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Golden Eras for Representative Success 1950-70s (Part 1)


During the 1950s transport infrastructure improved, increasing chances for North Queensland sides to travel and host visiting sides.

The period from the 1950s to early 1970s became an incredibly successful era for rugby league in North Queensland.

North Queensland sides regularly defeated visiting teams and northern players began to receive far greater recognition throughout the rugby league community.

The trend to attract well known southern players, combined with the rich talent of local players was a recipe for success.

The club competitions in each town were strong, work was plentiful and gaining Foley Shield representation became a great honour for all players, whether local or imported!

Three members of the 1948 Australian Kangaroo squad, Duncan Hall (Home Hill), Jack Hourigan and Lenny Pegg (Ayr), all transferred north during this time to play Foley Shield football, with Townsville's Frosty Benton still in Townsville.

These players added valuable experience and interest to local competitions, with Duncan Hall continuing to represent Australia from Home Hill.

Foley Shield matches were hard fought, intense and tribal with supporters travelling by train with their teams to cheer them on.

Moving to North Queensland allowed some southern players to enhance their representative careers.

Newcastle player Ned Andrews did this when selected for Queensland and Australia in 1950 after transferring to Mackay.

Improved transport facilities allowed Bulimba Cup teams to visit the north frequently, raising the profile of northern players.

The success of Mackay's Graeme Laird, Australian Five Eight in the 1955 test series against France, can be traced to a match between Mackay and the visiting Toowoomba side coached by Australian selector Duncan Thompson in 1954.

Another Mackay footballer, Elton Rasmussen, was discovered in a similar way several years later.

A major milestone for North Queensland rugby league was the selection of Ayr's Kel O'Shea in the Australian 1954 World Cup squad.

Kel became the first North Queenslander to represent Australia on Australian soil.

In Central Queensland too, rugby league enjoyed great success in the 1950s.

Well known southern players began moving there to play. Australian and NSW player Col Geelan transferred from Sydney to Rockhampton in 1955 and added the captaincy of the Queensland Country side to his impressive rugby league resume.

Another well known footballer to come from Rockhampton during this era was Len "Chicka" Cowie who transferred to South Sydney and represented Australia.

Rockhampton also boasted Australian Fullback (and future NSW state of Origin coach) Ron Willey amongst its playing ranks for 1955.

Then in 1956 Cyril Connell made the Australian side against New Zealand and also toured with the 1956 Kangaroos from Rockhampton, joining Ayr's Kel O'Shea, and fellow Rockhampton based International Bob Banks in the squad