Ipswich sporting great Allan Langer had a special bond with Wayne Bennett before quitting and making a remarkable comeback. Picture: Peter Wallis
Ipswich sporting great Allan Langer had a special bond with Wayne Bennett before quitting and making a remarkable comeback. Picture: Peter Wallis

Shock emotion as Ipswich great Alfie Langer quits

IT was one of the most dramatic days in Ipswich sporting history when Allan "Alf"' Langer announced he was quitting.

The day was April 29, 1999 when Ipswich's favourite sportsman declared his intentions on the front page of The Queensland Times.

The former Ipswich Jets star, flanked by long-time coach Wayne Bennett and Broncos chief executive Shane Edwards, choked back tears as he revealed the "hardest decision'' of his career.

After a subdued start to the 1999 NRL season, Langer announced his immediate retirement from rugby league.

His decision left many teammates surprised at the time.

The international halfback's shock announcement also drew praise from the Queensland Premier and Australian Prime Minister.

Inspirational Ipswich and Queensland footballer Allan Langer. Picture: Wayne Jones
Inspirational Ipswich and Queensland footballer Allan Langer. Picture: Wayne Jones

 

However, it was in his own backyard Ipswich that his decision caused most impact.

An emotional Alf had spent the morning in his home city with his children Courtney, Maddison and Harris, informing his parents Harry and Rita of what he had decided.

"I've been thinking about it for about a month,'' said Langer, who was 32 at the time.

"I know I haven't been in my best playing form of my career. I've been turning up for training and on weekends . . . I don't really feel like playing.''

However, the Little General was to come out of retirement, lining up for the Warrington Wolves in the English Super League.

That led to one of the most remarkable comebacks in State of Origin history.

As captain of the Wolves, Langer guided his English side to within one match of the Challenge Cup final in 2000.

He also received a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to rugby league and charities. An Australian Sports Medal followed.

But it was the North Ipswich junior's form for the Wolves that prompted State of Origin coach Bennett to stun the football world by recalling the Ipswich champion.

Langer was secretly selected for the third and deciding State of Origin in 2001.

Aged 35, he didn't let Bennett and his Queensland team down, setting up two tries and scoring a vital four-pointer as the Maroons secured a stunning victory.

Langer had one more season with the Broncos in 2002, becoming the oldest footballer at the time (36 years and 60 days).

 

Allan Langer checks out the statue in his honour at Suncorp Stadium. Picture: AAP/Megan Slade
Allan Langer checks out the statue in his honour at Suncorp Stadium. Picture: AAP/Megan Slade

 

Alf has since been immortalised with a statue at Suncorp Stadium where he tormented the NSW Blues so many times. He was earlier inducted into the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame in 2008.

Alf lined up for Queensland 37 times and Australia in 25 matches after finishing his Jets stint in 1986-87.

He continues to play an important coaching role at the Brisbane Broncos.