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Rugby League’s biggest match has a Bougainville origin

Big tackles were part of Origin in Bougainville, 1945 ( The Courier Mail)TEVU TENASI | Bougainville 24

FOOTY fever, the bright lights and the excitement of rugby league have become the norm for most rugby league lovers on Bougainville and when a game is on people are glued to the television broadcasts.

The biggest events in the rugby league calendar are the three State of Origin matches contested each year between Queensland and New South Wales.

The modern State of Origin format officially began in 1982 and the crowds still roar with excitement, yet few know about the game’s Bougainville connection.

After World War II ended in 1945, some of the great Australian soldiers who served in Bougainville participated in a game of Rugby League between Queensland and New South Wales in Torokina.

According to Mike Colman, (Qweekend, 22 June 2013) rugby league historians view this as the first of State of Origin, a match played just days before the soldiers wartime deployment in Bougainville ended.

Inter-defence force games had been held previously, but were based on the State of enlistment; this was the first time State of origin was used as the criteria.

The score at full-time was Queensland 7 – New South Wales 6. Typically, the Queenslanders scored the winning try with just 30 seconds remaining.

The game saw names that go unsung in mainstream origin history, such as Queensland captain, Jack Barnes, New South Wales captain, Horrie Marjoribanks, and Frank Ballard – the referee.

Up to this day a trophy made from a Japanese 120mm cartridge is held at the military museum within Brisbane’s Victoria Barracks. It is engraved with the names of the brave soldiers whom represented their state in the first Origin encounter.


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Wayne Marjoribanks

My father is Horrie Marjoribanks. Dad ‘passed away’ approximately 13 years ago.

I only found out about this game, by chance, a few years ago. I still have so much respect for Dad.

Horrie must have been some player and also an organiser, Wayne. Quite an honour to captain that famous team. Would have been a bit disgruntled, I imagine, to lose just by the odd point - KJ

Megan Mason

My grandfather was Frank Ballard. From my understanding he refereed quite a few big name games back then. My father Brian Ballard played for Fortitude Valley Club in Brisbane.

Nigel Cox

Any chance of getting photos of Medco Ground today where the game was played?

Young Waidi

I was so amazed by this news that I instantly shared on FB (The Voice of PNG) - everyone is so excited. Well a handful were speculative. But I mean wow!

We love this game so much that we go to extremes just to watch the game, place bets or even physically reacting.

Leonard Roka

When I first saw this I was dreaming into the future in an independent Bougainville where Bougainville could work with Australia where Bougainville could at least have one of the 3-match series at once on Bougainville.

Massive opportunity for tourism and money making.

Just a dream!

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