A lousy night for Wally haters

On the long hill up Albion Street, the night rang to the sound of doors slamming as football fans abandoned their cars and headed off on foot to the cathedral of League.

Wally Lewis is carried by Martin Bella (left) and Gene Miles after victory at the Football Stadium, 14 June 1989.Credit:Craig Golding

Thousands of people rushed for the gates, desperate to get inside before kick-off.

When the crowd inside booed Queensland on to the pitch, there was a last sharp crush to get to the stand in time.

“Blues Blues Blues” rippled around the crowd like a tribal chant. The first Queensland fumble brought cheers. But it wasn’t to last. Within minutes the Maroons had scored a try and NSW had the blues again.

Fans watched in disbelief as Mal Meninga converted.

“Look at his thighs,” the man behind me almost wept.

“Bloody terrifying,” his mate agreed.

And King Wally?

“He plays for penalties and he’s a tart when he gets hit,” they sneered.

“We hate him. We hate him now because he’s playing for Queensland. But when he plays for Australia we love him. He’s the greatest footballer in the world.”

Some in the crowd thought up defences of their own against Wally Lewis's tactics at State of Origin game II, 1989.

Some in the crowd thought up defences of their own against Wally Lewis’s tactics at State of Origin game II, 1989.Credit:Staff

League is an unforgiving game. Down on the sidelines you can hear the crunch when the forwards meet.

But even the loss of Meninga and Langer through the sort of injuries other people only come close to in car smashes didn’t cost Queensland the game.

At half-time the crowd had been buoyant with the scores at 6-all. But by 9pm the mood had changed as the anti-Wally fraternity steeled itself for yet another defeat – 16-12 this time.

“What a side,” they muttered in awe. “They’re committed.”

Even before it was all over the stairs and aisles of the stadium were full of despondent Blues fans making their sad way into the night.

Herald reporter John MacDonald described Queensland’s victory as one of the “most courageous epics in Rugby League history ” with only 12 Maroons left standing at the end of the game – they had lost Allan Langer, Mal Meninga and Paul Vautin to injuries by half-time, followed by Michael Hancock and Bob Lindner, who played on with a fractured ankle retiring five minutes before the end.

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