Rugby union in Queensland

Rugby union in Queensland

The earliest known recorded regular Rugby football games in Brisbane commenced in 1876, when the Brisbane Football Club elected to change to Rugby, instead of 'Victorian Rules' (now known as Australian Rules) which it had played since its founding in 1866, to permit competition with the newly formed Rangers and Bonnet Rouge football clubs. The Rugby game continued for three seasons, when clubs reverted to Victorian Rules in 1879.

History of rugby union in Queensland

Fred Lea, an Englishman educated at Allesley College near Rugby in Warwickshire, arrived in Brisbane in 1878, he was amazed to find that Victorian rules (now called Aussie Rules) was the only form of football being played.

Lea took up the Victorian game, playing it in 1879-81. However, in 1880 he was able to sway two of the local clubs, Brisbane F.C. (founded 1866) and Wallaroo (1878), to try rugby. Three matches were played between the clubs.

In the following seasons Brisbane's four football clubs played matches under both codes, though the majority were overwhelmingly Victorian rules games. In the late winter of 1882 the Brisbane F.C. contacted the Sydney Wallaroo club, challenging them to a rugby match.

When the NSWRU were keen to keep the inter-colony matches going, a NSW team journeyed to Brisbane in 1883. Trained in readiness by Fred Lea, the Queensland team ambushed the visitors and gained a victory over the New South Welshmen.

The win gave rugby in Brisbane a huge boost, with many footballers wanting to try the code. It was thought that Brisbane's four clubs would simply increase the number of rugby matches for 1884, while still playing Victorian rules as well.

However, it soon became clear that moves were afoot to form a ‘Queensland Football [Victorian rules] Association’, meaning affiliated clubs could no longer play rugby. With Fred Lea (who would be later called 'The Father of Queensland rugby') actively involved, it was decided to form the Northern Rugby Football Union now named Queensland Rugby Union (QRU). On November 2, 1883, a meeting was held at the Exchange Hotel, in Brisbane and the decision was made to form a rugby association in the Colony of Queensland. The name of the newly founded union the Northern Rugby Union, was used to distinguish it from the Southern Rugby Union, which was the governing body of rugby in New South Wales. Enough players aligned with the rugby body to form two clubs.

The decisive blow to Victorian rules came after the decision to make the NSW v Queensland matches an annual fixture, and the visit of a British rugby team in 1888. Teams from New Zealand soon followed. Unable to provide comparable attractions, Victorian rules lost its grip on Brisbane and rugby union quickly spread throughout Queensland to Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Maryborough, Gympie and Charters Towers.

The formation of this new governing body generated large amounts of interest in Queensland. In fact, such was the development of rugby throughout the colony as a result of the formation of the new union, that the prestigious Great Public Schools' Association of Queensland (GPS) changed their main sport from Melbourne Rules to rugby. The top-level rugby competition begun by those schools all those years ago continues to this day.

The year 1893 saw the Northern Rugby Union formally constituted and the name changed to the Queensland Rugby Union. The first organised Brisbane club competition had begun in 1887, but in 1899, an annual challenge trophy competition, the Hospital's Cup was introduced. This trophy is now the Premiership trophy contested by Queensland Premier Rugby clubs.

The first decade of the 20th century brought with it a drop in the fortunes of rugby union in Queensland. The advent of the professional code, rugby league, in New South Wales saw many union players leaving for Sydney to play league and get paid in the process, something which the amateur code of rugby union could not offer. In 1908, the QRU banned its players from going to Sydney to play league, which resulted in disgruntled players forming the Queensland Rugby League. Of particular note was that at this time, league put down strong roots in the bush and in working class communities and these areas are still the heartland of the modern game of rugby league.

In 1913 nine Christian Brothers' College Football Club (Brothers) players represented Queensland in the interstate clash in Sydney and helped the team to a 22 - 21 victory.

Brothers were such a strong club in these years that they entered two teams "A" & "B" in the senior premiership in 1914 with the teams meeting each other in the Hospital Cup. Both sides were strong and contained internationals and interstate representative players. During these pre war years Brothers also won the inaugural "College" grade competition in 1911.

World War I, from 1916 to 1918, was almost the final death blow to rugby union in Queensland. Many players went away to war and never returned, and the burgeoning popularity of the professional code saw some major clubs and all the GPS schools switch to rugby league. It seemed that the resultant disbandment of the QRU at the end of the 1919 season, heralded the end of rugby union in Queensland.

However, all was not lost. In 1928, the QRU reformed and the major clubs and GPS schools returned to union as a result of bickering amongst league officials and the Senior Club competition restarted in 1929. World War II saw the game struggle once more, but this time it was strong enough to pull through and rugby union continued to grow. In 1950, the QRU secured the use of Normanby at a nominal rent from the Brisbane Grammar School Board of Trustess. In 1961, the Queensland Junior Rugby Union was formed and 1965 saw the formation of the Queensland Country Rugby Union. And finally, in 1966, the QRU moved to the home of Queensland rugby union, Ballymore.

Having paid a secretary to perform various tasks during the 1960s and 1970s, Terry Doyle was appointed as the first chief executive officer of the QRU in 1980. He stayed with the QRU until 1996 and saw the organisation grow from one person to 32 personnel.

From 1980 to 1997, the QRU offices were located underneath the McLean Stand at Ballymore. In 1997, the administration arm moved to Mallon Street, in the Brisbane suburb of Bowen Hills. The Reds staff, however, remained at Ballymore and were joined in 1998 by the staff of the Reds Rugby College. And finally, in 2004, the administration personnel were relocated to the newly built Rugby House at Ballymore, bringing the entire organisation back to one location.

Queensland Rugby Today

Rugby union in QLD has seen extremely high growth since the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

There are now more than 50,000 players throughout Queensland, including 8,600 seniors, 23,000 regular school players (more than any other state) and over 14,000 junior club players.

There are 200 clubs throughout the state and more than 235 Queensland schools - with many non-traditional rugby schools adopting the code as well.

Rugby is held together by the strong and dedicated supporters. More than 8,000 volunteers work tirelessly weekly to support their clubs around the state.

Queensland Rugby has often been criticised in the recent past, with votes of no confidence against ARU director Gary Flowers being highly publicised. Organisationally, the union has developed a stronger administrative team to help develop all levels of the code throughout Queensland.

In 2006 Queensland Rugby invested almost $3.6m in Community Rugby (including almost $2.5m in ARU grant funding) and provided over $130,000 in complimentary Reds match tickets to schools and clubs.

Queensland Rugby in 2006 finished in debt and had to sack numerous employees to get their bank balance back on track.

Queensland State Team

Main article: Queensland Reds

Intercolony/Interstate Matches

The year 1882 saw the first of many intercolony and interstate matches between Queensland and New South Wales rugby union teams. New South Wales took out the inaugural match, 28-4. The following year, Brisbane hosted its first intercolony match, defeating New South Wales 12-11 at the Eagle Farm Racecourse. Today, the Queensland team in Super Rugby, the Queensland Reds, face NSW, ACT, WA and Victoria representative teams home and away each season.

Barraclough Shield

The Barraclough Shield has been contested annually between the Queensland Suburban Rugby Union (QSRU) and New South Wales Suburban Rugby Union (NSWSRU) since 1966. New South Wales has won the Barraclough Shield on 39 occasions, Queensland five, and with three draws.

The Barraclough Shield was named after Lindley John Forbes (John) Barraclough AM (1926-2005) a former New South Wales MP and stalwart of New South Wales Suburban Rugby.

History of the Barraclough Shield:
1966 - Draw 12-12
1967 to 1971 - NSWSRU
1972 - QSRU 13 d NSWSRU 12
1973 to 1977 - NSWSRU
1978 - Draw 6-6
1979 to 1984 - NSWSRU
1985 - QSRU 22 d NSWSRU 13
1986 to 1991 NSWSRU
1992 - QSRU 18 d NSWSRU 13
1993 to 2005 - NSWSRU
2006 - QSRU 17 d NSWSRU 12
2007 - NSWSRU 33 d QSRU 19
2008 - QSRU 31 d NSWSRU 28
2009 - NSWSRU 41 d QSRU 21
2010 - Draw 22-22
2011 to 13 - NSWSRU

Australian Rugby Championship

In 2007, the Australian Rugby Championship, a professional competition below Super 14 level, was launched with eight teams throughout the country. Queensland was represented by two sides in this competition:

The ARC, however, proved unsuccessful, losing more than twice as much money as the ARU expected, and was scrapped after only one season.


QLD Premier Rugby

Queensland Premier Rugby is currently the highest level competition in the state and equivalent to the Tooheys New Cup in NSW. Generally the competition is played for by club sides in Brisbane but currently 2 country regional Unions participate in the competition (Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast). This is viable given their close proximity to Brisbane, but it is hoped that more country Unions will be introduced to Premier Rugby in the future. There are currently ten teams that compete in the annual competition:

Queensland Country Rugby Union

There are 11 Regional Sub-Unions in the Queensland Country Rugby Union .

The Regional Championships are played by Representative teams from these three Regional Rugby Unions and this is Queensland Country rugby's equivalent competition to the Queensland Premier competition.

Each Regional Rugby Union also run their own club competitions during the year.



  • Rockhampton
  • Central Highlands
  • Western Queensland
  • Wide Bay team selected from Bundaberg & District Rugby Union, Fraser Coast Mariners & Gympie Hammers (Sunshine Coast Rugby Union) and South Burnett Thrashers (Darling Downs Rugby Union)


Queensland Country Championships

Queensland State Cup

The Queensland State Cup was as a state wide premier competition in Queensland and involved 16 teams, 9 Brisbane based clubs along with Representative teams from the 6 major Regions of Queensland Country. The competition ran prior to the Queensland Premier Competition. Due to logistical issues the competition has now ceased.

The 9 Brisbane based clubs in the competition were:

The 7 Regional Sub Union sides in the state cup were:

Brisbane Club Rugby

Club rugby in Brisbane starts at an Under 7 years of age level and goes right up to an open age group level just below the premier level.

Queensland Suburban Rugby Union

The Queensland Sub-Districts Rugby Union, colloquially known as "subbies", was established in 1964 when a total of nine teams competed for the Sunday Truth Shield which had been donated by Mirror Newspapers. Some of the teams in the original competition were the Bank of New South Wales, Law Clerks, Commonwealth Bank and the AMP.

In 1994 the QRU announced a sponsorship package with Coca-Cola which involved the rationalization of the old subbies competition to provide a second tier of rugby behind the main Brisbane Club Competition. This rationalization involved the targeting of eight strong district/suburban clubs across greater Brisbane into a new competition to be names the Coca Cola Suburban Rugby Competition. Teams included in the inaugural Suburban competition included; Beenleigh, Caboolture, Everton Park, Ipswich, Kenmore, Logan City, Redlands and Wynnum.

Whilst Coca-Cola has moved on and is no longer a sponsor, membership of subbies has continued to grow with a resurgence in corporate sponsored teams as well as a number of school old boys clubs and university teams entering the competition. In addition the population growth in Brisbane has resulted in the growth of suburban/district clubs. Currently there are 40 teams, representing more than 1 300 players as well as volunteers and officials, competing across five distinct competitions. From a demographic profile 'Subbies' encompasses the Greater Brisbane catchment area from Redcliffe to the north to Beenleigh in the south, Wynnum in the east and to Ipswich in the west.

In 2007 a promotion/relegation system was introduced to grade the 5 divisions of QLD Suburban Rugby.

This wide ranging cross section of support reflects the Unions philosophy of providing a community based recreation opportunity for participants of irrespective ability.

2013 will mark 50 years for the Queensland Suburban / Sub-Districts competition.

In 2013 QLD Suburban Rugby will be made up of three divisions. They are:

• Division 1 - Barber Cup (First Grade)
• Division 1 - Pegg Cup (Reserve Grade)
• Division 2 - Scotney Cup
• Division 5 - Normanby Cup (Friday Night)

Current Queensland Suburban Barber Cup (Division 1 Clubs) are:

Wynnum Rugby Union Club
• Ipswich Rugby Club
Brisbane Irish Rugby Football Club
• Pine Rivers Boars Rugby Union Club
• Redlands Rugby Union Club
• Springfield Rugby Union Club

Important Dates

  • 1876 - Earliest record of rugby football being played in Queensland
  • 1882 - First interstate matches between Queensland and NSW
  • 1883 - QRU formally constituted (known as the Northern Rugby Union)
  • 1883 - First interstate match in Brisbane; Queensland beating NSW 12-11 at Eagle Farm Racecourse
  • 1887 - First organised club competition in Brisbane
  • 1896 - First visit by a Queensland team to New Zealand
  • 1899 - Queensland defeat Great Britain 11-3 at Exhibition Ground to record first win against an international team
  • 1929 - Revival of Club competition after code was inactive since start of First World War
  • 1949 - Australian Rugby Football Union formally constituted
  • 1961 - Formation of Queensland Junior Rugby Union
  • 1964 - Sub-districts Rugby Union started
  • 1965 - Queensland Country Rugby Union formed
  • 1966 - Barraclough Shield played for the first time between Queensland (QSRU) and New South Wales (NSWSRU)
  • 1971 - Queensland Schools Rugby Union formed
  • 1980 - Queensland defeated New Zealand All Blacks, their first win against New Zealand
  • 1982 - Queensland defeated NSW 41-7 in Centenary match
  • 1987 - Ballymore hosts five inaugural World Cup matches including quarter and semi finals
  • 1995 - Reds Super 10 champions
  • 1996 - Rugby becomes professional
  • 1996 - Reds finish season on top of Super 12 table
  • 1999 - Reds finish season on top of Super 12 table
  • 2005 - Chris Latham wins Australian Super 12 player of the year for a record 4th year
  • 2006 - Reds begin playing all Super 14 matches at Suncorp Stadium
  • 2011 - An epic Reds final win at Suncorp Stadium See's a "Nightmare wallabies revival" in time for the rugby world cup
  • 2013 - Queensland Suburban / Sub-Districts celebrate 50 years of competition

External links

  • Queensland Rugby Union