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July 1981 was kind to the Redcliffe football club, with three successive wins all but assuring the Dolphins of a top two finish to the season. July also meant the completion of the representative season, and saw explosive young centre Chris Close and club leader Arthur Beetson return to the club fray permanently for the final run-up to the semi-finals. July also saw a major return to form of former international halfback Greg Oliphant, who had only been a fringe first-grader for most of the season.
Oliphant led by example in the 22-18 win over Easts at Langlands Park, a match in which the Tigers were unbackable favourites to win. Centre close, and ex-centre now playing wing Peter Leis, each scored two tries for the Dolphins in an impressive performance. Stand-in fullback Steve Bax also kicked five goals from as many attempts in the absence of the mercurial Bunny Pearce. Hooker Bob Abbott was also involved in everything, as was Vic Tighe, Chris Holmes and Steve Cherry.
The following week, Redcliffe met the improving Brothers side at Dolphin Oval. Nearly 6,000 fans were kept on their feet as the Dolphins put in a near faultless performance, trouncing Wayne Bennett?s Irish 33-17. A most pleasing aspect of the match was the rip-roaring performance of iron-man Tony Obst, who had spent the past four weeks in rugby league oblivion. Obst, Oliphant, Colin Part at five-eighth and Abbott took complete control of the match, and were instrumental in the seven-tries-to-three hammering. Again Close steamrolled his young opponents to score two tries, and very nearly scored two others. The win also edged the Dolphins three points clear of Souths in third spot, but still a win behind Wynnum-Manly.
Again the Dolphins played at home, when Ross Strudwick?s hot and cold Valleys side tried to get their semi-final hopes back on track. However, Strudwick?s send-off just after halftime for flattening Colin Part in backplay, allowed the Dolphins to eek out an unimpressive 18-12 victory. Until Strudwick?s dismissal, the game was there for the taking as Redcliffe had one of those days when the passes didn?t stick, and set plays time and again falling flat. Captain-coach Arthur Beetson was scathing in his summation of the team?s performance. Trevor Benson was the Dolphins stand-out players of the match, while Wally Lewis? efforts for the Diehards were faultless. Lewis single-handedly nearly pulled an unlikely win out of the fire with two tries and a power of work in defence.
Redcliffe?s dominance in the forward exchanges came to an abrupt halt at the end of July, when a fired-up Souths met them in a rugged match-of-the-day at Lang Park. A torrid first half looked to end at five-all, when Magpies pivot Bruce Harry dropped a 40-metre field goal on the bell. Then, for the first 20 minutes of the second stanza, the torrid affair continued, before Souths international centre Mal Meninga blew the game apart. The Dolphins? defensive pattern crumbled as ash Lumby, Meninga and Ken Spencer ran in tries to seal the 21-10 win. A late Steve Cherry try saved some face for Redcliffe, but it was Meninga?s continual busting of the line which opened up the match. Chris close was again one of the Dolphins? best and scored a sizzling individual try, and backrower Vic Tighe was tireless throughout the match.
This article is coutesy of BRL historian Michael Higgison.