David Wright
David Wright

Wright’s ‘Law’ is thanks for great footy memories

JETS BUZZ

Michael Nunn

IF you were going to build a bridge and call it Brisbane Rugby League, you might want to get the help of engineer David Wright.

Wright was project director of the Gateway upgrade - the largest road infrastructure project in Queensland's history at the time. He also built a league career that did not need any concrete or struggle with the maths of hit-ups and tackles.

Wright debuted for Brisbane Brothers as a 78kg front rower, 19 years old in 1970 and stayed with Past Brothers until 1977.

"I went to Wavell and I was playing in the First team there in grade 10, I was never big," Wright recalled.

"I was always going to play for Norths but a few mates from school went to Brothers so I followed and ended up there.

"I played Under 18 in 1969 and we won the premiership and then graded in 1970."

It would be in the 1970 season that Wright was about to learn what a hard teacher league can be for a young front rower.

"We finished first or second in all three grades, things have never looked better," he said.

"Then we all lost the major semi and preliminary final. The whole club lost six games in the space of eight days and we all missed the grand final.

"It was tremendously disappointing, our two finals in first grade we had to play with 12 men, in a strange rule of the day you couldn't replace injured players in the second half,'' Wright said.

"We have lost former Wallaby Peter Reilly against Norths and Steve Lean against Valleys both weeks and played with 12 men just after the second half started.

"I was only 19 so I remember thinking plenty of more chances for us.

"The players in our team that had won in 1967 and 1968 they knew how hard these chances are to come by and we had missed a big chance."

Another chance would come in 1974 but Wright would miss the grand final with a knee injury after captaining Brisbane Brothers all year and Wayne Bennett would captain Brothers to a 9-2 scoreless grand final loss.

In 1973, Wright secured his first Queensland jumper and some hard days with Queensland not scoring a point in the series.

"My first game for Queensland was at Lang Park in front of 27,000 people, it was pretty special,'' he said.

"I got to play with John Sattler and Robin Orchard."

It was a disappointing series for the Maroons but brighter days were coming.

In 1974, Barry Muir took over the Queensland coaching role and Wright was inspired after Queensland went so close with two draws in the series against a NSW side that was close to the Australian side.

"Barry was the ultimate motivator.

"If you can't play well for Queensland against NSW in front of 27,000 Queenslanders at Lang Park you will never play well.

"That's how he made you feel, he understood Queensland better than anyone.

"I say to Barry I am not sure I would have liked to play under you at club level but he was a great rep coach."

"I would have done anything for him for Queensland. He just motivated you so well.

"We went so close in 1975, one nil up and then lost by a point in the decider, and it was our last win before Origin."

Wright's Test jumper would come after the 1975 interstate series, at Lang Park beating New Zealand 36-8.

"There was four Queenslanders in that side, myself, Lew Platz, Ross Strudwick and John Lang,'' he said. "It was a good reward for that 1975 series against the Blues."

In May 1974, Wright learnt that his prize for winning the Queensland player of the year was a stint in England with Warrington.

"John Grant had won it the year before and went and played at Warrington and then it was my turn,'' he said.

Warrington won the Challenge Cup Final in front of 77,000 people at the most famous ground in the world - Wembley.

"It was the first time I had been to another country and I got flown first class and I look back now and think I should have made a bigger deal of it,'' he said.

"I was in awe of it the big Jumbo Jet, the stairs up to the free bar it was all there."

Warrington would win Wright's heart forever.

"Warrington is halfway between Liverpool and Manchester and it was as working class as you can get in England,'' he said.

"They're called the wire because that's what dominated the city, wire factories.

"They were league mad, one team in the city not like Brisbane sharing eight teams.

"There is nothing else in Warrington just one team and that is all they live for.

"When we won the final and we came back to Warrington the next day in a double decker open top bus 100,000 people lined the streets.

"I went over there and quickly realised that my style in Brisbane of offloading wasn't needed they had these beautiful ball distributers like typical pommie forward Dave Chisnall.

"They didn't need me to offload just run so I became a hole runner, and tackle low- not too many English players tackled low.

"Completely different to my Brisbane career."

"British champion Alex Murphy was captain coach of that Warrington side. He was great."

Wright returned to Brisbane with three medals from his stay in England as Warrington played out the perfect season.

Getting to the end of his time with Brothers in 1978 Wright was entangled in a contract dispute that would see him leave and play for Nerang.

"I had signed a three-year deal with Brothers but due to financial problems they now wanted to renegotiate the deal,'' he said.

"I didn't leave on the best terms

"I ended up playing the year at Nerang and won the premiership on the coast, six of us went down to Nerang from Brothers including Bob Cock and Ian Duath and we had a really good team."

Wright involvement would not end there, as a 40-year media career would see him commentate games.

"I went to Channel 0 and then the ABC when I retired and then 10 got the rights and we did the Broncos games for the first four years,'' he said.

"They were glamour days being flown around once on a helicopter to games with Fordo and Billy J and driven in Limos to games.''

One Ipswich name would always make Wright sit up a little straighter.

 

Des Morris. Picture: Richard Walker
Des Morris. Picture: Richard Walker

 

"Des Morris is your best ever player that never played for Australia, don't let anyone tell you differently," Wright said.

"I remember he played the weekend he was ruled out with his heart murmur.

"They talk about edges and running if Morris was playing today he would be running on an edge and running over blokes.

"Some players you looked at and knew exactly how you were going to get them and how you would tackle them but I always looked at Morris and thought what am I going to do here?

"Ipswich, the names just come to you, Denman, Robson, Crilly, O'Doherty, John Brown - terrific players."

Abrams' law in engineering talks about the strength of concrete. As the water content increases, the strength of concrete decreases.

Wright's law might be that you just mix rugby league for 50 years and leave it at that.

"I am so grateful for my time in league. It's given me so much and it's still giving today I just got to commentate the schoolboy Allan Langer Trophy.

I have a lot to thank league for in my life."

 

THE great Ipswich Panthers like Ian Robson, John Young and John White might be about to get another addition to their ranks this September.

Kurt Capewell is not stalking his prey at Purtell Park or Lang Park but Panthers Stadium.

Capewell played 53 games for the Jets before leaving for Sydney and a stint at the Sharks. He now is part of the Penrith Panthers that are prowling and hunting the finals in 2020.

Capewell has played 68 NRL games and is waiting for his chance to break into the red-hot Panthers team.

Capewell has overcome a grade three medial injury and made his comeback against the Broncos, scoring a try with his first touch off a deft Nathan Cleary kick.

 

Kurt Capewell in action against Townsville in the 2015 Intrust Super Cup grand final. Picture: Rob Williams
Kurt Capewell in action against Townsville in the 2015 Intrust Super Cup grand final. Picture: Rob Williams

Capewell will be drawing on his experience from being part of the Sharks 2016 Premiership experience.

"I see a lot of similarities between the Sharks of 2016 and the Panthers this year, we have a good blend of youth and older players," Capewell said.

"Nathan Cleary is just playing awesome football too; a half playing like he is coming into finals is always a positive.

Capewell thinks the Panthers back three is where the Penrith side can take advantage of a territorial battle.

Penrith's back three of Dylan Edwards, Josh Mansour and Brian To'o made 786 metres against the Eels, getting the Panthers set off to a massive head start.

"Those three mean we are starting our sets at the 30 or 40 metre line every set that's massive,'' he said.

Capewell remains patient and ready for his chance.

"I don't think Ivan is going to rest players this last two weeks, it's just a matter of being ready when my chance comes and taking the opportunity,'' he said.

Capewell's finals break out performance prediction belongs to his second row Panther Liam Martin.

"He's just a footballer, good country bloke and he will just do his job all game,'' the former Jet said.

Cooper's stat

David Wright: One Test and 11 interstate games for Queensland.