Excerpt from “Fred & Olive’s Blessed Lino” by Hugh Lunn ~~Rugby League~~

picture-FredAndOliveBlessedLino-LunnOnce when I said he shouldn’t bet on horse-races Fred got real snaky. “Well it’s no use putting my money on Queensland,” he said, “because they always seem to get beat.”
That just wasn’t true.
For example, though we had unluckily missed out on the 1954 Sheffield Shield, Queensland had a champion Rugby League side – with players like Norm Pope, and Ken McCaffery, and Alec Watson – not to mention Kel O’Shea. Plus we had Duncan Hall.
Admittedly, we did lose all four League matches against New South Wales that year. But Olive pointed out that in two of the matches we scored more tries than they did.
“Queensland would have won the series,” Olive told Fred, “but for goal-kicking and the lack of a good rake.” She said the real difference between the two teams was that we had lost the scrums three to one.
Fred just nodded, and replied, “Yes Dear Heart.”
That year Queensland almost beat Great Britain – and Jackie and me were at the Gabba to see it with our own eyes. There were so many men there that – even from the hill – it was difficult to follow the whole game. Jackie – who was much taller than me and could see over all the hats – tried to tell me what was happening, but I couldn’t hear him most of the time because of the roars from the crowd.
At halftime Queensland was behind 16-9 but we fought back to 19-all. Altogether 14 tries were scored and we were behind 34-32 when Ken McCaffery once again stepped through the whole English team to score at the far end. Everyone thought we had won the match, but the referee said McCaffery bounced the ball – and Queensland lost.
When we got home we were so disappointed that Fred said: “Come on, I’ll take you two animals on a tour of the estate”. This is what Fred always said when he was going for a walk in the backyard.
Under the mango tree, Fred tucked his thumbs in his braces and said he had made up his mind that next time he would go and see the mighty Queensland Rugby League team play New South Wales with Jackie and me.
“We will go as the Three Herbs,” he promised – and we all shook hands on it with our secret Three Herbs handshake.
Because Fred was so busy in the shop, it was a long time before the Three Herbs made it to an inter-state match at the Gabba. Instead of sitting on the hill, Fred bought three reserved tickets in the long timber grandstand – right in the middle where you could see everything. He parked our Zephyr Six in a nearby backyard, put on his pith helmet, and bought us each a double on the way in. You could win two pounds for a shilling with one of these doubles – if you got the jersey numbers for the first scorers for each side.
We each bought a bottle of Passiona and a Hav-a-Heart ice cream for half time and pushed up through the crowd to our seats.
I was surprised the Gabba was so full. We had lost the first match 49-11 at the Exhibition Ground under lights two weeks before. But Jackie pointed out that our champion winger, Brian Carlson, had scored two great tries.
“We’ll kill those mugs today,” Jackie said as we finally found our seats.
But, despite lightning runs by Carlson and Paul Pyers, soon Queensland were losing badly. We couldn’t take a trick.
“Your blokes are too slow at getting up and pushing the ball through their legs,” said Fred – showing how little he knew about the game.
Queensland lost 29-12, and on the way home in the Zephyr, Fred told us he never learnt to like football because they didn’t play games at his orphanage in Western Australia. Anyway, he said, orphans could never make good footballers because they were always kept in their place and learned never to overstep the mark.
“I couldn’t play football because if someone reached out and twisted my nose I would wait to see if they did it again. To see if they really meant to do it,” Fred said.
When we got back to the shop Olive had listened to the match on the wireless in the kitchen while making the lamingtons. She said we would have won except that Queensland’s best son – Kel O’Shea – was now playing for New South Wales.
“It’s just not fair – they’re using Queenslanders to beat us,” Olive said.

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2 Comments

Filed under Literature, Non-Fiction

2 responses to “Excerpt from “Fred & Olive’s Blessed Lino” by Hugh Lunn ~~Rugby League~~

  1. Hugh Lunn was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in 1941, and grew up in the inner suburb of Annerley with his siblings and his parents, Fred and Olive Lunn.
    The inter-state Rugby League rivalry has a long and bitter history, with Queensland suffering many losses throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies. It wasn’t until 1980, when the administrators introduced the “State of Origin” concept which allowed Queenslanders to play for their home state, rather than where they were currently playing, that the scales were re-balanced, Queensland became a force and many times the champion team.

  2. Pingback: Excerpt from “The Night We Beat the Blues” by Hugh Lunn ~~State of Origin~~ | thingsthatmadeanimpression

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