Willie Carne dives over to score for the Broncos against the South Queensland Crushers in 1996.
Willie Carne dives over to score for the Broncos against the South Queensland Crushers in 1996.

Former IGS student relives incredible journey to top


Michael Nunn

THE great storytellers like Bob Dylan, Paul Kelly or Bruce Springsteen could have played rugby league based on their ability to provide a timeline and take you on a journey.

I could imagine Dylan back at the Leagues Club telling a tale over a beer.

"Bruce tell that one about your glory days," Dylan might call out.

Alternatively, maybe Paul Kelly might ask Willie Carne to tell his story.

The key to the Willie Carne rugby league story is the timeline. It starts in Ipswich in January 1982.

He went to Ipswich Grammar School from years 8-12, finishing in 1986.

So how did a little Roma sometimes lock sometimes 6 end up at IGS?

"I played the Zone Four carnival for Roma against Ipswich, Gold Coast, Pittsworth, Jandowae and Western Downs, and Charleville," he recalled.

"I played alright and IGS offered me a scholarship so I was off to boarding school in Ipswich at 13.

"I had an unbelievable time in Ipswich. I loved it, loved boarding school and loved IGS.

"I was so blessed to go there. I don't have much to compare it to but I think it was just awesome.

"The school at the time was having some sort of sporting revolution they hadn't won too much so they were scouring the state trying to find the best boys to bring to the school."

IGS had their future star in Willie Carne.

"Well you might think that but no, I got there and they have these boys, no men, Lynton Johnson who ran 10.59 seconds for the 100 metres in 1986," Carne said.

"I did not even think about being fast.

"Then there is little Willie Carne from Roma.

"I played 2nd XV and 1st XV I was definitely struggling to keep up with the 1st XV.

"I did win the Manual Arts Prize but not sure that is a return on investment for IGS.

"I ran into a mate from school a few years later and he was shaking his head and said if you asked me who out of our grade would play for Australia you would have been last on the list.

"Thanks mate and I agree 100%. The place was full of star athletes in all sports."

Willie Carne
Willie Carne

The end of grade 12 brings a trip home to Roma and Mrs Carne tells young William welcome home now get a job.

"I went home with no skills whatsoever,'' he said.

"I had spent five years getting everything done for me at the boarding house.

"I started my cabinet making apprenticeship and played local football."

In 1987, Valleys champion and tough guy Tom Duggan - the owner of the Queens Arms Hotel - steps in and informs Carne of a link to the new Brisbane Broncos.

"Tom Duggan, who I loved because I loved Valleys, told me he played with John Ribot and if you go alright he'd be happy to make a phone call and see what happens," Carne said.

"I got a trial down in Brisbane with the Colts so off I go to Brisbane.

"It's now 1989 and I get down to Brisbane and can't believe what I am seeing, these giants like Ken Gittens and Rohan Teevan who are bench pressing massive weights.

Brian Canavan. Picture: Calum Robertson
Brian Canavan. Picture: Calum Robertson

"I remember I could do two chin ups and 80kg x two bench press. Brian Canavan, the Broncos trainer, was encouraging me saying keep going you are getting so strong.

"That was very kind of Brian and I really appreciated encouragement, even though I didn't believe it.

"I was last in every run and weakest in the gym. Week one I would come last by 10 metres then second week last by 5 metres so I was improving. By eight weeks I started winning the runs."

In 1990, Carne is playing Reserve grade for the Broncos and things are going well when the call comes from Wayne Bennet that the young Carne would be making his debut in first grade against Newcastle in Newcastle.

On April 22 1990, three years after leaving IGS with not too much of a plan, Willie Carne was a Bronco.

"I scored a try and Paul Hauff scored three and got man of the match,'' he said.

"We won 28-4 and I was playing with absolute stars."

Carne then played six first grade games for the Broncos before the third game of the 1990 Origin series and a phone call.

"I was picked for the third game at Lang Park with Arthur coaching, Wally captain and Mal inside me in the centres," he said.

"Unbelievable, I had played six games for the Broncos in 1st grade and five in Reserve grade before that call up."

Exactly 52 days after his Broncos' debut, Carne became FOG 66.

The second fewest games before picked for Queensland behind Ben Ikin's four games in 1995.

"Adding to my lack of football was my lack of wing play too, I hadn't played wing before the Broncos so was a handful of games into learning how to play wing," he said.

"I remember Arthur took me aside in camp and said they are scoring too many tries down your wing.

"I kept thinking Arthur has been watching me play.

"He spent time showing me how to use the sideline and how to use it as a weapon.

"I always recall him helping me.

"I played my first grand final on Beetson Oval at Roma in 1980 as an 11 year old playing for the under 12 Roma green team . . coached by Jim and Helen Park, my schoolteacher and wife combo.

Queensland captain Arthur (Artie) Beetson and John Lang
Queensland captain Arthur (Artie) Beetson and John Lang

"Jim also played for Wattles in Roma as a strong fit fast fullback.

"Jim Park I remember wore coke bottle prescription glasses, and I am sure if he could see the ball better would have also played for the Broncos."

Coached by Arthur and playing with Wally that is an all right experience.

"Wally is the King I can't say any more than that,'' Carne said.

"Some players can do somethings but Wally was the King he could do everything. I was also a big fan of Ross Strudwick, who was captain coach of Valleys and I'm sure taught Wally a few tricks."

Four years after leaving IGS to become a cabinetmaker, Carne would finish 1990 with one Origin and 20 games for the Broncos.

Then the next hurdle would come in 1991. By July, Carne had played another 11 games for the Broncos taking his total to 31 and four Origins now.

"I was working and the lady in the office came out to say I think you've been picked for Australia. I am sure they just said your name on the radio,'' he recalled.

On July 24, 1991, Carne made his debut for Australia against New Zealand at Lang Park and scored a try in the 40-12 win.

Four and half years after leaving IGS, Carne was Australian Kangaroos player number 615.

That is one hell of a story I do not think even Bob Dylan could do justice.

Lindenberg's special code

THE Allies may have cracked the enigma code in 1941 but I have cracked the Lindenberg code.

All it took was a phone call to the champion Brisbane half of the 1970's and 1980's to unlock the player that Mick Vievers called the will-o'-the-wisp in commentary.

Wayne Lindenberg came to Brisbane to play for Easts in 1976 from Toowoomba Valleys and stayed a bit of a mystery to many Brisbane Rugby League fans.

He won three premierships with the Tigers in 1977, 1978 and 1983, retired twice and came back to win a premiership with Toowoomba just because he wanted to.

"I came to Easts in 1976 and then retired in 1979," Lindenberg recalled.

"I was a Tigers fan and just wanted to play for them, always a well-run club.

"I went back and played in Toowoomba from 1980 to 1983 and then came out of retirement to play for Easts in 1983 and we won the premiership."

Easts would be lagging badly at the end of the first round of games in 1977, in dead last and Lindenberg injured since the Woolies Pre-Season competition.

"I hurt my shoulder. I was scoring a try no one near me and I hurt my shoulder putting the ball down,'' he said.

"The boys are all excited and I am saying get me off.

"That was me done until the end of the first round of games and we are last."

Then some Tigers would return and Easts would make a tilt at the premiership.

"We timed our run and were ready to go for the finals and that 1977 team was just a terrific side, led by Des Morris,'' he said.

It would be just after half time in the grand final that Lindenberg would go to dummy half but not linger there thinking for too long.

Spotting the gap and going through before a Dolphin could get a flipper on him Lindenberg ran 50 metres to score.

The Lindenberg try would seal the Tigers 17-13 win over the Dolphins.

In 1977, Lindenberg won the Courier Mail and Rugby League Week player of the year and finished second to Tiger mate Allan Currie in the Rothmans Medal to top off a great year.

In 1978, it would be three goals in the Tigers 14-10 win over Valleys in the grand final to go back-to-back champions of Brisbane.

"1977 was probably the best Tigers team, great forward pack Allan Currie, Des Morris, John Lang, Geoff Naylor,'' he said.

"Des Morris could do it all, one of Ipswich's best and certainly my favourite."

Easts captain coach for 1977 and 1978 was Ipswich's Des Morris he had nothing but fond memories of the Lindenberg enigma.

"Lindy was very competitive to start with and one of those blokes that was good at anything that he put his mind to doing," Morris remembered. "Always up to a challenge.

"I was playing a game of golf with him in a charity game at Gailes Golf Course many years ago.

"I was his partner in the team it was Ambrose Rules and each partner had to have so many tee shots.

"He would beat me by 20 + metres.

"On one hole he was only a couple of metres ahead of me so I said we better use mine as we won't get another chance but no he persevered until we got to the stage when we had to use mine on the last few holes.

"Just an example of his competitiveness and sporting ability.

"I was disappointed that he never got the representative honours that he deserved.

"He was always up for a challenge. Whether it was racing a forward over 100 metres and giving 25 metres start or doing a 100 metres walking on his hands.

"A very good individually talented player and also a great team mate."

He retired and returned to Toowoomba at the end of 1979 but a promise was made and kept to the Tigers.

"I promised Easts I wouldn't play for anyone else and I just wanted to play in Toowoomba,'' he said.

"I signed a piece of paper to say if I ever came back to Brisbane it would only be for Easts."

Adding to the Lindenberg mysterious narrative, he would return with no pre-season and dominate 1983.

Lindenberg was back in gold and black for the Tigers, a third premiership, and again tormenting the Dolphins 14-6.

In 1983, it would start with a trip to Ipswich. A tight 2-0 contest at halftime was blown away by some Lindenberg attack in the second half to end up 44-0 and the Tigers off the chain.

"We went to Ipswich to play in the State League and we scored eight second half tries,"

Lindenberg would contribute five goals and one try for 14 points to the carnage at the North Ipswich Reserve.

"I didn't come away without an injury, I was running and went to step and got clipped across the face but sort of fell and it pinched the back of my leg and I was injured for 15 weeks.

"They couldn't figure out what was wrong.

"I have been going to Ipswich since I was playing juniors and it never got easier."

Lindenberg toured with the Queensland team to the UK in 1983 and scored two tries against Wigan at Central Park in the 40-2 win forcing Wally to the centres.

It would be a Lindenberg attacking exhibition classic with his combination with Lewis putting Queensland centre Gene Miles over for a try and then Lewis helping Lindenberg to his first try.

His second try would be pure Lindy with his swerve getting him a try with one minute to go.

Then Lindenberg was gone again.

"That was the second last game on tour and I wasn't playing again so that was it, back to Toowoomba,'' he said.

"I was still playing in Toowoomba in 1990 and won a competition with my brothers."

The will-o'-the-wisp light show was gone again.

Cooper's stat

WILLIE Carne: FOG number 66 - 12 Origin games, five wins, two line break assists, 1476 run metres, 237 possessions, 12 line breaks, 173 runs, 48 tackle busts, 87 tackles, five tries and 26 points.