NRL Dolphins Rugby League


With the recent inclusion of the NRL Dolphins Rugby League, I looked back on the history of the Redcliffe team. It was Arte Beetson’s swan song for the Dolphins. And, it turned out 1981 would be a disappointing end with defeat in the final. Playing in the front row that year was Pete Griffiths. Griffo was someone who I played alongside during his stint in the UK. He was a nuggety prop forward with a great off-load. I was saddened to read he died in 2011 only 50, having been ill for ten years due to a major heart attack.

The 1981 Brisbane Rugby League Premiership

The following report details the play-offs of the Brisbane Rugby League Premiership. And the exciting end to the Premiership Final, long before the inclusion of the NRL Dolphins Rugby League.

The 1981 Brisbane Premiership Minor Semi-Final saw Wynnum-Manly defeat Easts 20 points to nine. The major semi-final pitched Redcliffe against Souths. Redcliffe captain-coach, Arthur Beetson blasted his side for conceding cheap tries. Despite the Dolphins’ convincing 21-10 win over Souths in the 1981 Brisbane Rugby League major semi-final at Lang Park.

Arte Beetson NRL Dolphins Rugby League Legend

The stage was set for a fairy-tale return to Brisbane football for Beetson. Who had left Queensland for Balmain in Sydney, after helping the Dolphins to a 15-2 win over Valleys in the 1965 grand final. Beetson played second row in 1965, alongside George Gledhill. In 1981 he was in the front row, with Bob Abbott the hooker, and Peter Griffiths his co-prop.

Redcliffe Dolphins Big Forward Pack

Redcliffe’s pack had too much weight and power for Souths in 1981, and aided by a mountain of possession wore down their much lighter opposition. The Dolphins led 16-2 after 64 minutes, but then conceded tries to hooker, Billy Johnston and centre, Mal Meninga.

“We should never have let them in for those tries,” said Beetson. “I hate cheap tries. When you have a team in a position like that, you should be rubbing their noses in defeat.” Beetson said he did not care who the Dolphins played in the grand final. “We’re there, so I guess some other team will turn up,” he said.

Redcliffe president, Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner tipped Wynnum-Manly would be too good for the wounded Magpies. Wynnum’s victory over Easts in the minor semi-final pitched the against Souths in the Preliminary Final.

1981 Grand Final Redcliffe Dolphins v Souths

Sydney coaches, Frank Stanton (Balmain) and Ron Willey (Norths) were in the Frank Burke Grandstand at Lang Park for the Brisbane major semi-final, with Peter Griffiths believed to be in Stanton’s sights after his Test prop, Rod Morris indicated he would retire. Stanton had coached Redcliffe in 1980.

The win saw Redcliffe advance straight to the grand final, where it was expected they would meet bayside rivals, Wynnum-Manly, Souths’ opponents in the preliminary final. However, South’s surprised all the pundits and defeated the Seagulls in a tight game 16-12. Astill, Phelan, Sully and Meninga crossed for tries with Meninga also kicking two goals.
So, the final pitted Redcliffe and Souths together again, having previously met in the Major Semi-Final. In a tight match, Souths were just behind on the scoreboard 9-8 with their last set of six before full time. Halfback Brad Sully set himself for a drop goal but was quickly shut down by the defence.

Dramatic End to the Rugby League Premiership Grand Final

On the last tackle, the field goal still seemed the best option. However, Chris Phelan had other ideas. He took the ball up, drew the defence and then whipped a short pass to Mal Meninga who passed the ball in a flash to Mick Reardon on the wing. Reardon charged through and dived over in the corner scoring the winning try with 30 seconds left on the clock. With a magnificent sideline conversion by Mal Meninga after the full-time hooter – Souths won an epic game 13 to 9.
It wasn’t to be the fairy tale ending for the great Redcliffe Front Rower Artie Beetson. The Souths players went crazy celebrating and Mal Meninga in all the excitement after that winning try threw Mick Reardon on the ground like a rag doll. The crowds back at Davies Park were enormous when the players returned from the grand final win and they celebrated for days afterwards.

In celebration of  the NRL Dolphins Rugby League team of 1981

To celebrate the great Dolphins Rugby League teams. We’ve recently introduced this limited edition shirt. Also, we offer a range of Australian Rugby League inspired garments.