By Steve Ricketts. Secretary, Queensland Rugby League History Committee.
The history of our rugby league fields across Queensland is a project waiting to be tackled.
With that in mind, Kevin Brasch, chairman of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee, has sought the help of the governing body, to encourage officials from across the state to contribute items for a book on our fields.
Let’s face it. The tales that could be told about grounds like Eskdale Park, Maryborough; Bassett Oval, Roma; Owen Park, Southport; Alan McIndoe Oval, Emerald and the Townsville Sports Reserve, are endless.
And I haven’t even mentioned Brisbane city fields such as Bishop Park, Nundah; Emerson Park, Grange and Gibson Park, Stafford.
Now, the response from officials across Queensland has been lukewarm, so the prospect of a book being written about the grounds is someway off.
It is something that has already been achieved in England, with a book, largely photographic, covering fields from ‘The Boulevard’ at Hull to Knowsley Road, St Helens. And just as well the project was completed, because a number of those grounds are now gone, replaced by modern stadiums.
Souths Sunnybank was one club that was diligent in responding to the QRL history.
Souths’ Magpies are based at Davies Park, West End, but, by the 1960s, many of their players lived at Sunnybank and drank at the local pub.
Souths’ Brisbane representative prop, Jim Murdoch, a plumber, canvassed the idea of a junior club at Sunnybank, and in 1966 he and Jim Herlihy headed a steering committee, with local businessman, Jim Davis.
The junior club was given the blessing of Souths’ seniors, but the Brisbane Rugby League rejected the application, because, under district rules that applied at the time, Sunnybank was part of Easts’ Tigers territory.
Murdoch approached prominent Easts’ official, Arthur Sparks, who was sympathetic to the Sunnybank cause. With his inside knowledge from the BRL, Sparks advised Murdoch and co., that the district borders concept would be abolished in 1967.
This proved to be the case and the new club used the Lister street, Sunnybank ground – which was leased to the local Lions (service) Club – beside the Brisbane City-Beenleigh railway line. Until rugby league was played there, the ground had been used as a horse paddock.
It was a modest start, with the club fielding just one side – under-12s – coached by former Souths’ Magpies first grader, Ivan ‘Casper’ Cohen.
(Ivan coached me in Brisbane Brothers’ reserve grade in 1977, and was one of the funniest men I have ever met).
The rest, as they say, is history, with Sunnybank going from strength to strength, producing players such as Test halfback, Johnathan Thurston; Test centre, Mark Coyne and Queensland Residents and Valleys and St George (Sydney) five eighth, Peter Coyne (older brother of Mark).
My nephew, Patrick Lynch played for Souths’ Sunnybank in the late 1990s, early 2000s, in a team dominated by boys of New Zealand origin.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Murdoch for Men of League magazine in 2016, and learned that he was also instrumental in the formation of the Tugun junior Rugby League club.
This website will keep you posted on the progress of the book covering our fields.
Photo: Jim Murdoch and his wife, Betty.