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.