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The Redcliffe and District Rugby League Football Club may have only been in the Brisbane Rugby League first grade competition since 1960, but the club has a very proud history, which dates back to 1947.
It is generally agreed that the formation of the Redcliffe Peninsula Rugby League Football Club in 1947 was attributed to a number of Rugby League enthusiasts and players in Redcliffe but leading the way with a relentless will to succeed was Margate Bookmaker Bill McLeod. With his initiative to get things going and financial backing to get a new club up off the ground and running, Bill soon gathered a group of people around him who were also very keen to get the club up and running. He approached two local men Tom Maule and Hughie Harvey to their interest in helping form and play with a new Rugby League based in Redcliffe. Harvey who had strong Rugby Union ties and Maule who was playing for Brothers in the Brisbane competition both accepted readily and enthusiastically .So shortly after on Thursday, 27th February, 1947 the Redcliffe Peninsula Rugby League Football Club was born.
The club entered 3 teams in the first season an u-17, reserve grade and first grade teams in the Sandgate Suburban Rugby League competition which was played on Sundays, in those days the Brisbane Rugby League competition was played on a Saturday. Besides those coming from Redcliffe other players had to be brought in from outside and they came from rugby union (Eagle Junction Club) and players from Brisbane Rugby League clubs who were invited to play for the club on Sundays. In that first season our club won the under 17 and reserve grade competitions and the first grade team got knocked out in the semi finals.
In the early 50's one of the major problems was transportation with Bus services on the Peninsula very limited and virtually non existent after dark, most players either walked or rode bikes to training. In the middle 50's there would be lucky to be a handful of cars parked beside the sheds. The main mode of transport to games was the back of gravel trucks with all players putting in 2 shillings for fuel. The long awaited change came in 1952 when, on our first visit to play in the Kilcoy competition, three Hornibrook buses including the detached semi-trailer bus moved off in convoy from the Redcliffe Showgrounds to make the trip to Kilcoy. In those consolidating years of the 50's, games were played in a very competitive basis against teams from Caboolture, Kilcoy, Woodford, Brisbane All Blacks, Aspley/Bald Hills, Sandgate, Zillmere, Pine Rivers and Dayboro. At this stage there was no Leagues club, all the club had was the winter use of a double story building which consisted of an unlined corrugated iron.
In the middle 50's, the club once again saw the need to further expand. With this in mind Don McLennan was given the responsibility of becoming joint secretary and soon organised representative games for the district team. Games were played against Ipswich, Southport and Toowoomba, but it soon become apparent that, although they relished the idea of being able to prove and enjoy themselves as representative players, the country players found it extremely difficult comply with the additional but, more particularly the added burden of travelling the long distances required. This soon became a problem and it was then resolved that the Murrumba League fixture would be drawn up so that Redcliffe could promote themselves into the stronger Geraghty Cup competition.
This competition formerly consisted of teams from Wynnum Manly, Beaudesert and the South Coast. The teams Redcliffe played were Beaudesert, Surfers Paradise and the Brisbane Trades and Labour Cup side. This gave the players additional exposure to players from other areas and certainly helped in the consolidation of the clubs progression into the Brisbane competition. The Geraghty Cup was won by the club in 1954-55-56 and is still on display in the clubhouse at Dolphin Oval today. In 1958, as further development towards the future, the club employed former Norths first grader Dick Turner to coach Redcliffe's first under 16 team to play in the Brisbane Junior Rugby League fixtures of a Saturday and in the Murrumba League of a Sunday. Previously the club ran under 18, reserve and first grade teams. This was a strong competition for the boys to be introduced into often playing without the full compliment of players.
From this humble beginning in the City league, the club progressed to 1958 and 1959 having Third and Reserve grade. The clubs application to enter third and Second Grade teams into the Brisbane Rugby League was only successful after persistent lobbying from Secretary Don McLennan and Club officials. The appointment of Ken McCrohon, the 1956 and 1957 Australian fullback, as player-coach was seen by the Brisbane Rugby League as authenticity that the club wanted to further its standards. The BRL, as it turned out were right in their opposition to accepting the Club. They argued the Club had insufficient number of players to fulfill a complete season in a demanding competition. The decision to accept the Club came with conditions. If Redcliffe were to play they had to play the Club with the bye and for home games at Redcliffe the Club had to provide a free bus plus pay 5 pounds to the opposition club. These conditions were met and it must be noted that the Western Suburbs Club, without exception returned the 5-pound cheque for the two years these conditions applied.
Without a doubt the decision to affect the 1960's most dramatically was taken in 1959 on November 19 when the delegates of the Brisbane Rugby League voted unanimously to support Northern Suburbs notice of motion to sponsor Redcliffe into their competition with full district club status. For many this was a dream come true with the chance to play representative football for those worthy. Apart from those who played for Brisbane, Bob Gehrke was the first Redcliffe player to be chosen for Queensland. When he was chosen for Australia he received a telegram and 25 pounds from the club.
At the other end of the 60's (1969) Trevor Harken became the first home grown junior to come through the grades and play for Queensland. Gehrke became the first player to transfer to Sydney. The club received 1500 pounds as a transfer fee. In 1966, Arthur Beetson and Kevin Yow Yeh transferred to Balmain for similar fees. The transfer fee for Beetson and Yow Yeh were put into a fixed deposit account that was used as the basis of financing the building of the first clubhouse. The first fixture game for the club was played against Souths at Davies Park on April 2 1960. The first grade team lost but were not disgraced going down 23-18. The team that represented the Club on this historic day was; Ken McCrohon, Kevin Benson, Peter Haggett, Buddy Hunter, Bernie Robinson, Keith Howard, Noel Gardner, Col Weier, Tommy Green, Jim Graham, Neville Edwards, Bob Kilmer, Dick Boxsell.
In 1960 the Club used a total of 30 players in first grade. The awards winners for that historic season were Best and Fairest: Col Weier Best Clubman: Des Webb Most Improved Back: Wal Henricks Most Improved Forward: Col Raaen Most Consistent Back: Peter Haggett Most Consistent Forward: Nev Edwards Best Allrounder: Col Weier While it was so necessary to have first and foremost players and coaches the Club enjoyed in the 60?s, it was just as important to have leaders to guide the Club. In this regard we were again equal to the occasion to have Presidents to carry the Club through. Dudley Argus brought the Club from ?The Consolidating Years? and it was fitting that he was in the chair for the club?s first two years as a district club.
Bill Hunter was next to occupy the position of President and he proved to be an astute administrator, representing the club at the Brisbane Rugby League. He later went on to become the Chairman of the Brisbane Rugby League and then President of the Queensland Rugby League.
Alf Charlish became President in time to enjoy the fruits of the previous duo?s labour when the 1965 premiership came along. Alf worked tirelessly as President of the club until he resigned in 1971.
In 1964 Col Weier became the first player to play 100 first grade games for the club. He achieved this goal by playing a possible 109 out of 111 games from 1960 to 1964.
The club suffered a major setback in March 1966, when Secretary Don McLennan resigned after a proposal of acquiring 11 acres of freehold land in the heart of Redcliffe was rejected by the management of the club. Don was seconded to the chairmanship of the juniors and did not return to Secretarial duties until 1970. The off to the club was made by local timber miller and businessman Kevin Krebs, whose mill covered where Peninsula Fair is today. The land on which until recently was home to the SEQEB depot and offices and the Jock Kelly Park complex which is home to the Peninsula Power soccer club in Anzac avenue. The area was offered to the club for 10,000 pounds. If the club saw fit to name the projected oval after Mr.Kreb?s wife a reduction in the purchase price would have been considered. At the time this moved appeared the one to get us away from the Showgrounds where there were always difficulties in a multi-tenanted situation. At the time the club?s only ?home? was a wing of the original Moreton Bay hotel, transported for use as dressing rooms and a clubhouse. The Redcliffe arts society now utilise it as their Mouse Trap theatre. ?
In the first decade as a district club the clubs semi-final appearances were First Grade: 1961,1963,1964,1965 (premiers) 1966 Second Grade: 1962 (premiers), 1964, 1965, 1966 (premiers), and 1968, 1969 Third Grade: 1968
After a decade of coming of age, the club looked to the 1970?s as their next step in establishing itself as a progressive club in the Brisbane Rugby League. Dick Turner became President in 1971 after Alf Charlish relinquished the chair, an office he had held with distinction since 1965. Dick led an executive, which was hardworking and forward thinking and was by an energetic committee. This committee which was dubbed by Barry Muller as the ?Golden Five? were not afraid to make hard decisions for the betterment of the club.? The Golden Five were believed to be Dick Turner, Eric Keam, Kevin F. Simpson, Des Webb and Don McLennan. During this time the three most important decisions were: (a) to establish a licensed club, (b) to establish a coaching certificate and (c) to negotiate a lease of Talobilla Park.
Don McLennan was propositioned to take up a permanent position of Secretary, in the first instance this offer was declined, but after a similar offer from Norths President Bob Bax, a career with the club was launched and it lasted until December 1989.
The first priority was to set up a licensed club trading 10.00am to 10.00pm seven days a week. The clubhouse had a nice bar area already established, but to meet the requirements of the liquor laws in relation to licensed premises, alterations had to be firstly carried out to meet the those pressures and later in the decade to accommodate the growth in membership of the club. As a revenue raiser and from a social point of view, it met the criteria of its charter: ?To foster Rugby League and provide for it?s members a convivial meeting place where a common bond may be enjoyed.?
It was in 1976 that the club made it?s most significant contribution to the game of Rugby League in Queensland. In the 1970?s, Eric Harris as the National Fitness Council and Brisbane Junior Rugby League Secretary ran fitness camps at Tallebudgera and clubs could take advantage of the facility to organise fitness programs with passing, tackling and playing the ball variations. The Queensland Rugby League had no accreditation courses available and to become qualified one had to do it by correspondence with the New South Wales Rugby League. Aware of a growth in the club's senior and junior ranks and the lack of coaches with the basic skills to cope with this expansion, An approach was made to the Queensland Rugby League was made and permission was granted for Redcliffe to negotiate and deal directly with the New South Wales coaching panel. In response, their coaching director Frank Johnson and panel member Ken Gittoes came to Redcliffe for a two-day seminar. With their visual coaching aids and stationary made available they qualified Barry Muir and Brian Winney immediately. A system was then set up whereby for the first time in Queensland, Queenslanders could qualify at Redcliffe. At the end of the season Barry qualified at the New South Wales Narrabeen base as a grade 2 coach.
In the first year, the venture with classes conducted by Barry Muir resulted in 80 coaches acquiring their coaching certificates. Included in that group were Wayne Bennett and Bernie Pramberg.
When it was gleaned that re-claimed land with garbage fill was being made available by the Redcliffe City council for sporting clubs, our club showed immediate interest and made application for the maximum area available. The club acquired the original lease to 1998, which was later extended to 2008 before the club eventually purchased the land. City Council engineer Kevin Tibbetts took to the construction of the playing fields and mounds with the utmost enthusiasm and co-operated with club 100% in relation the their desire to make the complex a show piece for Rugby League. The club even hosted a trip interstate for him to study playing arenas in New South Wales, particularly through Manly President Bill Cameron valuable information was gained.
Before the official opening match in May 1979 against fittingly our proposer into the big league Northern Suburbs, finances were stretched to the limit. Power, sewerage and the building of suitable dressing rooms and public toilets had to be undertaken. To appreciate the extra costs, it has to be remembered that this site was an isolated area. Normal services had to be brought in. With no gravity flow for the sewerage to Klingner Road, expensive pumps had to be acquired, power for floodlighting had to go underground to the main oval and the tunnel from the dressing rooms to the main oval was transhipped from Western Australia which cost $9000. They were still cheaper than procurable at the time from the eastern states.?
The Old Boys Club led by Neil Okamura made life a lot easier when at a cost of $2780 they paid for a perimeter cyclone fence around the main oval. They also contributed a $5000 loan at 8.75% towards suitable floodlighting. The repayment of this loan was not necessary as in 1983 the Old Boys turned it into a grant. In return for the Old Boys building a solid can booth at the northern end of the ground, they were granted to sell liquor on a commission basis. From time to time they made use of this mode of income too add further facilities to Dolphin oval and jerseys for schools within the district.
The club had now acquired a tract of land, which they could develop through the years and at their own pace for senior and junior members and they would be able to control their own destiny all year round. In January 1979, the committee proposed to name the complex Don McLennan Oval, but at the recipients request the ground was declared Dolphin Oval within the sporting development area of Talobilla Park.
Looking at the rate of urban development in the area, in 1979 the Club applied to council for building permits to build a licensed club. This forward planning precluded objections in the years ahead when the club would eventually build and served to notify intending housing developers that a licensed club was on line for that particular area.
In 1980 after 15 years of independent operation, the Redcliffe Junior League was brought back under the wing and administration of the senior club. The circumstances under which this took place were not pleasant, but one which the senior club undertook with compassion and with the welfare of the junior players their only concern. President of the juniors at the time Noel McGrath felt that the control of the club was not heading in the right direction and with seven other signatories of his committee requested the senior club assess the situation. After investigations, it was learned that show cause notices were about to be served on the juniors by the council and the Liquor Licensing Commission for noise and breaches of the liquor act. There was no suggestion of misappropriation, but people as unfortunately in many cases of clubs, were not prepared to adhere to the law and naturally had their neighbours offside.
The senior club called a special meeting of the juniors and explained that by the powers invested to them by the Queensland Rugby League, took over the total administration. A sub-committee of senior representation of Dick Boxsell, Fergie Ebert, Des Cornish, Ernie Kirkgaard, Mick Cronin and Norm Frost assisted greatly in revamping the junior club and within 12 months had all the teams sharing the facilities at Dolphin Oval. Under the control of full-time junior coordinator Bob Crossley, this transition period was achieved with as little disruption as necessary and firm policies were in place for coaches and managers to be guided by.
The assets of Langdon Park clubhouse and a percentage of floodlights came in for lengthy discussions with the council, but were eventually resolved amicably. The juniors, now under one administration, along with the training and playing facilities of Dolphin Oval which are a show piece of Rugby League in Queensland.
The transition of moving to Dolphin Oval from the showgrounds in the early 80?s for training purposes presented some initial problems. The lights at the showgrounds were superior to those on the new fields and the club administration and licensed club was still located at the showgrounds. Pressure to build a licensed club at Dolphin Oval was mounting, but to leave the old club which was a financially viable operation and to go into large debt had to be met with a great deal of caution. However when the opportunity arose, the club?s management called for an all systems go policy. Without the help of the federal member for Petrie Dean Wells, and his government?s contribution through their C.E.P funding, combined with our own financial arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank, the project would not have been possible. Dick Turner and John Fallon arranged commercial finance and the responsibility of the submission for funding through the C.E.P was undertaken successfully by Kevin Benson. Employment for long term unemployed tradesmen and labourers were one of the criteria necessary. Within 12 months of the sod turning ceremony, the building was ready to be officially opened by the Mayor of Redcliffe and Past President of the Redcliffe Football Club, Alderman Alf Charlish. ? Given normal trading conditions, the loans undertaken could be maintained with such a wonderful facility to service members and their guests in comfort unavailable to them in the old clubhouse. However, another ?change of direction? of a downward economy was developing. And also soon to strike the thriving bar trade was the heavily publicised ?Don?t dink and drive? campaign of the government. ON one hand the government funded the new licensed club and on the other it placed restrictions. Suffice to say the club only barely kept it?s doors open and it?s creditors at bay until the advent of poker machines in 1992, but proudly the club was always able to meet it?s financial commitments. ? The club ushered the 1990?s in, in the usual manner, as it looks for that elusive first grade premiership. Former test halfback Mark Murray was appointed first grade coach after winning two successive colts premierships. Mark returned the first grade side to the semi-finals, however soon after he accepted the first grade coaching job with Eastern Suburbs in Sydney. With the licensed club struggling off the field the club was not able to chase the quality of player it needed to take them to that elusive premiership. ? The emergence of the Junior Development Scheme, giving the opportunity for specialised coaching and advanced training techniques to our home-grown juniors, laid the foundation for them to improve their skills and advance into a playing field never before available to them so readily, the New South Wales competition. ? The introduction of poker machines certainly created ?A new ball game? for the club. They were able to provide a budget never before attainable for the promulgation of Rugby League in the schools and juniors. The appointment of Paul Bunn as Development Officer was the most satisfying and the acceptance of the schools in the area was most gratifying to the advancement of out code. The celebration of four premiership wins in 1994 was the ultimate ? The Club, while now enjoying the financial benefits of the Leagues Club, can provide all the equipment and coaching aids for the betterment of all players. Above all, the dream of the 50?s that all players should have the right to represent at higher levels has now been extended for their entry, if so desired, into the highest level of competition in the land. The Redcliffe club, although losing some outstanding players, should be very proud of the system they have in place, which leads their most promising products into the ?Big Time?. ? The writing of the club?s history wouldn?t be complete without mentioning possibly the saddest day in the proud club?s history when in late 1993 the club received the news of the tragic death of the club?s favourite son Ian ?Bunny? Pearce. Bunny passed away in tragic circumstances in a freak road accident. Such a sudden loss of a genuine and sincere bloke as Bunny filled the club deep sorrow. ? September 11 1994 will go down as possibly the greatest day in the club?s history. It started at 11.00am when the siren sounded to start the Colt?s grand final through to 4.30pm the end of the A grade grand final. The result three wins to the mighty Dolphins. It was a day those who played and those who sat in the stands will never forget. Also two weeks earlier the third grade side won their grand final to make it four out of a possible four grand finals.
The grandstand almost shook at the old Lang Park as the final whistle blew. The Redcliffe Dolphins had achieved what many thought they would never see again in their lifetime? a first grade premiership. Ross O?Reilly and his squad of 17 players broke the hoodoo that has haunted Redcliffe sides since the sole premiership win of 1965. ?I couldn?t believe I would have to go to my grave without seeing it again,? said Dick ?Tosser? Turner, the former president of the Redcliffe Football club. ? What these kids done today takes care of 30 years of unfinished business for some of us old blokes. As the hooter sounded the majority of the 18,000 crowd dressed in red and white got to their feet as one.
As we came to the end of 1995 which will be remembered as the most tumultuous years in the history of this game we came to the end of the BRL competition as we know it. It is to be replaced by a statewide competition. And it represented yet another change of direction for the club.
The 1996 season saw the introduction of the Channel Nine Queensland Cup competition running across the full season instead of as in the past only half a dozen games early on in the season. The competition comprised of the nine BRL sides, Port Moresby and six country centres. Despite some initial problems the competition was a successful innovation by the Queensland Rugby League with most of the games proving to be of a high standard. Once again the Dolphins rose to the challenge making the grand final. The game was an exciting and absorbing battle with our boys putting in a magnificent effort only to go down in a photo finish to the Toowoomba Clydesdales. After this bruising encounter it was a difficult task to back up against Souths in the Brisbane Rugby League Grand Final with a number of players missing through injury and suspension. But once again the players showed that famous Dolphin spirit and lifted to beat a fast finishing Souths side. For the second time in three years the club was the BRL first grade premiers.
1997 saw the club celebrate its 50th anniversary. With reunions being staged for each decade it was a tremendous way for old friends to catch up and talk about the old days. And on the field it couldn?t have been any better. Despite not being Club champions for the first time in three seasons, Easts pipped us by a point but we got the ultimate revenge defeating the Tigers in the Qld Cup grand final as well as the three BRL grand finals.
In 1998 the goalposts for the competition again moved with the introduction of feeder clubs into the competition from the Brisbane Broncos, Melbourne Storm, Townsville Cowboys and Adelaide Rams. Under head coach John Boxsell the first grade side again made the semi finals, finishing fourth in the minor premiership. We won two finals but two losses in a row put an end to dreams of back to back Qld Cups. But the team still only finished one game short of yet another grand final and can be very proud of their efforts. Despite being club champions for the first time since 1993 the Dolphins were not represented on grand final day.
As we came to the end of the decade we finished one win short of a clean sweep on grand final day. Unfortunately the Burleigh Bears pipped us at the post in first grade 12-10 but the season can be considered a success going from no teams in the grand final in 1998 to three teams in 1999. The club could arguably be called the club of the decade.
The beginning of the new millennium was a memorable year for the Redcliffe Dolphins being voted best Football club at the at the annual Club awards, secured the club championship for the third successive year and the crowning glory, winning the Bundy Gold cup.
The 2001 season saw the Redcliffe Dolphins come within four seconds of achieving back to back Bundy Gold Cup premierships. After securing the club championship for the fourth year in succession, voted the best Football club at the annual club awards for the second year in succession and winning the colts? premiership.
But I think the crowning achievement for the club was the hosting the Queensland Cup Final while Lang Park is being redeveloped. The club done such a successful job they have been given the right to host it again in 2002.
As the club goes from strength to strength and the hopes and dreams of the club?s forefathers coming to fruition, the Dolphins must continue to change with times and continue to be the benchmark for all Rugby League clubs in Queensland.
Partly Sourced through "From Shellgrit to Dolphins - a history of the Redcliffe Rugby League Club" Available from the Redcliffe leagues Club PH (07) 3203 7333