In 1947, the very first Queensland Police Representative side was chosen to travel to Sydney to play the NSW police. The game stemmed from a rivalry that had developed through the war years. The side was a true state representative squad with players coming from country, as well as city stations, and was captained by 1948 Kangaroo, Eddie Brosnan. The squad raised their own funds, to make the long train journey south, to tackle the highly fancied NSW outfit.
Despite losing this match 42-18, the Queenslander’s could hold their heads high, as it was in fact 4 non-police players, all Sydney 1st Grader’s at the time, one of which was a current international, included in the NSW side that destroyed the hopes of the tourists. It is unclear as to why no return match was played, however, it is believed that the threat of a ‘get even’ by the Queenslander’s the following year, was enough to deter the southerners from putting their reputations on the line in Qld.
The following years saw many exceptional police footballers playing in both country and city teams. In fact, in 1952 the police were almost granted entry into the Brisbane Rugby League (BRL), as an independent club. At this time, the talent of police officers playing for the different clubs in the BRL was so evident, that an application was submitted to allow them to form their own club to contest the competition. The application required a 60-40 majority vote of club delegates which they gained, however, the casting vote of the Referees Association against the proposal, for reasons only known to them, saw the bid fail.
In the late 1960′s and after the introduction of the strong Public Service competition in Brisbane, the police entered their own side in this competition. At one stage fielding two grades, but could only manage mixed results due to the unpredictable nature of police shifts and the transfer system.
The A Grade side made the Grand Final in this competition in 3 consecutive years (1969-70-71) but heartbreakingly lost all three. There was success however, with a Premiership win to the C Grade team in 1971. The A Grade side also won the Presidents Cup in 1968, as well as the Patrons Cup and the Coca Cola Cup in 1970. In 1972, the NSW Police travelled to Brisbane to play the Qld boys in the first interstate Police game since the 1947 trip. In a torrid encounter, NSW Police won an extremely tight and exciting match 8-7.
Since this time, in the main Brisbane competition many police officers have displayed their ability, distinguishing themselves for Brisbane clubs, country clubs, representative regions and the State. Some even went on to become internationals, like Wayne Bennett, Mal Meninga, Peter Jackson and Paul Hauff. Others have excelled within state boundaries and have played in our State Championships, like Paul White (Brisbane Easts, Qld Residents, Qld Country and Central Qld), Guy Harvey (Brisbane Norths and Qld Residents), Peter Shields (Valleys), Bob Knight (Valleys), Andrew Hamilton (Ipswich), Grant Benson (Wynnum), Nathan Antonik (Burleigh Bears), Paul Anoleck (Burleigh Bears), Willie Morganson (Broncos), John Buttigieg (Cowboys and Qld) and Ben Rauter (Cowboys and Canberra).
In the late 70′s and early 80′s, games were played between the Academy’s of the Qld and NSW police forces. These games were played as curtain raisers to the State of Origins and were torrid affairs. The last of these was in 1983, however none of these sides were a true state representation.
In 1986, 1987 and 1988, with the introduction of the Brisbane Broncos, led by coaching legend Wayne Bennett, the love affair between the Qld Police Service and rugby league was rekindled. The Broncos instigated a joint Broncos/Police Academy coaching tour to country areas. This squad included Broncos players and staff and the police cadets and staff attending the Brisbane Police Academy, at the time.
At the same time, in 1987 it was decided that the Service had been without a regular competition for too long and so the current day State Championship concept was born, stemming from the annual Brisbane versus Gold Coast Police charity match and charity matches and pre-season games played by Toowoomba Police. The first of these State Championships was held on the Gold Coast, attended by 8 regional teams from all over the state and has been run ever since. Since this time, this carnival has been held at various venues all over Queensland.
In 1998, the reality of the progress of these Championships and its success, saw the official formation of the Queensland Police Service Rugby League Association Inc., officially formed to oversee the running of the State Championships and rugby league amongst the state’s police officers, in general.
That same year and at the request of the newly formed Australian Police Rugby League (APRL), the first true state squad since 1972, was chosen from the State Championships in Mount Isa, to play the NSW police in a trial for selection in the very first Australian Police Rugby League squad.
The game was played at Carrara on the Gold Coast, as a curtain raiser to the Gold Coast Chargers v Adelaide Rams NRL match. The Queenslanders surprised everyone, including their much-vaunted opposition, when they were only narrowly defeated 26-22, by a last ditch NSW try in the dying minutes. As a result of this game, 10 Queenslanders were chosen in the 28 man Australian squad to tour England. The 5 week 8 game tour, saw success with the Australian Police ending the tour undefeated, including a thumping 36-6 defeat of the New Zealand Police who were also touring Great Britain at the time. Since this time, the interstate rivalry has continued each year, with games being played as curtain raisers to both State of Origin and NRL matches.
Over the years, our annual carnival has seen strong support from many sections of rugby league and the Police Service. In 1996, Mal Meninga played for our Wide Bay Whales side at the Townsville carnival and Paul Hauff played at the Ipswich carnival in 1997. We have had a continual increase in involvement of Commissioned Officers in our Association, with the Commissioner Mr Bob Atkinson Patron of our Association and each carnival is sanctioned and supported by the host area’s Assistant Commissioner. Our Association and police rugby league in Queensland has experienced exceptional growth since 1987 and we look forward to a continuing trend in this regard.