Gavin Payne was part of the Ipswich Jets 1987 team
Gavin Payne was part of the Ipswich Jets 1987 team

Powerhouse ‘Mr Reliable’ relives journey to Ipswich Reserve


OFTEN the little things win or lose grand finals. Something missed can mean a loss or something tiny can mean a win.

Easts and Jets fullback Gavin Payne knows the difference the little things make when it comes to September.

The 1983 grand final proved a close game with the Tigers and Dolphins defence turning each other way.

Tigers' fullback Payne was having a powerhouse game in defence when he stopped Mitch Brennan from scoring. He did not miss an assignment until the end of the game when Dolphins' Steve Cherry stole the ball and scored.

Eddie Ward even denied Payne a try just after halftime.

Wayne Lindenberg did the attacking damage with a pass for Brett Tengdahl to score and then five minutes later the Lindenberg show completed its next act with Brad Backer scoring down the left hand side.

Trevor Patterson was named man of the match but Payne would be the immovable object at the back doing the little things in the Tigers 14-6 win.

"I came to the Tigers in 1981 from Townsville and stayed until 1986 then I left for the Jets and went to Ipswich for two years in 1987 and 1988," Payne recalled.

After 187 games for the Tigers, Payne found his way to the North Ipswich Reserve.

"It was one of your city's favourite sons Des Morris that got me the gig at the Jets. I just wasn't happy at the Tigers anymore,'' he said.

"Des stepped in and spoke to some Ipswich connections and off I was going to Ipswich.

"I'd drive there and pick up Ray Kelly on the way and Ken Robertson and we'd all head off.

"I loved my time at the Jets under Tommy.''

Gavin Payne
Gavin Payne

Something about Ipswich and football stirs emotions.

"I think it's the city and the type of working class city it is,'' Payne said.

"It's tough and quickest way to earn the respect of Ipswich people is to be tough.

"I got to play with some wonderful players at Ipswich with a certain blonde half back leaving a mark on me.

"Alf (Allan Langer) had stepped around me a few times in 1986 so I knew something was brewing out at Ipswich.

"Kerrod, Andrew and Brett Walters were there too."

Kevin Walters. Picture: QT file
Kevin Walters. Picture: QT file

Back to those little things in grand finals like your halfback being collared and the 1988 decider where the Jets would be leading the Diehards and riding high in the saddle.

When Ray Ovens scored, it was 10-0 to the Jets and things were looking good.

Valleys scored twice and suddenly the Jets are locked up 10-10 and then behind when Shane Kelly scored and never in front again.

"We played so well that day, the first 30 minutes was just outstanding football and Ray Ovens was tremendous all year,'' he said.

"The turning point was Ovens being hit high. We couldn't recover from that and Valleys grew.

"I hurt my shoulder against Easts at Ipswich and was out for a lot of the year and then came back for the finals and got picked at fullback."

Coach John Lang celebrating his 2003 NRL grand final success. Picture: Craig Greenhill
Coach John Lang celebrating his 2003 NRL grand final success. Picture: Craig Greenhill

Payne returned to Tiger Town and was reunited with his coach from 1983 John Lang. He won another premiership in 1991 beating Wests Panthers 25-10.

The little things would be on Payne's side in 1991 with Bruce Crosby going over from dummy half and Kurt Wrigley scoring two tries and a Ken Jackson field goal, which was so big it still has not landed.

Payne's career ended in 1992 with the little things not going right on grand final day and a 40-10 loss to the Panthers.

Payne had the master of the finer details in September with coach Lang winning premierships in 1972, 1977, 1978 and coaching in 1983, and 1991.

"Gavin was a young player who came into the first grade team during the 83 season," Lang said.

"He had come to the club as a centre but was switched to fullback.

"During that season he showed the sort of player he would become, a rock solid Mr. Reliable with a touch of class.

"He captained the Tigers after returning from Ipswich in the late 80's before retiring at the end of 89 season.

"When he made a comeback after the start of the 1990 season, he formed a great leadership group with his close mates and new captain Ian Stains and Steve Dowden that would lead us to the 1991 premiership.

"He again showed the same characteristics that he had in 1983 only by then he was a senior player and while Stainsy led by example in the front row Gavin gave direction from behind."

Payne reflected on his career finish.

"1992 was the end,'' he said.

"It's a fair career 12 years and we had two young children and a third on the way so it was time to stay home with my family.

"I am happy with what I achieved at Easts and the Jets."

Time with family can mean watching nephew Aaron Payne who played 219 games for the Cowboys and now coaches the Blackhawks against the Jets.

"I follow Aaron and hope the Blackhawks do well,'' Gavin said.

"I take a big interest in how they are going."

Brisbane Broncos training stalwarts Frank Fletcher (left) and Ken Rach.
Brisbane Broncos training stalwarts Frank Fletcher (left) and Ken Rach.

Ken part of great team

IF you are looking at Souths or Broncos team photos from the past 43 years, you can probably rattle off the names Meninga, Belcher, Astill, Jackson, Lewis, Miles, Lockyer and Langer but you may stop when you get to Rach.

Ken Rach came to Souths in 1977 and stayed until 1987 when the Broncos formed and he took up his spot at Red Hill.

Then he was strapping ankles and preparing dressing rooms at the Broncos from 1988 until this year. After 32 years at the Broncos, COVID made him redundant.

Rach recalled how he got started in football.

"I did some courses on massage, naturopathy and strapping then a mate said Souths need a strapper," Rach said.

"I went down to Davies Park and had a look and stayed there for 11 years on the staff.

"They were great times at Souths. We had a great team.

"First few years were a bit rough but from 1979 to 1985 we made six grand finals and won two premierships."

Rach managed to juggle the demanding role of a police officer with football until 2014 when he retired from the police.

"Souths were the police team I was at the academy that's how I met Wayne Bennett and we had Mal Meninga and Peter Jackson at Souths too,'' he said.

Rach has been with the Disaster Victim Identification Squad since its inception in 1981 and was at the forefront of work in disaster zones around the world.

When the State League came about in 1982, Rach was ready to head to the North Ipswich Reserve and face the new boys.

"Ipswich is just a football factory, after 32 years working with Alf, what a character he is, will never be another one like him.

"Kevvie Walters would make me laugh and just good people.

"I got to watch from pretty close up Des Morris, Rod Morris, Hugh O'Doherty, Pat O'Doherty and all those Ipswich players that played against Souths.

"Forty-three years in league is a long time and I have great memories, doing the State of Origin in 1986 and 1987 was a highlight, the grand finals with Souths and the Broncos.''

On his favourite era, Rach reflected on the past and a gone era.

"I think I'd prefer it previously though, more interesting people, you'd come to training and have to talk to plumbers, teachers, police officers, all from different types of days,'' he said.

"That doesn't really happen anymore.

"I had to go six years without holidays at the Broncos, I'd use my annual police leave to keep my football commitments

"Get in good with the roster clerk that was the key."

I had to solve one Brisbane sporting mystery - January 16, 1983 at the 'Gabba Australia v England in a one day international some veterinary science students took a pig in an Esky in to the 'Gabba and released the poor porky on the field.

They spray painted "Eddie" on one side and "Botham" on the other. An unfortunate police officer is on the boundary wrestling a pig in front of the 'Gabba Hill.

"Yeah that's me that had to grab the pig; I was patrolling in front of the hill all day and honestly not having a good day,'' he said.

"I would do about 30 minutes in front of the hill getting pelted with cans and abused then wander over and tap my colleague to go do his 30 minutes over there.

"I'd stand in the shade in front of the much more civilised stand. I was walking back to tap him to go to the hill when they let it go.

"He says we didn't tap yet so go sort that out first nodding to the pig.

"They drugged it and put it in the Esky asleep with vegetables and told the police officer on the gate it was their lunch then when it's woken up they have released it.

"I put my police hat on the pig and the hill loved it, they went wild and got photos with me and cheering offering me beers."

Cooper's stat

BRUCE Astill FOG 15: Four possessions, two runs, one tackle, 11 run metres in two State of Origin matches.

Nineteen Queensland FOGS have a 100% win rate at Origin.