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Vale Des Lee

Des Lee was small in stature, but big on courage.

A crowd favourite with Wynnum Manly from 1974-76, Lee brought down the biggest forwards with scything tackles, and attacked from the scrum base, or the ruck, with the same determination he displayed in defence.

Lee, a product of the Murwillumbah Brothers club, never tipped the scales at anything heavier than 64 kilograms. 

The Courier-Mail's Lawrie Kavanagh was sent to Murwillumbah to cover the 1969, Group 18 - Gold Coast grand final between Brothers and Cudgen, and rated winger, Athol Gear and halfback, Lee, the two best players, in Brothers' 11-0 win.

Gear was signed by Norths in Brisbane and went on to represent Brisbane, whereas Lee chose to head south to the Newcastle competition, where he signed with Central Charlestown.

In 1974, Lee signed with Wynnum Manly, and in one of his early matches caught the eye of The Courier-Mail's then chief league writer, former Kangaroo tour vice-captain, Jack Reardon, after a standout performance against Wests' future Test halfback, Greg Oliphant.

"The Baysiders' best player, in my opinion, was halfback, Des Lee, who was splendid in defence," Reardon wrote. "He was, however, even better in attack, putting his team on the move at every opportunity, and backing up, to keep the movement flowing."

Wynnum's 1975 elimination final win over Easts, was Lee's finest moment in first grade at the club. With Des Morris as captain-coach, Easts were hot favourites, but the Seagulls hung on for a 9-7 win, with another Murwillumbah Brothers' product, John Dowling (a future Queensland State of Origin representative), among Wynnum's try scorers.

The following week, Lee and Dowling played in Wynnum's 22-15 knock-out semi-final loss to Redcliffe, in a gripping bayside battle.

Both players were eligible for reserve grade, and Lee led Wynnum to a 23-9 win over Norths in the grand-final. Wynnum were coached by Jim Lewis, father of future 'Immortal', Wally Lewis.

Lee captained the 1976 side in the reserve grade grand-final, but this time the Seagulls lost 17-9 to Wests.

In 1977, Lee signed as captain-coach of Beaudesert, where he spent three seasons, before retiring.

His former Murwillumbah Brothers' team mate, and BRL halfback rival, Gary Dobrich described Lee as "a great guy".

Dobrich, who played for Queensland in 1972, said Lee was as tough as nails.

"But he was a thorough gentleman, and will be sadly missed by those whose lives were touched by him," Dobrich said.

Desmond James Lee died on April 27, aged 73. His funeral was held at Nerang on May 4.

Main image: Des Lee leads Wynnum Manly on to Lang Park for the 1976 reserve grade grand final against Wests. He is holding the hand of Wynnum ball boy, Heath Lewis, brother of rugby league ‘Immortal‘ Wally Lewis. Photo: supplied

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