The big man from Beechmont – Mick Veivers

Article from Men of League Magazine – September 2016

This Men of League Foundation Honouree is a man who called a spade a spade as a footballer, politician and commentator and was never afraid to take on authority. By Steve Ricketts

Mick Veivers (pictured above – (standing) far right) is a proud Queenslander but he was prepared to go to any lengths to forge a career in Sydney at the peak of his playing career in the mid-1960s.

Veivers and fellow Queenslanders Ken Day and Arch Brown threatened legal action to circumvent the interstate transfer ban, which was in force at the time.

Manly-Warringah wanted to sign forwards Veivers and Day while Parramatta had goalkicking winger Brown in their sights.

The controversy dominated newspaper headlines in the build-up to the 1965 season, with Manly and Parramatta taking the New South Wales Rugby League to court for backing Queensland’s decision to prevent the trio heading south.

Ultimately the QRL granted clearances to the three men even though the Equity Court had upheld the validity of the transfer ban.

Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Board of Control, Bill Buckley, described the QRL decision as “an act of grace”, one which would be well received by the public.

“We had solicitor (Jim Comans) acting for us and we were prepared to take the matter to the High Court if necessary,” Veivers recalls. “Fortunately sanity prevailed.”

Veivers is a 2016 Men of League Foundation Honouree, a tribute the former Queensland Cabinet Minister rates alongside his Order of Australia (AM), which he received earlier in 2016 – for his services to rugby league and the Gold Coast community.

He and South Sydney great, Bob McCarthy MBE, were inducted as Honourees at the Men of League National Gala Dinner in Sydney in July 2016 with Veivers also honoured at the Annual Queensland Lunch on 2 September.

As patron of the Gold Coast Junior Rugby League, Veivers still takes a first-hand interest in the modern game and is in awe of the athleticism and skill of today’s full-time professionals.

For a big man, Veivers was quick on his feet, as well as being noted for his ability to offload the ball under pressure. And on one occasion, he won a match for Manly with a 50-metre field goal.

Raised on a dairy farm at Beechmont, high in the hills behind the Gold Coast, Veivers, an only child, attended school in Beaudesert before finishing his education at Nudgee College in Brisbane, a rugby union stronghold.

“I was a five-eighth in union,’’ he recalls. “When I left school, my uncle Jack Veivers (father of future Australian captain Greg) would drive me from Beaudesert to Brisbane to play for Souths, from where he had played five matches for Queensland in the early 1950s. I had six happy seasons at Souths before moving to Toowoomba to play for Souths up there.’’

Veivers made his Queensland debut in 1961, playing in three of the four interstate matches, including two wins in Brisbane.

The following year, he made his Test debut against Great Britain at Lang Park, with Australia needing to win to keep the series alive after the tourists won the First Test 31-12 in Sydney.

“It was a great thrill to make my debut at Lang Park, in front of family and friends,’’ Veivers said. “We had three other new boys in the pack – George Smith from Lithgow; Billy Owen from Newcastle and Bill Carson from Wests in Sydney. Billy Owen only had one eye.

“The Poms beat us 17-10 and their big Welsh winger Billy Boston scored two tries. When Billy made one break I thought I had his measure. I said to myself ‘I’m going to put this b#&% into the second tier of the grandstand’. Well, I didn’t count on his body swerve and pace. I touched his boot, and that was about it.’’

Veivers retained his spot for the ‘dead rubber’ third Test in Sydney, which Australia won 18-17. The following year, he was a controversial omission from the Kangaroo tour of England and France and had to wait until Australia’s tour of New Zealand in 1965 to play for his country again.

In 1966 he got sweet revenge on the British, although he didn’t get things all his own way.

Once again the tourists won the first Test in Sydney, forcing the selectors to make wholesale changes, including the recall of Veivers and the inclusion of fellow Queenslander John Wittenberg for his Test debut.

Australia won a tryless match 6-4 at Lang Park, with British forward Bill Ramsey sent off for kicking Veivers in the head.

“If you have a look at the replays, you will see that Ramsey was limping as he left the field,’’ Veivers said. “For the deciding Test, Arthur Beetson made his debut in the second row with me and the rest, as they say, is history. He set up two tries and went on to play another 27 Tests.’’

It was to be Veivers’ last Test, as, once again, he was controversially overlooked for a Kangaroo tour of England and France in 1967-68.

“Missing out on those tours were the biggest disappointments of my career,’’ Veivers said.

In 1968, Manly qualified for the grand final only to be beaten by one of the greatest South Sydney sides in history. It was doubly sad for Veivers, who was injured in Manly’s gutsy win over Souths in the major semi-final and ruled out of the decider. He had one more season in Sydney before returning to Queensland, hanging up the boots at the age of 30, having played six Tests, 14 games for Queensland and four for New South Wales.

After his playing career, Mick was invited to be part of Channel 0’s coverage of the game, later transferring to Seven, along the way working with media professionals like Rod Gallegos, George Doniger, Billy J Smith, David Fordham, Pat Welsh and Alan Thomas.

‘The Farmer’, as Veivers was referred to by fellow commentators, called a spade a spade, and was noted for his home spun humour. He entered State politics in 1987 and, in a 15-year career, held sport and emergency services portfolios.

Today he is chairman of the Gold Coast Academy of Sport which oversees 12 disciplines (including rugby league) and 300 athletes. He is also deputy chairman of Gold Coast based Phenix Jewellery.

Veivers and his wife Betty live at Labrador on the Gold Coast. Betty Veivers (nee Pratt) was a top flight tennis player, competing at Wimbledon and other grand slams.

She recently retired after 54 years as a teacher and was at Mick’s side (jet lagged after attending the 2016 Wimbledon Open) when he was inducted by the Men of League Foundation.

Mick and Betty Veivers have two children, Bob, a linesman, and Shan, a journalist.

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