Thousands of people made it into the ground without paying, and 8,000 were locked out when Australia and Great Britain played the Second Test of the 1946 Ashes series at Brisbane’s Exhibition Grounds.
Brisbane’s Sunday Mail newspaper reported the crowd as 45,000, beating the previous Brisbane record by 10,000. Gates were closed to the public at 11.40 a.m., three hours 20 minutes before kick-off, with frustrated patrons retreating to pubs in and around Fortitude Valley.
Australia and Britain had played a 8-8 all draw in the First Test in Sydney, and the home side needed a win in Brisbane to have any hope of hoisting the Ashes Trophy, given Britain were the holders after winning the last series (1937) before the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Brilliantly captained by Welshman, Gus Risman, Britain had too much class for Australia in Brisbane, winning 14-5 with winger, Arthur Bassett from Halifax scoring three tries on debut.
The Sunday Mail’s L H Kearney said the match was not a classic example of ‘the handling code’.
“The grim, fighting qualities of the match were too tense, and there were passages when man handling and fist violence crept in to jar the temper of the players and annoy the spectators,” Kearney wrote. “The rabbit killer blow to the base of the neck was used in some of the mauling double tackles.”
Despite the violence, referee, Stan Chambers saw fit to dismiss only one player – British hooker, Joe Egan (Wigan) just a few minutes from fulltime.
Britain’s best attacking players were lock, Tommy McCue (Widnes) and halfback, Ike Owens (Leeds), who exploited the blindside to set up the three tries for Bassett.
Australia’s best were forwards, Arthur Clues (Sydney Wests) and Reg Kay (Brisbane Souths). Winger, Lionel Cooper (Sydney Easts) scored Australia’s other try. Australia’s other winger was Edgar Newham from the Cowra club in country New South Wales.
Four days before the Test Britain had given an ominous warning to the Australians, via a 94-0 thrashing of Mackay in Mackay.
British fullback, Ernest Ward from Bradford Northern kicked 17 goals from 21 shots. Winger, Jim Lewthwaite (Barrow scored) seven tries.
The lightest and youngest player on the field, 18-year-old Mackay halfback, Johnny Ryan, brought off some sensational tackles.
The crowd in Mackay was 6,000, with one spectator yelling out “Where’s the wicketkeeper?’ after Britain scored 13 points in five minutes.