FLASHBACK: September 1946

Electrifying winger, Len Kenny scored five tries for Combined Brisbane in their 36-7 thrashing of Sydney premiers, Balmain Tigers at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds

Each of Kenny’s tries was a gem, and after his fifth, three Balmain players, who had been left in his wake, shook Kenny’s hand as he returned to the halfway line.

Kenny could have scored a sixth, but gave the ball to Test forward, Bill Tyquin, who had done the lead-up work for Kenny’s fifth try. Tyquin, Brisbane’s best forward, finished with three tries himself.

Best in the humiliated Balmain outfit were forwards, Harry Bath (ex Brisbane Souths) and Jack Spencer.

Balmain had beaten St George 13-12 in the Sydney grand final just two days (Sep 14) earlier, and their players tired badly in the second half against Brisbane, which is understandable. Believe it not, just hours after winning the grand final, the Balmain boys left Sydney by bus for Grafton, playing an Upper Clarence (River) representative side the next day. upper Clarence won 28-8 with Harry Bath sent off for foul play.

What a ridiculous schedule, money no doubt the reason for Balmain officials agreeing to the end-of-season challenge matches.

Mind you, a number of the Combined Brisbane players had featured in the Brisbane grand final just 48 hours before the Balmain match, including Kenny, who scored the only try in Valleys’ 5-2 win over Easts.

In the curtain raiser to the Brisbane v Balmain match, Easts defeated Cannon Hill 3-0 in the under-23 grand final.

Len Kenny (middle back row)

Len Kenny (middle back row)

The Courier-Mail reported the crowd as 35,000, but the Royal National Association, which managed the ground, gave the official attendance as 12,451, a figure hotly disputed by Balmain president, Mr D Cooksey, who, quite naturally, was concerned his club could miss out on due gate receipts.

“The RNA statement is the most amazing I have ever seen,” Cooksey said. “I have seen football crowds for 20 years. Football authorities and people who know the capacity of the Exhibition, agreed with my estimate (of 30,000). We expected a gate share of more than 800 pounds. We will get 510 pounds.”

Balmain coach, Norman ‘Latchem’ Robinson said he could not reconcile the RNA statement “with opinions expressed by competent newspapermen and football authorities. These authorities could not be 20,000 out.

“I played at the Exhibition Grounds from 1924 to ’27 (as NSW halfback) when there were often 2,000 pounds gates. I think more people were there on Monday night than at any time I played there,” Robinson said.

A week later, Combined Brisbane played beaten Sydney grand finalists, St George, and again Kenny stole the spotlight, scoring two tries in the 24-12 win at the Ekka. Kenny’s last try finished a 100 yards movement on the full time bell. Bill Tyquin also scored twice.

Jack Horrigan made an impressive Brisbane debut, scoring a try and tackling with devastating force. Horrigan would go on to play for Australia two years later.

St George winger, Jack Lindwall, the brother of Test fast bowler, Ray Lindwall, scored all the Dragons’ points from two tries and three goals.

St George suffered a major blow in the first half when Test forward, Herb Narvo, a champion heavyweight boxer, retired with a hand injury.

Kenny was at it again five days later when he scored four tries for Brisbane Valleys against Toowoomba Valleys at the Ekka, before a crowd of 5,000 (no arguments this time).

Footnote: Len ‘Turn on a Penny’ Kenny was a cleaner at Queensland Newspapers, Bowen Hills in the late 1970s, early 1980s when I was a young journalist with the ‘Telegraph’. I had no idea who he was, or what he had achieved, until alerted to his status by senior photographer, Geoff McLachlan. Len was a modest little bloke, and, from what I have read, one of the unluckiest men not to have played for Australia.

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