wally Lewis, the FOG regarded as the greatest of all time, in jubilation.

It is fitting that Turner, who passed away in 2008, witnessed a famous Maroons win in his last attendance at an Origin game.

It was Game II of the 2008 series and the 76-year-old was frail and his health diminishing quickly. His spirit was still strong though, which is why when he was wheeled in to the Maroons sheds at Suncorp Stadium after a 30-0 win a thunderous and rousing cheer went up in the dressing room that had those in attendance shedding tears.

It was Turner’s spirit, and that of the FOGS, that were with the Maroons three weeks later when Billy Slater latched on to a Thurston pass late on to secure the decider at ANZ Stadium.

The two most recent coaches of the Maroons have continued to instil a deep understanding of what being a FOG means into the Maroons playing group.

Mal Meninga did exactly that by making current players aware of Queensland’s rich history, before and after the dawning of the Origin concept.

Kevin Walters has continued the tradition, which is why he was so passionate about his team wearing a replica captain’s run jersey worn by the 1919 Queensland team, captained by war hero Duncan Thompson, who was shot through the lung a year earlier on the Somme.

Walters, like Meninga, has a selection of FOGS in the team camp like Slater, Thurston, Allan Langer, Justin Hodges, Petero Civoniceva, Gavin Allen and Steve Walters to ensure the tradition continues.

Maroons coach Kevin Walters with captain Daly Cherry-Evans. Photo: NRL Images
Maroons coach Kevin Walters with captain Daly Cherry-Evans. Photo: NRL Images

The Maroons of today have benefited from the emerging Origin program which was instituted in 2001 by Wayne Bennett after the mastercoach was urged by Miles, Turner and Chris Close to return as Maroons coach.

Bennett said he would on the proviso he could get the emerging camps funded. Former Minister for Sport, the late Terry Mackenroth, came to the party in conjunction with the QAS and ever since a steady stream of future Maroons have come through the camps.

Those camps have been the life blood of the Maroons, and rightly so when you consider what Origin means to the people of Queensland.

"I remember a quote from Tosser where he said if we win a State of Origin then Queensland it is the greatest place in the world, but when we lose it is like there is a death in the family," Miles said. "It just means so much to the people of Queensland."

In 2011, during what became an eight-series winning streak, Rugby League Week magazine published a magazine called ‘Dynasty’ on the Maroons.

Then captain Darren Lockyer, in his last year as a Maroons, paid tribute to Turner as one of the inside men who had contributed so much to what would become a decade of dominance.

 "Tosser got back to the roots of it all. Origin was born because Queensland were always belted by NSW teams. Queensland hated NSW for it. Queensland were the underdogs,” Lockyer said.

"The players in the current team would never have felt that or seen those days. Tosser was about bringing back that Queensland spirit and he had a few messages that hit home with me.

"One of them was that you are part of a family when you join the Origin team. His favourite line was, 'Queensland expects you to do your duty’.  

"We were representing more than just ourselves. We were representing the whole state that was very passionate about Origin. Queensland winning an Origin series is more than just winning football games. It means a lot to the people. I think Tosser was about getting down to what State of Origin meant to Queensland and instilling that into the players."