FLASHBACK: August 1948


Rugby league officials in Queensland were concerned about the threat from Australian rules, with their rules counterparts openly declaring war on the 13 man code.

Aussie rules officials made it clear it was their aim to oust league as the most popular code in Queensland.

The Courier-Mail reported that Aussie rules was backed by a “very efficient and wealthy propaganda machine”. Some things never change.

The Victorian Football League (VFL) had staged a match between Richmond and Footscray (now Western Bulldogs) at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds, drawing a crowd of 29,000 for a match won 113 to 103 by Richmond.

The Courier-Mail’s chief league writer, L H Kearney, said local league officials were complacent in the face of the southern threat, and belatedly had lifted a ban on radio broadcasts of local games, after Aussie rules jumped at the chance for radio coverage.

But Kearney said the international brotherhood in rugby league – between Australia, New Zealand, England and France – was too strong for Aussie rules to gain an advantage.

“The rivalry and big-match appeal will always keep the handling code pre-eminent,” Kearney wrote. “Soccer is the real competitive menace (to rugby league).”

Kearney’s fellow league writer, former Test centre, Jack Reardon went to the VFL match and had this to say.

“The essential difference between the two codes, is that rugby league places the emphasis on the speed and elusiveness of the man with the ball, and the courage and ability of an opponent to stop him; Australian rules on a man’s ability to leap high and kick long distances. No matter what the code, it would not be a game of football without defence. On Saturday (at the VFL) I particularly missed the full blooded, spectacular diving tackle, which is part of rugby league. Also, I could not be reconciled to the action of men batting the ball along the ground with the hand.”

Photo 1: Aussie rules action.

Photo 2: Rugby League action from England.

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