As chairman of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee, I receive many requests from people, via the QRL offices, wanting answers to questions about matters relating to the code’s heritage.
Some are as complicated as explaining how the kangaroo came to be alongside the Q logo, on Queensland jerseys, over the years.
Others are as simple as scanning an old program for someone, which was the case when Terry Burke from the Gold Coast, told the QRL he had played in a curtain raiser to a World Cup match, at the Gabba, in Brisbane, in 1957.
Terry thought his match preceded the Australia v Great Britain clash, when in fact he had played in the lead-up to the Australia v New Zealand match on June 15, a match which Australia, captained by Dick Poole, won 25-5 in front of a crowd of 29,636.
The passage of time does that to the best of us.
There were three curtain raisers that day, a common occurrence, right up until the late 1980s, I reckon, and fans, particularly back in the ’50s and ’60s, would rock up early to watch every match.
Burke played for Ipswich against Toowoomba, in an under-17 clash at 12.30 p.m.
Preceding that was South Brisbane v Redcliffe in 6 stone schoolboys (bring back weights, I say).
The final curtain raiser was Brisbane v Central Queensland Secondary Schools, with the Brisbane team made up of players from Cavendish Road, Industrial, Wynnum and Banyo, but mainly from Industrial, a school which no longer exists. J Melville from Industrial was skipper. (That was when Australia had industry).
Central were captained by lock, W Crowley and included players from St Brendan’s Yeppoon, Rockampton Grammar, Christian Brothers and Rockhampton State High.
It was the first time a CQ Schools team had played in Brisbane. One of the second rowers was J Guerassimoff, who I reckon is Jules Guerassimoff. who played for the Wallabies, and last year was inducted into the Queensland Sports Hall of Fame. He is also in the Tatts Club Hall of Fame, I am told. Jules was born at Thangool.
The Kiwi team to play Australia was definitely a working class outfit. Occupations included cleaner, clothing cutter, carpenter, tiler, joiner, plumber, miner, driver, rope splicer, wharf foreman, cargo worker, freezing worker. Not one white collar job.
The French, on the other hand, boasted an aircraft factory foreman; a chemist; an accountant; a hair dresser; two nurses; two soldiers; a civil servant; a commercial traveller; three teachers; a shop assistant; two council employees and (wait for it) a panel beater. The captain was Jacques Merquey, a dual rugby international from Avignon. He was the chemist.
(France had opened the tournament with a 23-5 loss to Great Britain in Sydney, in front of a crowd of 50,077).
Advertisements in the Brisbane program included one for Allan & Stark ‘at the smarter end of Queen Street’ (There is no such part of Queen Street now). Allan & Stark was owned, staffed and directed by Queenslanders, the ad said. You would be prosecuted for false advertising now.
Keatings Prince Alfred Hotel, Petrie Terrace also had an ad. ‘See the game and then discuss it’, the ad read. Fully’s Valley Hotel also featured, saying it boasted the most modern chilling room in Brisbane. “Where Leagueites meet and greet, and relish a refreshing Bulimba beer”.
By the way – the kangaroo appeared on Queensland jerseys because the very first Queensland team featured a kangaroo, when they played New Zealand’s ‘All Golds’ in Brisbane in 1908.
Pic: Pat Creedy, a member of New Zealand’s 1957 World Cup squad, breaks from a scrum against Britain at Swinton in 1955.