FLASHBACK: February 1956

Vandalism is not really something we associate with ‘sedate’ 1950s Australia, but it’s a sad fact that rugby league was on the receiving end of a blatant bit of public desecration before the start of the 1956 Brisbane season.

Broken bricks and bottles were used to wreck Wests’ clubhouse at Lang Park, Milton with virtually every window smashed, along with most of the sheets of fibro on the outer walls.

“We’ve had trouble with vandals before, but nothing remotely like this,” said Wests’ president, Tom Purtell.

The clubhouse – it was more like a training shed – was still there when I witnessed my first BRL grand final in 1972, with Wests’ prop, Ray McCarron hosting us for a few ales. ‘Big Macca’ had been captain-coach of my Murwillumbah club side, Brothers, the previous year.

On the playing front, Wests received good news with Mick Milliner cleared to make a comeback after two years on the sideline with a knee injury.

Mick worked with me at The Courier-Mail – he was an electrician – and kept me up to date with a lot of league happenings, given his association with Wests and the BRL. His son, Mick Jnr., played for the Australian under-18 side in 1981, and went on to play Brisbane first grade with Wests, just like his dad.

In February, 1956, surf club duties meant Valleys could field only one senior team in trials played at riverside Hamilton in Brisbane. Footballers of all codes, but particularly rugby league, were instrumental in the establishment and running of surf clubs on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.

Brisbane Souths suffered a pre-season setback with the news halfback, Norm McLean had signed with Quilpie in Western Queensland for 15 pounds a week, plus a job, accommodation and return fares.

There was money in the bush in those days, with Rockhampton Railways mounting an audacious bid to sign legendary fullback, Clive Churchill. They were unsuccessful, but the money was believed to be in vicinity of what Churchill was receiving at South Sydney.

Jack Reardon reported in The Courier-Mail that several top players were seeking captain-coach jobs in Queensland, among them Ken Fogarty from Taree and Jack Perrin from Parkes.

Meanwhile in England there was uproar over a planned abbreviated Kangaroo tour at the end of 1956, which would see clubs such as Leeds, Wakefield and Leigh miss out.

England officials pointed out that British touring sides played ‘missionary’ games in centres such as Cairns and Canberra, and the onus was on the Kangaroos to do the same.


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