Sport has always served as Australia’s backbone. The country is arguably the most passionate sporting nation. You need only look at the support they give their sides to see why. Rivalry often goes hand in hand with Australian sport. On the international stage, the Aussies enjoy a historic rivalry with England, most notably within the realm of cricket. This is a rivalry that will once again be reignited this summer with the Ashes series. However, Australia is also littered with internal rivalries. The country is composed of six states – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia – all of which consider the other states as big rivals. As a result of this inter-state rivalry, the quality of sport is exceedingly high.
In this piece we look at the sporting history of Queensland, delving in depth into the history of the state’s cricket, rugby, Aussie Rules, soccer, and swimming successes and failures.
It is no secret that the people of Queensland are absolutely bonkers for rugby league and have been since the first recorded rugby league activity within the state in 1876. Fans of the sport were made to wait until 1908 before they could watch their first game on home soil, when Queensland took on the touring New Zealand side.
A Brisbane Rugby League (BRL) was set up but it struggled to retain its top talent, who often opted to move to the New South Wales league, which was considered as the premier league in the country. By the 1970s it became clear that the BRL was teetering on the edge of extinction. Crowds were deserting the league, clubs found themselves in financial turmoil, and the public were tuning into the Sydney competition after it started to be broadcast on Queensland television.
Rugby starved fans rejoiced at the news of the Brisbane Broncos and the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants acceptance in the New South Wales Rugby League Premiership in 1988. Four years later it was announced that the South Queensland Crushers and North Queensland Cowboys would join their Queensland counterparts in the New South Wales Rugby League.
Following the “Super League Wars”, the National Rugby League (NRL) was created, in which there are three Queensland teams, Broncos, Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans.
The Broncos are certainly the jewel in the Queensland rugby league crown having won two NRL Premierships, the inaugural season in 1998 and again in 2006. The Cowboys were beaten finalists in 2005.
With three teams all located within the same state, it is only natural that there is an interstate rivalry between all involved parties. The state of Queensland also plays the yearly City vs. Country Origin match against Sydney, before they square off against New South Wales in the historic State of Origin clash.
Both codes of rugby are popular in Queensland, but, although still good, rugby union’s popularity does pale in comparison to that of rugby league.
The first known game of rugby union within the state is believed to have occurred around the 1876 mark when the Brisbane Football Club decided to change to rugby instead of Victorian Rules (Aussie Rules), which they had been playing since 1866.
Due to the lack of real interest from the rest of the country, rugby union seemed mostly confined to the state of Queensland. This insular format continued until 1996 where the Super Rugby division was created with teams from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand competing. The Queensland offering was the Queensland Reds, who were named champions back in 2011 following a victory over the Crusaders of New Zealand.
The 2003 Rugby World Cup, which was held in Australia, saw the sport undergo extremely high growth. Throughout Queensland there are now more than 50,000 players, 8,600 are seniors and 23,000 are regular school players.
There is enough demand in the state to house 200 clubs while more than 235 Queensland schools have adopted that code of rugby as well.
Australian Rules Football
Queensland involvement in Aussie Rules dates back to 1866with the creation of the Brisbane Australian Football club. By 1868 a league was in place with four sides – Brisbane, Volunteer Artillery, Brisbane Grammar and Civil Service. Despite the early popularity of the sport, it started to wane during the back end of the 19th century due to the dominance of codified rugby. The sport was revived in the early 1900s. However, despite the game’s revival, it was still stuck in southern Queensland. It took until the 1960s for the game to permeate into the northern half of the state.
The 1980s were a tough time to be an Aussie Rules fan if you were from Queensland. In 1986 the Brisbane Bears gained entry into the Victorian Football League (VFL) which subsequently changed its name to the Australian Football League. Unfortunately the Bears were absolutely terrible, and with the Brisbane Broncos gaining acceptance into the New South Wales Rugby League the popularity of the sport once again diminished.
It takes a lot more than that to kill off Aussie Rules – you need only watch five minutes of a match to find out how resilient this sport is – and with an influx of new residents from Victoria and South Australians, areas in which the sport was tremendously popular, the sport’s popularity started to recover.
By the 1990s, the sport was once again on the tip of many a Queensland native’s tongue. Michael Voss, the first real starlet to hail from Queensland, made his debut in 1992 and went on to become the club’s greatest ever player. The side also relocated from the Gold Coast to Brisbane Cricket Ground which increased interest, crowds and membership. By 1995 the Bears had made it to the AFL Finals for the first time.
The following year (1996) saw the creation of the Brisbane Lions, following a merger between the Bears and Melbourne-based Fitzroy Football Club. This was a move that saw almost instant results thanks to the newly acquired Fitzroy players. By the end of the decade, private schools in the state moved to allow students to take up the sport, reverting from their protectionist stance of rugby union.
Following the millennium, the Lions turned into the dominant force within the AFL, winning three successive premierships (2001, 2002, and 2003), which in turn saw crowd size swell to more than 30,000. Alongside Collingwood and Geelong, the Lions are the most successful AFL club of the 21st century. Unfortunately the team has once again fallen on hard times, they are currently priced at 501.00 to win this season’s Premiership with betfair.
Queensland received its second club in 2011 in the form of the Gold Coast Suns. Understandably, considering the side’s infancy, the Suns have failed to do much in the AFL, a 12th-place finish in 2014 being their best performance to date. But there is hope for the Gold Coast Suns in the 87kg form of Gary Ablett, Jr., the 2013 Brownlow Medal winner and the 2014 Brownlow Medal runner up.
The majority of Australians follow cricket, the national team especially. The people of Queensland are no different. Brisbane is home to Australia’s second most famous cricket ground, The Gabba, second only to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. With a history that stretches back to 1895, it is unsurprising that the stadium has been a near-constant in Australian cricket. The fact that it always hosts the first Test match of the Ashes certainly helps it remain relevant.
Regarding domestic cricket, Queensland were admitted into the Sheffield Shield competition in the 1926-27 season and have since won the prestigious Test tournament on seven occasions. The Queensland cricket side have also tasted success in the one day and Twenty20 format, winning the One Day Cup seven times and the Twenty20 Cup once.
In recent years, Queensland were responsible for the third biggest run total in Sheffield Shield history, declaring on 900-6 against Victoria in the 2005-06 season. To be able to amass a score like that in the modern era of cricket is unfathomable. The second most recent high score within the top-five was way back in the 1939-40 season, highlighting just how incredible this feat is.
Currently, the star of the state has to be pace bowler Ryan Harris. The 35-year-old is classed as one of the best bowlers in the world right now and is expected to tear through England’s batting line up in this summer’s Ashes series.
Queensland have had some notable players over the years, no more so than former national captain Allan Border. Matthew Hayden and Michael Kasprowicz also appeared for the state as well.
Soccer in Australia is still considered a minor sport. There can be no denying that the sport is growing but is some way off breaking fully into the mainstream.
The A-League is the country’s premier football division and is comprised of 10 teams, of which just one hails from Queensland, Brisbane Roar. Previously the state boasted three sides but Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury have both since dissolved.
The Roar play their home games at the Suncorp Stadium, otherwise known as Lang Park. This 52,000-seater stadium is shared with the state’s rugby union and league sides and is horrifically too big for the Roar, who had an average attendance of 11,660 for the 2014-15 season.
Unlike any of the other sports in Australia where usually the most successful sides hail from either New South Wales or Victoria, in soccer Queensland are very much at the forefront. Alongside Melbourne Victory, the Roar are the most successful side in A-League history with three championships (2011, 2012 and 2014).
If Australia win a swimming medal at the Olympics then chances are that person hails from Queensland – Ian Thorpe is an exception. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, swimmers from Queensland won all six of Australia’s gold medals.
Meanwhile, at the 2004 Olympics, 2005 and 2007 World Long Course Swimming Championships, Australia won both the 4×100 metre freestyle and medley relays. In five of these teams, three quarters of the swimmers were from the territory, while in the medley relay in 2007, all participants were from Queensland.