Rita Langer has this 1987 Origin photo of her son Allan on the wall at her Sadliers Crossing home. That year he was voted the rugby league writers' player of the year.
Rita Langer has this 1987 Origin photo of her son Allan on the wall at her Sadliers Crossing home. That year he was voted the rugby league writers' player of the year. Contributed

Demand to immortalise Ipswich legend at iconic landmark

THIRTY years ago a State of Origin legend was born and he was as Ipswich made as they come.

It is hard to believe now, but there were doubts whether Allan Langer was big enough to play Origin football when he was plucked from the Ipswich Jets to play for Queensland in Game One of the 1987 series at Lang Park.

Those doubts were soon put to bed by the end of the series, won 2-1 by Queensland, with Langer the man of the match in the decider.

Fifteen years later Allan Jeffrey Langer retired from Origin footy the highest capped Queensland player at the time, with 34 games, and as one of the giants of rugby league history.

But his old Jets coach Tommy Raudonikis recalls getting a phone call during Langer's first Origin camp where some of Queensland's greats were concerned they were about to line up with a midget.

"Journalist Tony Durkin rang me and said that some of the senior players in camp like Lewis and Miles were worried that he was too small and didn't want him," Raudonikis told the QT.

"So I called selector Dud Beattie and I told him 'don't worry about this kid. He's got so much potential. Don't worry about his size because he'll handle Origin'.

"I was pushing his barrow because I coached the kid and I really liked him, although I am a Blue through and through. Now I am a bit filthy because he tortured NSW for years, and I probably helped cause that in a lot of ways.

"But I had tea with him the other night at his restaurant up on the Sunshine Coast. There was me, Kerrod Walters, Brett Walters, Steve Rohl and Ray Kelly.

"Alfie never forgets all those old Ipswich fellas."

Raudonikis says that not long before his Origin debut there were questions also being asked.

"We played somebody up the road and Alfie had a shocker," he says.

"The media were there in droves and they spoke to me about that game and I said that the kid had been crook all week and that I shouldn't have let him play.

"I had to smooth that one over for him."

Maroons legend Gene Miles admits he wasn't sold on Langer ahead of Game One of 1987.

"I was one of the doubters," Miles admits.

"He had very little support the little blonde rooster, apart from Fatty (Paul) Vautin.

"But I was pleased to be wrong. I rate up him way up there and I can't speak highly enough of him.

"He changed the game with his little kicks in behind the line. Those things weren't happening before he came into Origin.

"They even had to change the rules because of his ball stealing and tackling technique.

"He just loved playing footy. He lived for it. He could mess around with the best of us, but come game time you wanted him in your team that's for sure."

 

Allan Langer and the rest of the 1987 State of Origin team pose for a photo by Brisbane Lord Mayor Sally - Ann Atkinson.
Allan Langer and the rest of the 1987 State of Origin team pose for a photo by Brisbane Lord Mayor Sally - Ann Atkinson. Rob Williams

Jimmy Landy, a life member of Norths and the Jets, coached Langer when he was at the Norths Tigers.

Landy was reserve grade coach of the Jets in 1987 when Langer was called into Origin and recalls it as a special time for local league.

"There was a big buzz around and everyone was over the moon when he got selected," Landy recalls.

"It was a great time for Ipswich and for all our players.

"Little did we realise what a stellar career lay ahead for Al...and the opportunities that he would open up for players. We'd had a lot of players represent Queensland but Al introduced the modern version of players who represented.

"We had Kerrod, Kevvie and Al who we knew were destined for great things."

There was debate about whether Laurie Spina, then the Roosters half, or Langer should have been picked for Queensland in 1987.

The selectors certainly made the right choice.

You Tube has a 10 minute highlight reel of Langer's Origin magic. In one game alone the Maroons scored three tries from Langer kicks.

He had the ball on a string at the Jets too.

"He had that little step, and the little kick for Gordon Langton to score numerous tries," Landy says.

"Gordie would come in from the wing to mid-field and get the little nod from Al...and then he'd put the little one over.

"And Al would score plenty himself with that little grubber."

Landy knew Dud Beattie well and when they caught up the subject of Langer would come up.

"Dud being an old Norths boy we'd often talk about he was going," Landy said.

"In every game he was dazzling.

"I never saw him have a bad game in all honesty.

"I don't know what game Tommy saw him have a bad one, but I never saw it."

PROUD MOMENT: Allan Langer in his 1987 Maroons blazer with then fiancee (now wife) Janine.
PROUD MOMENT: Allan Langer in his 1987 Maroons blazer with then fiancee (now wife) Janine. QT File

1987 was a momentous year for Langer on several fronts.

Not only did he make his Origin debut and play a starring role in the Maroons 2-1 series win, he also came face-to-face with a bullock's heart in an Ipswich dressing room.

The Jets were playing Brothers, a club hated by Raudonikis after they earlier sacked him.

So Tommy waltzes in with a bullock's heart and gives the players a good old look at it - to get them to play with heart.

An obvious piece of symbolism, but effective.

"Al nearly turned as white as the jersey," Landy recalls.

"Tommy jammed the heart on a peg and the blood spat all over him, and Al just wiped his face.

"I was the Jets reserve grade coach and I'd just come in to hear Tommy talk, and he was walking around with the heart in a butcher's bag and it was slowly weeping."

 

WILD MAN: Tommy Raudonikis has a quiet dart as he thinks about his next dressing room motivational technique as Ipswich Jets coach in the 1980s.
WILD MAN: Tommy Raudonikis has a quiet dart as he thinks about his next dressing room motivational technique as Ipswich Jets coach in the 1980s. The Queensland Times Archives

It didn't do Langer any long term harm. Raudonikis still has a laugh with Alfie about it.

"We talk about the bullock's heart and the Ipswich days and how I was a stupid coach," Tommy grins.

"I was erratic, but Alfie could be a lazy little bugger.

"One time we had road runs early in the season and Alfie and Rohly would hide under a house and then join in at the end and splash water on themselves.

"Then I caught them and made them do sit-ups on top of a bull ant's nest."

"But Alfie was one of the greatest halfbacks," Raudonikis insists.

"Arthur Beetson always said he reckoned Alfie was a better player than Andrew Johns."

Miles, who spoke to the QT at QRL headquarters near Suncorp Stadium, insists Langer should have been made an Immortal.

"And I still think there should be a statue of him outside this joint," he says.

"We've got Wally, Beetson, Lockyer, Meninga. Surely Alfie should be next."



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