Tough as Nails that's Bevan

Tough as nails, hard as rocks, that?s.... Bevan Bleakley For a rugged Rugby League prop forward Redcliffe?s Bevan Bleakley gets into very few scraps on the football field. Even the toughest of the opposition seem to give Bevan Bleakley a wide berth where the rough stuff is concerned. There could be several reasons for this - Bevan could be such a nice guy that all the opposition treat him with respect.... or maybe it?s because Bevan is a former top professional boxer with 70 fights behind him. I lean towards the second theory, not because Bevan isn?t a nice guy, but because of that past boxing history of Bevan Bleakley has most of his opposition bluffed.

And it also seems like a good idea not to unnecessarily stir a former Queensland middleweight champion, a title he won at the age of 18, and now 10 years later, with all that experience under his belt. Bleakley started professional boxing when he was a 16 year old in the cattle centre of Kilcoy. ? I started boxing because it was a lot of fun and there was some money to be made ? Bleakley said this week.

I suppose he figured that he was involved in fights a lot of the time, so why shouldn?t he make a few quid out of it. ? I used to get into a few grass fights at the local dances,? Bleakley recalled. ? One night a couple of the boys from the local gym saw me in a fight and talked me into doing some serious training.?

Bleakley joined Caboolture fight trainer Herb Cook. Two years later when he was 18, Bleakley was fighting main events at Brisbane?s Festival Hall and in one of those bouts claimed the Queensland middleweight crown with a 12 round knockout of his opponent. Before he had turned 19 Bleakley was matched against Clive Stewart for the Australian light- heavyweight title. Looking at it from this distance and realising Stewart?s vast advantages over the 18 year old Bleakley in age, experience and to some extent height and weight, it appears to have been a classic case of over-matching.

Anyway Bleakley went four rounds with the Stewart before the champion stopped him. Bleakley gave boxing away for 15 months after that fight, but like most fighters he came back to the ring. He gave the game away after 70 fights. ? I reckon I won about half of those fights, with about six or seven draws,? Bleakley said.

So you might now understand why Bleakley doesn?t have much trouble with opposition on the football field. It?s sort of a modern application of the old saying about letting sleeping dogs lie.

As for Bleakley?s football career it also began in Kilcoy, where he lived on a farm with his parents. He played in the Kilcoy third grade team when he was 14 years old and was a nice, tough sort of a centre despite his age. Next year, still in the centres , Bleakley took his place in the Klicoy A grade team. A couple of years later Kilcoy came into the the Ipswich premiership giving the locals a tougher competition. Bleakley learned football the hard way in that competition, because the Ipswich league, although it doesn?t set the world on fire, is still a tough old grind where you learn fast or get out.

By this time Bleakley was working with the Southern Electric Authority at Woodford just outside Caboolture. A few workmates followed Redcliffe, particularly when a coach named Henry Holloway and two tough, young prop forwards named Arthur Beetson and George Gledhill led the Peninsula boys to their first B.R.L premiership in 1965. So in 1966 Bleakley joined Redcliffe as a second - rower and that first year he came under coach Henry Holloway.

Holloway left Redcliffe the following year and Bleakley has trained under various coaches since then, but now he reckons he is under a similar coach to H.H. This bloke?s name is Barry Muir, who was a half - back of some note and fire and, according to Bevan Bleakley , a very tough but fair coach just as Holloway was. Before this season is out Bleakley will have played his 100th A grade game with Redcliffe, a total he would have reached last season with ease had he not had the misfortune to damage a cartilage in the very first grade fixture last season.

Bleakley had the cartilage out and missed the entire season. But this year it has been a different story. Bleakley has played A grade from the very first trial and has been free of injury. He is also playing the best football of his career, featuring in heady attack and is one of the outstanding tacklers in the best defending side Brisbane has seen for some time.

This article appeared in Rugby League Week August 25,1973