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Then and Now

24/September/2021

The interesting thing about history is it can show us where we have come from and often puts modern day events into perspective. When history is forgotten or not known we have the prospect of everything appearing new, with little concept that it has probably happened before, and we could learn from it.

This seems to be happening a bit in Rugby League lately, as time marches on and achievements and events from before the game expanded into a national competition are starting to be forgotten or lost in time. An example of this follows the recent highlighting of Wayne Bennett’s wonderful coaching career since 1987. 

Most scribes talk about Wayne Bennet’s coaching career starting in 1987, because that was when he became known outside of Queensland by moving to Canberra as co-coach of the club in what was then the NSW rugby league. 

Historically though, his coaching career started well before 1987.

Wayne’s playing career spanned the late 1960s to 1970s with clubs Toowoomba All Whites, from where he played for Queensland and Australia in 1971, then to Brisbane Brothers and Brisbane Souths, and most of this time he was a full time Police Officer.

Then in 1976, while stationed in Ipswich, he started coaching in the local league. He then went on to coach at the Police Academy and in the old Brisbane Rugby League with two of his former clubs, Brisbane Brothers and Brisbane Souths. 

This is where history needs to record the fact that the old Brisbane Rugby League competition featuring seven clubs was huge back in the day. For much of the competition’s history, the competing clubs were Brisbane Brothers, Redcliffe, Brisbane Souths, Brisbane Norths, Wests, Brisbane Easts, and Wynnum Manly. 

Life and times change but the achievements of these old competitions and teams should not be forgotten because they have all contributed to the game we have today.

Once the Brisbane Broncos were formed to play in an expanded national competition in 1988, the old Brisbane competition continued but effectively as a lower grade competition.

Today, we have the Super Intrust Qld Cup as the main competition below the NRL and there is plenty of history there too, because the first real Queensland Cup statewide competition started in 1982 and was known as the Qld State League. 

This competition was splayed in the early part of the season and featured teams from Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Wide Bay, Central Qld, and NQ competing against the individual Brisbane clubs playing in the Brisbane Rugby League. 

In 1982, a memorable State League match took place in Ingham between NQ and Brisbane Brothers who were coached by Wayne Bennett. The NQ side for this State League were known as the “NQ Marlins.”

Wayne, of course, went on to forge his enormously successful coaching career while one of the NQ players in that State League match played in Ingham was a teenager from Sarina called Martin Bella. 

Five years later, when Martin Bella made the Queensland State of Origin side for the first of many times, the Queensland Coach was Wayne Bennett.

While we celebrate the success of the game today, it is worthwhile remembering where we have come from and what many have achieved before today.

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