First State of Origin match played during World War II between Australian troops in New Guinea – a postscript

As a follow up to our story of 5 June, the trophy bearing the names of both teams will be at Origin 2 in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

Queensland Captain Jack Barnes is presented with the trophy. Photo: Jack Barnes

The original trophy was made from a Japanese artillery shell, by workshop personnel on Bougainville.  It usually resides at the Queensland Military Museum, Victoria Barracks, Petrie Terrace in Brisbane, just a short 500 metre stroll along Caxton Street from Suncorp Stadium.

However, the trophy will be on display on Wednesday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, for the second match of the series.

The likely instigators of the first State of Origin series in 1945 were from North Queensland’s 31/51 Battalion.  Warrant Officer Ron Connor, took the idea to Major ‘Tiger’ Titley. Both men were Rugby League identities before their active service, and were heavily involved in the sport again after the war.

Major Titley gained the approval of the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, Major General William Bridgeford, who commissioned a trophy.

The Bougainville Rugby League Association was created to keep everything official, with WO Ron Conner as secretary.   He was also one of the Queensland selectors for the 2 match series, and wrote the match report for Australian newspapers.

As mentioned in our previous post, the 31/51 Battalion band played provided entertainment for the original State of Origin match.

The Japanese artillery shell trophy cup was handed over to the Queensland Rugby League by the army at half-time in a 1946 Brisbane club match.

As noted in our previous post, 31/42 battalion and 51 Far North Royal Queensland Regiment are our local army units, based at Porton Barracks, Edmonton.

The current trophy on display may not be the original, as suggested by today’s facebook post by Jonathon Barnes;

“Just to let you all know that (pictured) is not the actual trophy the teams played for.

The real trophy has ended up in the Australian War museum, but was in my families possession for many many years unknowingly of it historical importance. My grandfather (John “Jack” Barnes) the Qld captain ended up with the trophy and it eventually made its way to the museum and thanks to Mike Coleman from the Courier Mail the gravity and importance of the trophy was discovered.

As much as it meant to our family it ended up where it needed to be and the true beginnings of the State of Origin were discovered. Making us even more proud of our Grandfathers achievements.”

The Australian War Memorial does hold the photo below in its collection.  It matches the trophy to be displayed in Melbourne on Wednesday.  It’s possible this was a second, commemorative trophy.

Description

BRISBANE, QLD. 1946-04-06. SPORTING TROPHIES PRESENTED BY THE DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF AMENITIES, QLD LINES OF COMMUNICATION AREA, INTERSTATE RUGBY LEAGUE CUP, BOUGAINVILLE, 1945-09, WON BY QLD (LEFT), INTERSTATE CRICKET SERIES CUP, BOUGAINVILLE, 1945-12, WON BY QLD.

 Sources

42nd Battalion news bulletin No.75 December 2023

The Daily telegraph 22nd June 2013

The Courier Mail

Herald Sun

Mike Colman and QWeekend June 22, 2013

Rockhampton Morning Bulletin 27 September 1945

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/56389217

NRL News:

https://www.nrl.com/news/2024/06/22/origins-png-beginnings-to-be-celebrated-at-mcg/

 Australian War memorial

https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C234342

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