Hugh O’Doherty pictured in the No. 12 jersey for his beloved Diehards. Courtesy: OUR GAME: The Celebration of Brisbane Rugby League 1909 – 1987
Former Queensland hooker Hugh O’Doherty, an iconic personality of Brisbane Rugby League in the 1970s, has passed away aged 71.
O’Doherty, a product of Ipswich Christian Brothers’ College, won BRL premierships with Valleys in 1970, ’71, ’73 and ’74, and also played in the 1972 grand final, which Easts won 16-15.
He came to Brisbane from Ipswich Railways, (which became Norths), the same club which produced legendary halfback Allan Langer.
O’Doherty was known as ‘The Ferret’, because of his ability to win the ball in the scrum, and to steal possession from opposition attacking players, a skill Langer also perfected.
In his inter-state debut, O’Doherty won the scrums 17-13 against New South Wales’ Test rake, Elwyn Walters and was one of Queensland’s best in the open, in a 32-15 loss at the Newcastle Sports Ground.
That was 1970, and the following year, O’Doherty was named in the QRL’s Intensive Training Squad, for a live-in camp at Lang Park.
Other members of the squad included Wayne Bennett, Greg Veivers, Des Morris, John Lang and current QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher.
The youthful Lang and experienced Country hooker, Brian Fitzsimmons were O’Doherty’s chief rivals for the Queensland hooking job, with Fitzsimmons already having represented Australia, while Lang would achieve national honours in 1973.
Despite the competition, O’Doherty played two more matches for Queensland in 1971, with his signature darts from dummy half just as effective as his ball-winning capabilities.
In the 1973 grand final against Redcliffe, O’Doherty scored a try in the first half of the Diehards’ 15-7 win.
Redcliffe’s only try was scored by centre Peter Leis, another BRL legend who died recently.
(It has been a sad month for the game, with Easts’ forward, Jeff Fyfe, who kicked the winning field goal in the ’72 grand final, also passing away).
Valleys won a tight 1974 grand final 9-2, against Brothers, with O’Doherty and Fitzsimmons going head-to-head in the scrums.
O’Doherty remained with Valleys until the end of the 1977 season, when he joined Gatton, who won the Ipswich competition in 1978.
Hugh’s brothers, Bill, Donald and Bernard also played for Valleys in Brisbane, while another brother, Pat, played first grade in the NSWRL, from 1989 to 1992, for Wests, Gold Coast and Parramatta, as well as representing Ipswich Jets and having a stint with Fulham in England.
Hugh later coached Pat at Ipswich Brothers. In 2015 Hugh and Pat were joint coaches of Valleys in the BRL competition.
There was an 18-year age difference between the pair, and Hugh was very much Pat’s hero, just as he was for so many Queensland league fans.
Queensland Rugby League History Committee