Former Origin great reveals his hidden shame
WITH a squeaky-clean reputation on and off the field, Billy Moore squirms every time footage is shown of an ugly all-in brawl during a State of Origin match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1995.
Not only is the Sunshine Coast-based restaurateur ashamed of his involvement in the spiteful affray, and his lack of pugilistic ability, he is mortified that - indirectly - he was the man responsible for the stain on the game.
At the first match in Sydney three weeks earlier, Moore was captured on TV hollering "Queenslander'' as the players walked down the tunnel after half-time.
Not only would that word become part of State of Origin folklore - and a massive profile-raising boost for the ex-Maroons back-rower - but it stirred NSW coach Phil Gould to boiling point.
The star-stacked Blues team had been stunningly beaten 2-nil in the opening game by a perceived second-rate Queensland outfit, and that was not supposed to happen.
"We had two internationals in our line-up; Dale Shearer who had played his last Test two years earlier, and Adrian Lam who had represented PNG," Moore recalled.
"The Blues fielded 12 internationals, so for them to be beaten by a bunch of nobodies like us was absolutely humiliating. They wanted more than revenge in Melbourne."
Moore recalls how a "mole'' among the NSW support staff had been privy to a pre-game meeting of the Blues and he relayed to Maroons coach Paul Vautin their plan to instigate the "stink''.
"Gould was filthy at what had happened in Sydney and wanted us upstarts taught a lesson," Moore said. "The order was for anyone in our side to be set upon if we gave the 'Queenslander' call. In other words, start a fight.
"Fatty (Vautin) told us about their strategy just before we ran out, and asked who was prepared to yell 'Queenslander'. All 17 raised our hands."
And the Queenslanders didn't waste any time.
"In the first scrum our front row of Gavin Allen, Tony Hearn and Wayne Bartrim gave the war cry, and all hell broke loose," Moore reminisced.
And that is when the man who is possibly as well known in Queensland Origin legend as giants like Beetson, Lewis, Langer, Lockyer, Smith and Thurston, failed for the first time in a Maroon jersey to deliver his very best.
"For no particular reason, I paired off with Dave Barnhill and we each threw 100 punches, none of which landed," he said.
"And, again for no particular reason, one TV camera focused just on us. It captured the most embarrassing few moments of my career."
But for Moore it wasn't just the poor example he was setting by fighting on the field, but his boxing ability was seriously brought into question. And for good reason.
"I had been boxing at a gym in Sydney for four years, under the tutelage of renowned trainer Johnny Lewis," he revealed.
"But that night I lost all control and technique. Johnny was horrified, and he didn't hold back when telling me how shocking I was. The fact that it is shown, over and over, at this time of the year just makes the memory more painful."
But the popular Queenslander accepts the quid-pro-quo aspect of his fame. He concedes the notoriety received from the Queenslander call cancels out the negativity from the wild-west style brawl.
"I played 211 first-grade games for the North Sydney Bears, 17 Origins for Queensland and three Tests for my country, yet my career is basically summed up by a three-second grab walking down a corridor," he said.
"That 'Queenslander' call and to a lesser extent the stink at the MCG have re-engaged me with the footy family. I'm comfortable with that."