Brisbane Rugby League premiership
|Brisbane Rugby League|
|Sport||Rugby league football|
|Replaced by||Queensland Cup|
|Last premiers||Redcliffe Dolphins (1997)|
|Most titles||Fortitude Valley Diehards (16 titles)|
The Brisbane Rugby League (BRL) premiership was Brisbane's top rugby league football club competition from 1922 to 1997. Prior to 1922, the competition was conducted under the auspices of the Queensland Rugby League. Until the 1980s it was the premier sporting competition in Brisbane, attracting large crowds and broad media coverage. The BRL however, had been in slow decline for some 15 years as large numbers of its players left to compete in the more lucrative New South Wales Rugby League premiership, and began to lose popular interest with the creation of the Brisbane Broncos in 1988. The BRL premiership was replaced by the Queensland Cup before the 1998 season.
- 1 History
- 2 Teams
- 3 Grand Final results
- 4 Quotes
- 5 References
- 6 Sources
- 7 See also
Establishment of the Queensland Rugby League
The Queensland Amateur Rugby Football League (QARFL) was formed in 1908 by seven former rugby union players who were dissatisfied with the administration of the Queensland Rugby Union (QRU). The new organisation was attacked by both the local press and the QRU for introducing professionalism, which they claimed would destroy the sport. The "founding fathers" of the QARFL included John Fihelly, an Australian Labor Party Member of Parliament who became Minister for Railways and Deputy Premier.
The first official club competition kicked off in Brisbane on 8 May 1909. Norths played against Souths before a handful of spectators at the Gabba. Matches were played under the auspices of the Queensland Amateur Rugby Football League (later renamed Queensland Rugby League). The foundation clubs were:
- North Brisbane
- South Brisbane
Schism: establishment of the Brisbane Rugby League
In 1922 the Brisbane Rugby Football League (BRFL, later BRL) was formed out of dissatisfaction with the way the QRL ran the game. Those involved took particular exception to the salary being earned by Harry Sunderland as secretary of the QRL. The BRL took control of the local competition. Competing in the BRL competition that year were Brothers, Carltons, Coorparoo, University, Valley and Past Grammars. Although the QRL attempted to regain control of the BRL competition in 1923 and 1924, the BRL remained steadfast and the dispute simmered into the next decade. so dire did the situation become, that by the late 1920s, the QRL commenced its own competition involving Ipswich clubs and two supporting Brisbane clubs.
Until 1932 the Brisbane Exhibition Ground was the home of rugby league in the city. The complicated arrangement between the BRL, QRL and Royal National Association (who administered the Exhibition Ground) led to "The Gabba" being used for rugby league matches.
In 1933 district football was introduced to provide community support and player equalisation. This meant that players had to live within a certain distance of their club. Accordingly Brisbane was divided into Eastern Suburbs (incorporating Coorparoo and Wynnum), Southern Suburbs (incorporating Carltons), Western Suburbs, Northern Suburbs (incorporating Past Grammars), Fortitude Valley and Past Brothers (whose players had to prove that they had attended a Christian Brothers school). In 1934, the University Amateur Rugby League Club folded and disappeared from the competition.
In 1953 the friction between the Queensland Rugby League and Brisbane Rugby League ended, with the BRL being replaced by the Brisbane division of the QRL. Former BRL chairman and QRL secretary Ron McAullife eventually secured the use of Lang Park as a permanent home for rugby league in Queensland. Teams that joined the BRL competition around this time were South Coast (1952–1953), Wynnum-Manly (1951) and Redcliffe (1960).
A record crowd at Lang Park of 19,824 saw Northern Suburbs defeat Fortitude Valley in the BRL grand final in September 1961.
In 1967 the QRL removed the residential qualifications for player in BRL clubs, meaning that players did not have to reside in their certain suburbs to play for their teams. This reduced community support for teams, and club decisions began to be made on a more commercial basis.
This coincided with the commencement of television broadcasts of BRL games in the same year. The money made from jersey sponsorships and advertising hoardings at grounds was not able to compete with poker machine money available to clubs in the New South Wales Rugby League, and an increasing number of players left the BRL. This also affected the popularity of the Bulimba Cup which had been held between the cities of Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba since the 1930s.
The effect of television coverage on attendances became pronounced by the mid-1970s and crowds began to desert the BRL competition. Clubs found themselves in financial hardship, and the public began to support the Sydney competition which by then was being broadcast in Queensland. In 1978 the premiership trophy, the Kirks Cup was replaced by the Winfield Cup.
The QRL commissioned Eric White Associates to investigate the administrative structure of the game in Queensland in 1977. One of the recommendations was the creation of a state-wide competition. The Winfield State League was created in 1982. The State League competition ran in parallel to the BRL competition from 1982 to 1995. Also, like the NSWRL's competition, the BRL's was called the Winfield Cup during the 1980s, due to sponsorship from Winfield cigarettes. The Queensland Cup would eventually replace both the State league and the BRL premiership in 1998.
In 1986 the New South Wales Rugby League decided to allow a team from Brisbane to enter the Sydney competition. The Brisbane Broncos debuted in the NSWRL in 1988. As the Broncos began to represent Brisbane at rugby league in the public eye the BRL competition entered the terminal phase of its decline. Indeed 1987, the year before the Broncos commenced playing, was the last year that a BRL player would be selected to play for Queensland in the State of Origin series.
The BRL premiership was fully superseded by the Queensland Cup competition in 1998. Redcliffe won the last BRL Grand Final in 1997 defeating Easts 35–6.
|Fortitude Valley Diehards||1909–1995||24||10|
|Brothers Old Boys||1917–1918, 1920–1929||1||4|
|University Amateur RLFC||1930–1934||0||0|
The Brisbane Rugby League was also represented by a representative side whose players were selected from BRL clubs' first grade teams.
Grand Final results
Queensland Rugby League premiership (1909–1921)
|Season||Grand Final Information||Minor Premiers|
|1909||Fortitude Valley Diehards||22–4||South Brisbane|
|1914||Fortitude Valley Diehards||18–8||West End|
|1915||Fortitude Valley Diehards||10–9||Wests Panthers|
|1916||Wests Panthers||4–2||Fortitude Valley Diehards|
|1917||Fortitude Valley Diehards||13–5||Merthyrs|
|1918||Fortitude Valley Diehards||16–12||Merthyrs|
|1919||Fortitude Valley Diehards||28–2||Cooparoo|
|1920||Wests Panthers||16–8||Christian Brothers|
Brisbane Rugby League premiership (1922–1997)
- * = undefeated
- "Well that is a tragedy, to be honest with you. There's no club identity at all now. If you don't follow the Broncos well who do you follow? That means you've got to follow a New South Wales side. I think I'm sure that's what McAuliffe didn't want to happen. But when they brought in the Queensland side into the NSWRL that was the end of the BRL, as far as that was concerned. It should never have happened because as it turned out, if we did lose players from Queensland to go to New South Wales we had the State of Origin. We've been winning the State of Origin, and you can imagine if we were keeping our players, the club competition would be just as good as what it was when I was playing. But that is a tragedy as far as I'm concerned is that the people miss that club identity." -Barry Muir, in 2001, on the decline of the BRL and the rise of the New South Wales Rugby League premiership.
- "Yeah well the crowd was great, they supported you wholeheartedly, they came along but it wasn't only down here on the football field it was on the streets up there. People would come up and talk to you, they'd stop you in the street and get your autograph and have a talk to you and wish you all the best and really support you in what you were doing and lifting the Club. There was four or five players here that were top-line footballers and we used to go up on the terrace and sell raffles in front of McCarthy's Jewellers store on the terrace and we'd do an hour there and then pop down to the Manly Hotel and do an hour there and then we'd pop down to Fishers (pub) and do an hour there. The players were prepared to do it because they were getting the support from this area and they would give it back on the playing field and however they could meet the people on the streets. I don't think anyone turned away from you, it was just one big happy family. We used to have like a barbecue after the game and there'd be 100 or 200 people that would turn up for the barbecue, we had it at various areas." -Lionel Morgan, in 2001, on the support of the BRL in the Wynnum-Manly district.
- Pramberg, Bernie (2009-05-02). "Leo Donovan special guest at BRL celebrations". The Courier-Mail (Australia: Queensland Newspapers). Retrieved 2010-04-29.
- Gallaway, Jack (2003). Origin: Rugby League's greatest contest 1980–2002. Australia: University of Queensland Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-7022-3383-8.
- "Norths thrash Valleys 29–5". The Sun-Herald (Australia). 1961-09-24. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
- "Queensland Rugby League History". World of Rugby League. Archived from the original on 2005-12-19. Retrieved 2005-12-07.
- Mallory, Greg. "The Decline of Brisbane Community Culture – An Oral History Perspective". Archived from the original on 2005-10-18. Retrieved 2005-12-07.
- Mallory, Greg. "Key 'Milestones' Affecting Community and Administration in the Brisbane Rugby League: 1922 -1987". Archived from the original on 2005-12-17. Retrieved 2005-12-07.