A great of all time
One of the great attacking centers of the past half century, Gene Miles has been a major force in some of the best teams the sport has ever seen – the Queenslanders who dominated the Home State in the 1980s, the Undefeated Kangaroos of 1986 when he kept Mal Meninga out of the side and Wigan in 1991-92 who swept everything in front of them.
Miles was also one of Brisbane’s first Broncos in 1988 and succeeded Wally Lewis as captain in 1990.
If you could relive one day of your career, which day would it be?
I won the Grand Final with Wynnum Manly in the Brisbane competition, and I would say 1986 was the highlight, when we beat the Brisbane Brothers. Wally had just taken over as captain-coach and we had quite a bit of turmoil before that year as the previous coach was moved. We had a young team, so coming out in the Premiership was very satisfying.
Why was Queensland so successful in Origin’s early days?
Throughout the 80s we had a team that had played so much football together in Brisbane and many of us were the same age. We didn’t have a lot of stock to choose from so the breeders stuck with it and we got some great combinations. We had great coaches like Artie (Beetson) and Wayne (Bennett), and we played above ourselves. We played against superstars, but if you tackle them around the legs, they still fall.
Can you choose a highlight of your career at Origin?
I’ve played in seven series, won six, but I’m going to pick the one I lost as the highlight. We were whitewashed in 1986 but looking back it was the most competitive series I have ever played in and there has never been more than one try converted in each game. The Kangaroo Tour was largely made up of players from this series and that set me up for a great year with the Grand Final and this tour.
You were not part of the Test team in 1982, but what memories do you have of this Kangaroos Tour?
I had only been in Brisbane for two years, having moved from Townsville, so it was a great honor to be selected, but I knew I was going to play the games midweek because of Mal Meninga and Steve Rogers . There were 27 other guys, and the friendships made on this tour have stayed with me for life.
When you’re on the team, do you watch the tests hoping things don’t go so well that you might have a crack?
Yes obviously there can be a little bit at times, but on this particular tour we were just in awe of what the team was doing. They played great football. But the camaraderie ensured that we all had a role to play on game day.
How do you remember playing for Oceania against Europe in France in 1984, a match you won 54-4?
I was proud to be involved and Wally, Mal and I talk about it a lot. We had Kiwis, Papua New Guinea and Australians and we were up against players from Great Britain and France. We had a great week, starting with a bonding session in Sydney. The guys from Papua New Guinea loved it – they had starry eyes sitting on a plane with Wally and Mal! It was strange playing in Paris. There was no grass on the ground. It was like a cow pen so not many of us wanted to hit the bridge, and because of that there were some amazing ball skills!
You toured again in 1986 and this time you excluded Mal Meninga from the team.
We had played a series with the Kiwis a few months before the tour and when we arrived in England we played three club games before the Tests, so we had the miles to go for the Tests. Old Trafford hosted the first test and I scored three tries. We had a good lead, but the British fought back. The crowd was sensational, but still applauded when we scored some great tries.
Did you have the chance to win the third test? There were rumors that some of your team were the worst to wear. What is this true?
We certainly weren’t the worst for usury, we wouldn’t be that disrespectful, but mentally maybe we just thought we could come back and win again, but Great Britain was great. It was the most competitive test we have had. We were very lucky. Wally produced something special when he scored the try that won the match late in the game.
You mentioned the kiwi. Have you bumped into Olsen Filipaina a lot?
No, thank goodness! He always gave Wally such a tough test, but I got injured in 1985 and missed a very controversial tour which, in hindsight, wasn’t a bad thing.
You were one of the first Broncos in 1988. How do you remember the preparation and the first game?
So much happened in 1988 here and the Broncos’ buildup was huge. We all came from different backgrounds when it came to the Winfield Cup, and it wasn’t right that the best players came from the local competition. We had a team of about 30 players, and they came from all over Queensland with a few from Sydney that Wayne picked up. We never started training as early as with the Broncos, because entering the competition from Sydney, as it was called then what stage.
Manly were our first opponents and they were the prime ministers of 1987. We couldn’t have a tough start. I don’t think we sold it, which was very strange because it was basically our Origin side trotting that day. We hammered Manly. Wally and Alf (Allan Langer) both had great games and Terry Matterson scored a record number of goals. We got into the race and won our next five games.
What happened when Wally was sacked as captain?
It was fun – no! Wayne was going to replace Wally as captain because he wasn’t getting from him what he thought he could. Wally probably didn’t mix with the younger squad on the team. He also suffered a few injuries. Wayne asked me to take over as captain and I had to think about it because of my relationship with Wally. I thought if I accepted it, he would accept it because it wouldn’t suit someone like Kevvie Walters or Alfie Langer, that he might have thought he didn’t quite have it. deserved at this point. But I was totally wrong. He thought I shouldn’t have accepted it. We’re still good friends today, but we’ve had a few tough years. But the players backed me in 1990 and we were tied for the minor prime minister. I have stayed at the Broncos for another year and Wally has stayed at the Gold Coast Seagulls.
Did Wigan approach you in the 1980s?
Maurice Lindsay was very keen to bring me there on several occasions, especially after our tour in 1986. He had Brett Kenny and Greg Dowling, and they told me how great a club it was. Maurice was the manager of Great Britain, so I felt like I had constant contact with him.
When I ended up signing in 1992, Maurice was instrumental in getting me there. I remember he said he wanted to see me run at Wembley and I was so proud when I did. I owe him so much. When we arrived, we stayed at his house. Not with him – he moved so we could move in! He moved heaven and earth to put us at ease. Whatever he said, he did. We lacked nothing. My son was born in England and he even helped with things like baby seats.
How would you compare the 1991-92 Wigan team to the top teams you played for in Australia?
They were amazing! This team would have been competitive in any competition. It was basically the Great Britain team and when they toured a few months later they had a lot of Wigan players. They had so much depth and brilliance. We could have a few injuries and replace a quality player with another quality player.
Is Martin Offiah the best winger you’ve ever seen?
Probably yes. All you had to do was put it in the gap, then turn around and wait for the kick-off. I remember the refs trying to chase him away and they also gave up. I have never seen anyone go from zero at such a fast speed. He scored ten against Leeds in one semi-final and five against Bradford in another. We also won the World Sevens in the rain in Sydney, and he also left everyone in his wake.
You were the manager of the Maroons when Allan Langer was called up to the side in 2001. How did it go?
We had just been heavily beaten in Game 2 and as we were leaving on the bus Wayne leaned over and said, “How do you feel about getting Alf back?” I immediately accepted. We spoke to the powers that be and got to work immediately. We kept it under the radar and put the plans in place. It was a stroke of genius.
And, of course, Alfie was gorgeous. No one thought in their wildest dreams that he could play so well. Getting from Warrington to the required level at Origin was fantastic and that ended the series for us.
Tell us about FOGS and the Artie Academy you are involved with.
FOGS is synonymous with the old greats of Origin. Every player who played football at Origin is a FOG. Each player has a number from one (Artie Beetson) to 221 (Tom Flegler). I am number 28.
We work with the Queensland team, the managers and support the team. The Artie side uses the FOGS profile to do government funded programs in schools with Aboriginal children – better educated.
Arthur was a great man, and it was an honor to be trained by him and to give the Artie Academy his name. He was delighted that his name was used, as he was passionate about helping his people. I made my Queensland debut with Arthur in 1981 in the Interstate series. He trained me from 1982 to Origin. It has been ten years since we lost him. I was a huge fan of him and just being on the bus for practice was so much fun. All you wanted was to play for him.
You told your daughter not to date a footballer, but she married Corey Oates.
Ha – yes, that’s absolutely true! I know footballers and there are a few rascals among us so I didn’t like a footballer being brought home with her. Corey and I get along great, but he knows the rules!
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