The year 1981 was a great one for Wally Lewis, who was not only selected to play five-eighth for the first time in the green and gold of Australia, but also took over the Queensland Maroons captaincy from Arthur Beetson.
This look back on this formative time in the career of Wally Lewis, and at rugby league 40 years ago, is the first in a series of monthly historical reflections, produced with assistance from the Queensland Rugby League's History Committee.
Back in 1981, Lewis took over the captaincy from Beetson who played in the two interstate games prior before pulling out of the Origin clash with injury.
Nevertheless, Beetson coached the Maroons with Lewis leading Queensland to a second half come-from-behind victory, scoring one of many typical 'Wally Lewis' tries that would pepper his career.
1981 - Lewis makes his mark
Lewis was the first signing for the Brisbane Broncos in their inaugural 1988 season, but joined Gold Coast Seagulls in 1991, finishing his playing career at the Tweed Heads-based club the following year.
Lewis would first run out as five-eighth for his country in 1981 as Australia took on the touring French side in two matches during July of that year.
Following a 2-0 series defeat to the French in 1978, Australia would prove too strong on home turf with a convincing 43-3 win at the SCG, and a 17-2 win at Lang Park.
Wally Lewis career overview
- Wally Lewis made his first-grade debut for Valleys against Illawarra in a mid-week Amco Cup match early in 1978 and remained at the Diehards until 1983
- In 1984, Lewis joined Wynnum Manly, following a brief stint with English club, Wakefield Trinity
- Lewis was the first signing for the Brisbane Broncos in their inaugural 1988 season
- In 1981, Lewis joined Gold Coast Seagulls, finishing his playing career at the Tweed Heads-based club the following year
- Lewis then coached the Gold Coast side in 1993, and then was appointed Queensland's State of Origin coach in 1994
- As an international star, his reign began 40 years ago, with Tests at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and then his beloved Lang Park, a ground where "he knew every blade of grass", and where he played Test matches against France, New Zealand and Great Britain. In 2008, Lewis was named five-eighth in the Australian Rugby League Team of the Century
- Today, Lewis works with Channel 9 as a sports commentator and reporter
- The Wally Lewis Statue in the northern forecourt of Suncorp Stadium (the old Lang Park) is one of Brisbane's great landmarks and pays homage to a man affectionately known as 'The King', one of rugby league's 13 Immortals
The QRL thanks the History Committee for its contribution to this piece. Stay tuned to QRL.com.au for future features.