Flashback: 1976 Woolies semi

In a sensational Woolies Pre-Season semi-final, five players were sent off by referee Bernie Pramberg in a ?needle? match between competition glamour sides Wests and Redcliffe. It was inconsequential that Wests went on to win the match 37-0, given Redcliffe finished the match with only nine players, while the Panthers ended up with twelve. The match was a joke as a contest, and a disgraceful exhibition of over-vigorous and unnecessary violent play by otherwise high-quality star players.

There had been a long-standing feud between both clubs following Ron Raper?s decision to leave Redcliffe a year earlier, to coach Wests to a memorable but perhaps controversial premiership, winning the grand final against Barry Muir?s Redcliffe side in debatable circumstances. And given Muir had played and coached all his Brisbane football with the Panthers, emotions were always going to run high when the Dolphins and Panthers played big games against one another. Both coaches, but particularly Muir, fired up their teams for this match before they ran out. One could have actually been forgiven for thinking this was a grand final rather than a pre-season match !

Referee Pramberg though, stunned the big Lang Park crowd when he dismissed Dolphins? hefty prop John Barber after the first tackle of the match, for dropping his knees into Wests ball-carrier Rod Bradshaw, electing not to use the five minute ?sin-bin?. Barber?s send-off seemed to set the pattern for the match, with rugged gang-tackling and plenty of illegal play becoming the norm. Between regular forward clashes, Wests dominated the first half of play. Steve Crear scored a sensational try off a Geoff Richardson break, and three penalty goals by Wayne Stewart leaving the Panthers ahead 9-0 at the break.

Another eruption in backplay early in the 2nd half, saw Redcliffe prop Steve Bullow sent to the sin-bin. With a two-man advantage, Richardson and centre Harry Cameron combined to send fullback Gary Thomas over for what surely would be a match-winning lead at 12-0. Another brawl erupted following the try, and appeared to involve up to eight players. This incident saw referee Pramberg dispatch Dolphins hooker Bob Jones to the sheds.

Wests now began running away with the match, Thomas scoring again and half Greg Oliphant crossing for a clever try, both in quick succession. But in the 55th minute, a scrum erupted into an almighty brawl in front of the Frank Burke grandstand. Every player was involved as the wildly swinging mass continued brawling for what appeared an eternity. Harry Cameron and Redcliffe forward Bev Bleakley crashed over the advertising signage and fought each other up against the sideline fence. The main fight then scattered around the vicinity into several pairs who continued to throw punches, wrestle and head-butt.

Pramberg and his touch-judges Pease and O?Brien, were powerless to stop the fighting, and must have been close to calling the match off. When calm eventually restored itself, Rod Bradshaw from Wests and Steve Bullow were immediately sent from the field, exchanging ?pleasantries? all the way to the sideline. An en-masse caution eventuated into a penalty given to Wests, much to the dissatisfaction of the now raucous Redcliffe fans. But only three tackles later, yet another eruption in play over what appeared to be a high-tackle, and Dolphins? fullback Tony Obst was now sent off. This left Redcliffe with only nine men including no front row, and the Panthers ran away with the match easily.

When the match ended, the crowd gave plenty of boos all around ? aimed at both teams and the officials. Senior officials from both clubs were nearly at each other in the grandstand also. Redcliffe coach Barry Muir was fuming over what he believed how someone had eavesdropped on his pre-match players talk and then informed the referee that ?something was on?. Wests coach Ron Raper was unavailable for comment after the match, but was clearly unhappy with the ill-discipline of his players.

It was a busy night at the judiciary that week, John Barber, Steve Bullow and Rod Bradshaw were all handed three week suspensions, while Bob Jones and Tony Obst copped two weeks each. Referee Pramberg copped an almighty serve in the press over his handling of the match. But the last laugh was on him, as he went on to easily be top referee in Brisbane, eventually controlling the grand final. As a sidenote, Easts beat Norths 23-9 in the other semi-final that was apparently played on that same night !!!