Rugby league State of Origin greats and mates Tommy Raudonikis and Greg Oliphant locking horns.
Rugby league State of Origin greats and mates Tommy Raudonikis and Greg Oliphant locking horns.

A cold beer with . . . footballer who annoyed Tommy

By Michael Nunn

IF you were going into battle along state lines, you would need a half that was going to stick it to Tommy Raudonikis and anyone else.

Greg Oliphant was FOG 8 in the halves when Origin started. He was a Panther, Dolphin, Diehard and Balmain Tiger, scheming his way to two premierships, a Kangaroo Tour and two Test matches with six interstate games and one Origin game.

You played and coached against Tommy. Something between you two?

Just competitors. We went away together on the 1978 Kangaroo Tour and were both after the halfback job. Tommy got it for the Tests but we roomed together. They said they were keeping all the trouble in one room.

We coached against each other too, always having a little niggle or trick in the papers when Norths were playing the Jets. You did not want to get Tommy cranky but you wanted to just annoy him a bit.

My six games for Queensland before Origin and the first Origin was against Tommy too.

In 1976, we were winning and Tommy was on the bench just seething at being benched and they have put him on late in the game to replace Steve Mortimer and Tommy has proceeded to put us off by chasing everyone fighting and belting me, we went from 13-2 up to losing 15-13.

Like all good footy friendships, that is how we decided we liked each other.

Playing against the Jets and coaching against the Jets, how did you find a trip to Ipswich?

I loved going to Ipswich. I have been going out there for a long time. I remember going to Bulimba Cup games and watching Noel Kelly and Gary Parcell. Then when I started playing, it would be with Ian Robson and John Young, two great Ipswich men.

John White had a massive influence on me and he was from Ipswich and went to Wests.

It's night one of Origin. What are your memories? You came back from Balmain with the Sydney players.

It was a great camp. I roomed with Arthur so I was able to see him get ready for the game first hand. I had never played with him before but I had played against him when he was the Eels and I was at the Tigers.

Duncan Hall was our manager for that first game and he has pulled me aside and said your job is to fire up Arthur by making sure I start a fight. I pointed out that Arthur is ready to go I do not think he needs me. Duncan just said do it anyway please.

Therefore, I have tackled Graeme Wynn and getting to marker, I knew Arthur was behind me at second marker so I just gave Wynn a cheap little hit and then he swung at me and Arthur took over.

I swung a few more in once Arthur has had his turn.

Were you worried about the Brisbane players? What did you know about them?

No not at all. I knew Chris Close, Mal Meninga and Wally Lewis would do a great job. We monitored what was happening back in Brisbane and we knew this crop of young players was special.

I had left for Balmain in 1979 and 1980 so I had seen them at the very start of their career.

Do you still have your Original jumper?

I am a massive keeper of jumpers. I still have my Queensland six stone schoolboy jumper from 1962. The Origin jumper is framed and I will give it to my son one day.