State of Origin hard man found a tougher game
HE RECKONS State of Origin is as tough as footy gets, but Queensland hard man Greg Dowling says it's relative child's play compared to politics.
Besides, if someone abused him on the field - verbally or physically - he had the necessary ammunition to get square. Actually, when he played during the 1980s, a punch was as common as a winter cold.
"My brief venture into politics was a real eye-opener, I can tell you," said the 60-year-old, who made 11 Origin appearances for Queensland, played a dozen Tests for the Kangaroos and 69 games as a foundation Broncos player.
"Clive (Palmer) made our mobile numbers available to the public and some of the abusive phone calls I received were incredible. For someone who thought rugby league was a tough gig, this was another league altogether."
When this writer recently confirmed to an interstate mate that the UAP candidate for Herbert was in fact the same Greg Dowling who played the greatest game of all, his instant reaction was "what a catch". And he didn't mean what a catch for Clive Palmer.
He was referring to Dowling's catch from the rebound of a Wally Lewis chip off the crossbar for a spectacular try in the pouring rain and resultant mud at the SCG in 1984, the second match for the Queensland prop. It remains one of the most unforgettable moments in State of Origin history.
"Fans remember me for two things - that try from the crossbar and my sideline stoush with Kiwi Kevin Tamati the next year," Dowling recalled this week at his home in Townsville.
"One was ugly, one was pretty good - a lot like our life experiences I suppose. But to me, it was all about having a go."
Although it occurred 35 years ago, Dowling still vividly recalls the crossbar incident.
His try, between the posts, gave Queensland an 8-nil lead on the way to a 14-2 win that clinched Queensland's fifth successive series win in the first five years of Origin football.
He credits his extreme dexterity in the slippery conditions to his North Queensland upbringing.
"I grew up in Ingham, one of the wettest places in Australia," he revealed.
"At best we would play a couple of games a year when it wasn't pouring rain. But on reflection, I look at the replay and still find it hard to believe I actually bent down that far and picked up a slippery leather football so cleanly."
And Dowling finally poured cold water on the long-held myth that the try resulted from a well-planned move between him and his Wynnum-Manly skipper.
"Wally was so skilful that he probably was aiming for the black dot on the crossbar, and expecting a rebound," he surmised.
"But I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was actually racing through to smash Gary Jack (Blues fullback) and stop him from getting back into the field of play. But old Wally, in his wisdom, was one step ahead of me - as he usually was."
While he conceded favouritism to NSW in the current series, Dowling said Queensland should never be discounted.
"Yes, we have had some of our best-ever players retire and added to that has been a spate of injuries," he said.
"But I look back on when I was playing and every year, on paper, the Blues had a better team - or so they thought. That never worried us.
"I just hope the blokes who Kevvie (coach Walters) has picked have that same belief we did. What the hell - just have a crack."