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When the hard run was needed, Valleys Diehards looked to Russell Hughes. The forward always put his hand up and took it up even if John Sattler was standing in front of him.

Hughes played in four grand finals in a row to start his career and played for Queensland in great royal blue and maroon careers respectively.

Russell Hughes Q&A

1970 and you make your debut for Wynnum and then go across to Valleys in 1971. How’d you get to Valleys?

I played for Wynnum in 1970 at 18 and I wasn’t too happy there, so one day on the way to uni I thought I better stop and have a beer and Henry Holloway had the same idea at the same pub, so we got to talking and he suggested Valleys might be the place for me, so I came across to Valleys and was there from 1971 to 1976 when I went to Penrith for half a year.

Grand Finals in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974 - that’s not a bad first four years?

Valleys lost to Norths in 1969 and won in 1970 so I knew I was going to a good club with good players but I was sure I would be able to play first grade. I played one reserve grade game in 1971 and then first grade from then. I consider myself a Diehard and I love the place.

One of my favourites ever photos - 1972 Grand Final, most famous Brisbane grand final ever. Fyfe kicks his famous field goal, Easts beat Valleys by one point - you’re in the Easts room pouring beer over Fyfe’s head to congratulate him.

There are some untruths about that photo. People always assume I went in there after fulltime to give him a beer and congratulate him, but I didn’t. I was furious at him. I can’t believe he kicked it I went in there angry. I have forgiven him now, sort of.

The 1974 grand final nearly didn’t happen, did it?

Yeah, second last round we played Wests at Purtell Park and Sattler was playing for Wests and he had a well-deserved reputation from a long career, but I was young and thought I could make my mark against one of the best. So in the scrum I have decided I am going to have a go here. We had some words and he was furious at me - I have never seen anyone so angry - so we went at it. There is blood everywhere and we have both been sent off. I was having a shower and all the blood came off, no cut or anything, so I am thinking well that’s good must be his blood. We both had to go to the judiciary on Monday and Henry Holloway has come to see me at work to make sure I am ready to go and couldn’t believe I don’t have a mark on me. He said it looks terrible, Sattler has 13 stitches and you’ve come out with nothing. We used mascara to give me a black eye and put a gauze above my eye. We have gone in there and both got three weeks, then appealed and both got off. I got to play the next weekend and the finals and grand final. Henry Holloway got fined $30 for going on the field and abusing the ref though, that stood.

Queensland in 1971, three Queenslanders sent off and one New South Wales- you’re one of them?

Ray Laird was fair enough, that was a send-off. Rod Tolhurst and myself - I didn’t see too much wrong. We didn’t get suspended and there was two minutes to go so still not too sure what Keith Holman was doing sending four players off with a few minutes to go.

Where is your Queensland jumper now?

I still have it, but it’s ripped in the front, I wore it fishing and my mate ripped it.

Let’s talk forwards

Des Morris

Tough. In 1970 I played against Easts and I thought right, I am going to give it to Morris and he was knocked out. I thought this isn’t great he is going to kill me. I was only 18 and he’s Des Morris. While he is coming around, I have gone and hid. Des gets up and says to me well played mate that’s how you do it.

Arthur Beetson

I played against Arthur in Sydney, again I thought just going to put a big tackle on here and just make sure he’s as tough as people say. I have launched myself and hit him sweetly with a great tackle - he didn’t even move. Not sure he even knew I was there.

Hugh O’Doherty

Great bloke, great player and great mate. He would come to us and say McConnell is killing me in the scrums, can you sort him out. Yeah, sure Hughie. I love him. Hughie stole more ball outside the scrum than inside the scrum.

What happened at Penrith?

I went and thought I better try Sydney but just hated it, I hurt my knee and wanted to come home and then retired. I worked as an engineer and then a professional fisherman.

Main image: Marty Scanlan pours champagne for Russell Hughes after a Valleys victory

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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