Queensland’s greatest ever footballer is one Walter J. Lewis (aka: The Emperor of Lang Park).
Note: please address your complaints to the Editor, because I’m not budging on this.
My favourite memory of Wally is not of any of his amazing plays or tries, nor the night he bravely (or insanely) confronted Mark Geyer in Origin 2, 1991.
It wasn’t even in game three of the same series, when he inspired Queensland to superhuman efforts to win the game and the series. Afterwards Wally announced his Origin retirement, then picked up his kids and took them for a stroll around Lang Park.
It was a bittersweet moment; earlier in the day, he’d learned that his youngest daughter was deaf, and, as he smiled and waved, he fought back tears because he knew his little girl couldn’t hear the crowds’ applause.
It was a moving moment, but not my favourite Wally memory.
That came in 1995, when I was working as a handyman in a Brisbane hospital. I bumped into Wally while strolling through a ward and was so overawed by the occasion that I blurted out, “G’day Wally! Struth, how big is Mark Geyer?!” Six foot five inches apparently.
Wal was visiting a dying patient who wanted to meet The Emperor before meeting St. Peter. Wally made these visits so often that he knew all the nurses names. Afterwards, he slipped off unseen, except by a lone handyman who was actually fixing the fence in the car park, and NOT pawing the Emperor’s car.
I saw the pain on Wal’s face and how he quickly masked it with his trademark grin when he caught me gawping at him. Right then I learned that a real hero puts his hand up to do the hard yards long after the final whistle has blown, without complaint, no matter how much it hurts.
That, is my favourite Wally Lewis memory.