Steve ‘Even Steven’ Carter – one of Queensland’s toughest
Article from Men of League Foundation Magazine – Issue 62 – March 2016
Steve Carter is not just a celebrated name at the Penrith Panthers but among the Brisbane and north Queensland league fraternity where the namesake prop rattled a few bones in his time. By Steve Ricketts.
Those fortunate enough to see Steve Carter in action for Brothers against Wynnum-Manly in the 1986 Brisbane grand final will never forget the sight of the former Australian Schoolboys star ripping into the star-studded opposition pack.
Carter set the trend for the day with a monstrous hit on Wynnum’s Test prop Greg Dowling in the first minute, the tackle sparking an all-in-brawl which saw Carter and Wynnum pair, Peter Dawes and Scott Lewis, cautioned by referee Eddie Ward.
Brothers were rank outsiders but led 6-4 at half-time with Wynnum players arguing among themselves as they headed to the dressing sheds.
Wynnum, inspired by Test skipper Wally Lewis, would go on to win the contest 14-6 and Brothers would have to wait another 12 months to win the Brisbane crown, something they did in style with a 26-8 victory against Redcliffe.
A bright future was tipped for Carter after that 1986 grand final.
A player agent had planted himself beside Carter in the Brothers’ dressing room, telling reporters ‘his boy’ was going to be a star, as talent scouts headed by Sydney ‘super coach Jack Gibson assessed the day’s events.
Brothers skipper Trevor Bailey, who would go on to captain St George in Sydney, reckons to this day Carter’s man of the match performance against Wynnum would have catapulted him into the Kangaroos squad for the tour of England and France, if the Brisbane Rugby League competition was given the respect it deserved from the national selectors.
“If Steve turned that on at the SCG in the Sydney comp, he would have been packing his bags,” Bailey said.
Still, everything seemed to be going to plan for Carter the following year when he toured New Zealand with the Wayne Bennett-coached, Wally Lewis-captained Queensland Residents side.
Origin seemed a mere formality for Carter, who was signed by St George in Sydney for the 1988 season – the year the Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Giants and Newcastle Knights were added to the NSWRL competition and Brisbane clubs were stripped of their best players.
But Carter did not play first grade in ’88 and halfway through summer, while training for the ’89 season, Dragons coach Craig Young axed the 24-year-old.
“The trouble with Steve was that he just wanted to play football. He wasn’t too fussed about training,” Bailey said.
That wasn’t the end of Carter’s career – far from it – but he disappeared from the wider public gaze until his premature death on Christmas Day 2015 saw his name briefly back in the sports pages of Queensland’s main newspaper, The Courier-Mail.
Carter was just 51 when he passed away from a heart attack, his funeral in Brisbane and the subsequent wake at Brothers Leagues Club drawing appropriate numbers of family members, friends, former teammates and coaches.
Townsville Blackhawks chief executive, Adrian ‘Happy’ Thomson, flew down on the day of the funeral to pay his respects to a man he credits for much of his success as coach of Brothers’ Townsville, the club where Carter won four premierships.
Others at the funeral included Carter’s former Brothers’ coach Ross Strudwick and former Brothers teammates Peter Gill, Gary Smith, Clinton Mohr, Greg Smith, Shane McErlean, Jeff Burns, Trevor Bailey, John Welsh and Wayne Vohland as well as former Brisbane Wests teammate Tony Currie and ex-Panthers’ coach Ron Raper.
Steve Carter first came to light in a league sense in 1981 when he was chosen for the Australian Schoolboys from Toowoomba High, a feat he achieved again the following year. He played alongside the likes of future internationals Andrew Ettingshausen, Paul Langmack and Mark Hohn in the schoolboy teams.
He signed with Wests Panthers in 1984 when he moved to Brisbane and despite playing in a struggling team, featured prominently in various best player awards on offer in Brisbane.
Carter and fellow forward Ray Baumber were signed from Wests by new Brothers coach, Strudwick for the 1985 Brisbane premiership as Strudwick looked to add steel to his pack.
After his heroic effort in the 1986 BRL grand final, Carter enjoyed an off-season stint in England with Cumbrian club Barrow, playing alongside the likes of Sydney Roosters legend, Kevin ‘Horrie’ Hastings, Brisbane Souths’ strongman Mark Meskell and former Springbok Nick du Toit.
In 1987 Carter was a reserve in the Queensland Maroons side which played the NSW Maroons in a State of Origin trial at Lang Park with Lewis captain of the ‘local’ side and Bob Lindner in charge of the NSW-based Queensland players.
The NSW boys won 20-10 but Carter did enough to win selection for the tour of New Zealand with the Queensland Residents.
Queensland beat a strong New Zealand President’s XIII 18-14 in the first match at Auckland’s Carlaw Park.
Coach, Wayne Bennett had this to say after the win:
“These players showed they are not far off Origin if anyone hiccups and Steve Carter certainly rattled a few of them when he came on in the second half. It takes a lot of pressure off everyone.”
Although he missed out on Origin football that year, Carter continued to improve and showed some deft touches in the grand final, including a clever pass to Bailey for Brothers’ first try of the match.
The next day Carter featured in a front-page photograph in The Courier-Mail, with club mascot, Bradley Jacobs (dressed as a leprechaun) on his shoulders, with Joe Kilroy to his right and skipper Bailey on his left holding the Winfield Cup. Carter was also photographed with Prime Minister Bob Hawke who was a special guest at the match.
Twelve months later, after being shown the door by St George, Carter moved to Innisfail and played second row (and scored a try) in Innisfail/Eacham’s 40-12 win over Mackay in the final of the locally famous Foley Shield competition.
The following year he moved to Townsville where he earned a reputation as the hard man of the local club competition.
In his book ‘Raging Bull’, former Broncos skipper Gorden Tallis said his mum wouldn’t let him step up from colts to First Grade football while Carter was running amok.
Carter moved back to Brisbane after his Townsville stint and coached junior league sides. He had a variety of jobs, mainly in hospitality and security, but also as a garbo. During his playing days with Wests and Brothers, he had worked first as a television cameraman with Channel Ten and then as a policeman.
One of six children, Steve was known as ‘Even Steven’ because there were three boys and three girls.
He was married twice, having two children – Timothy and Jessica with first wife Bronwyn and three children with his second wife Robyn – Alexandra, Jacob and Lochlan. He also had five grandchildren.