History of the Confraternity Carnival
Written by Life Member Col Hennessey
For the 25th anniversary of the carnival – 2004.
I would like to dedicate this story to the two men who have done more than anyone to promote the ideals that make Confraternity what it is today. I speak of course of Br.Lionel (Ted) Magee and Bob White who between them have served as President for most of the 25 years this association has been functioning. It has been a public relations coup for each of them and both should be very proud of their achievements.
I have been fortunate enough to be involved or at least attended nearly all of the 25 carnivals. I took the first St.Brendans side down to Brisbane as coach in 1982 (where we were successful) and again in 1983 in Cairns. I have been a convenor (1983) as well as a referee, the publicity officer for the association and then secretary for more than ten years. I’ve enjoyed the last few years as an observer and Confro for me will always be the highlight of any Rugby League season.
The purpose of this booklet is in part to pay testimony to the many people who have made Confraternity (‘Confro’) what it is today. What we have is something special, the envy of many, and the people who keep coming back are the very same people who have made it what it is. For me it’s a chance to put something back into the game that I love, the association I treasure and the fraternity of people I respect so much.
I suggested this to the executive, because as a lover of our history if we leave it till the 50th year celebration, so much would be lost and sadly not all of us will be here to recall our stories. It is a story that needs to be told. The Confraternity Carnival was still peaking when Rugby League was in crisis mode at the time of the Super League war and inflated contracts. Many people turned away from League but no one has turned their back on Confraternity through all this time. Confro is what has kept us close to our game.
It has been one of the real success stories of Rugby League. If you read on you will discover why.
2004 will mark the 25th gathering for Confraternity (although it hasn’t always been known by that name) but you have to go back prior to that first carnival in 1980 to what you could call the embryonic stage.
As was the custom in those days and for many years before, sport was an integral part of the Christian Brothers tradition and was seen as part of the formation and character building of the young men in their charge. As a result, contact between one schools and other was encouraged. So it came to pass the Christian Brothers schools from Ipswich and Bundaberg would meet and contest games of Rugby League (initially for 15yr olds) which developed in the BUNSWICH SHIELD (IPSBERG just doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it). This use to be on the Queens Birthday weekend and grew to include some schools like Padua who where part of loose association of Catholic Colleges.
The next step of course was to hold it over a week (in May still) and invite a number of schools to participate in a carnival where you could play everyone. The key people at this early stage where Br. Ted Magee at Ipswich and Jim Stevenson from what is now known as Shalom College. These two people can lay claim to being responsible for the birth of CONFRO as we know it
Did the have any idea that it would grow to what it is today. Both men say No! Jim thought it may grow to eight (8) schools and dream that one day it could reach as high as twenty. Right from day one Brothers club in Bundaberg was a participant and John Rea (currently a selector) has fond memories of that first carnival in 1980.
GROWTH – WHY?
The first carnival in Bundaberg in 1980 attracted six schools. This year we will have over thirty schools and close to forty teams in total. The carnival has had a life of it owns. Attempts were made to cap numbers at thirty-two but how can you say ‘NO’ to another squad of twenty players who have heard so much about CONFRO from there brothers, past student and coaching staff. I know of no one who has left CONFRO disappointed with the experience. It is certainly a lot more then just six games of football over a week. For many schools it is their season of football. Some players never play the game again. Many go back to the country towns from which they came and try to recapture that spirit.
Because it is such a positive experience for all those involved schools rarely taste the experience and leave it at that. They want more. However it is the staff of schools who have to take a lot of the credit for the continued growth. They give up their holiday week in June to provide a very rich experience for their boys. There is a lot of ‘Pastoral Care’ about Confraternity. That relational discipline we read about in texts on education can be found in any CONFRO week at any camp site. The bonding that goes on during that week between players and coaches/ management, players and officials, opposition schools all goes to make a special week in a life of a teenager. Quiet often when they go on and move to another region or school they are soon in the Principal’s ear about what a great opportunity the week provides. Principals who attend are more then happy with what they see – their school is seen in a positive light, players take up the challenge.
Who can forget a few years ago when one of our member schools was in the forefront of the Commonwealth Bank Cup crisis which lead to that bank withdrawing it’s support because of the “goings on” at a particular game. We have never had anything like that happen in twenty-five years and what more CONVRO gave that school the opportunity to on and ‘win’ the fair play award and have Bob Linder happily go along to a school assembly and present a cheque for $1,000 dollars. All this in the space of two years. That is a success story in itself.
One of the big reasons for the success of the carnival is that it is school based (as opposed to a regional team). You can go to state carnivals all through the country and probably see a better standard of play from most individuals. However, nothing can match the spirit of school mates playing football with each other and for each other. They are not out there seeking personal gratification via selection in a state side (that’s just a bonus for a selected few) but rather enjoy camaraderie that goes with touring sides. Most travel for many hours (in crowded buses), eat and sleep with each other for a week, play hurt and get on the field with school pride.
WHAT DO THEY SAY
In all the interviews I did for this story be it the executive members, coaches, selectors, referees etc. All came back to the key word –SPIRIT. It’s a word that can be overused in describing a schools ethos but can’t be over stated in the story of our carnival.
Here are a few thoughts from people you know as they reflect on their involvement over the years.
Lionel Williamson: ‘We’ve never had a bad carnival’. He went on to say how people from all over ‘old boys staff etc’ ring up to see how things are shaping up. Gavin Milton (convenor of 91 and designer of logo) rang thirty-four hrs earlier from London.
Cyril Connell: Not just a talent scout but a former school principal/inspector with education department. ‘No carnival in Australia to equal it. The enthusiasm and passion that make up the spirit of each side (and therefore the carnival) is special when boys are playing for their school’
Ted McGee: He likes what he sees each year in the development of the key personnel. Staff can come together as a team when they have to host a carnival, while for boys 15 – 17 the week can give them a wonderful pastoral opportunity.
Jim Stephenson: “My original intention was to expand the horizons of our senior boys. The boys were very insular and regarded anyone outside of their immediate neighbourhood as ‘much better than we are’”. This is still true 25 years later as many participants at boarding school come from small isolated towns and properties.
John Telfer reminds us that we shouldn’t overlook one of the highlights being the PLACES we visit over 25 years. He is especially proud of having League played on Nudgee’s No 1 oval in 1988.
Bob Lindner: Very proud to be associated with the carnival. “It’s always very well organised and quite special – unique”.
Paul Bunn remembers staying at the chook pen of the Charters Towers Showground in ’91. They cleaned it up and decorated it in Green and Gold but the smell never went away. Compare it to his debut travelling with Bob White. The penthouse to the . . .
John Rae highlights the development of smaller schools as a significant step in the growth of the carnival. He has seen it all happen but puts success down to the fact that all schools police that code of conduct.
Bob White promoted the ‘culture’ of the carnival more than anyone. The code of conduct for players, officials and supporters was his baby.
For me, I would like to recall a pilgrimage I make each year now, as a boost for any thoughts that I might have that things are going stale.
Do yourself a favour and go along to the first match on the last day (Friday) of the carnival. There you will see two teams that are not playing for the Shield proper or even the Bowl – chances are they are playing for 35th or 36th spot or even their first win for the week. There you will see Confro in its purest.
2003 was no different. It was an early start (8.30) because of presentations later that afternoon and travel deadlines.
Both teams were resplendent in laundered gear, all had reserves in waiting (some limping and sore) and were going through a set of warm up drills with precision and care. This year it was St Mary’s Toowoomba 2nds and Rocky Grammar 2nds. Each year it’s the same through as they prepare themselves for the game of their life – both were keen to notch their first win for the week! Both teams had a good contingent of supporters including teammates from their 1sts squad who consistently encouraged them. The match officials were there in their usual professional manner and the coaches were giving their last minute instructions with vigour and encouragement. Actually you could have transposed the coaches, the message were so alike.
They ripped in with such enthusiasm that an outsider could easily believe that this indeed was one of the finals. No final throughout the rest of the day could have surpassed the enthusiasm, the professionalism and the spirit of those two teams. That is the way it is every year. By Friday all teams and players have experienced the magic that is Confraternity and as they run on for the last time it fills me with pride that I may have been part of this great success story.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
It’s too simplistic to map the growth of the carnival purely by the number of schools participating. For years it was a goal of mine to have EVERY independent school in Qld that were remotely serious about Rugby League be present at our carnival. By and large we have achieved that. Some schools return to an association where Rugby Union is the nominated code but the loyalty of Padua for one is appreciated by all and they seem to be able to combine both codes.
Confro is now I believe the biggest carnival of its type anywhere in Australasia and that covers all codes of football. To have almost 1000 participants (players, coaching staff, referees etc) in town for a week is truly special and it is well known that it is a real boost to the local economy of regional hosts. But as I said it’s more than a numbers game. Significant developments coined the writing of a code of conduct, not just for players but for officials and supporters. By trying to uphold these standards we set the bar above what others might tolerate and hence enhance our reputation.
The Fair Play award is something unique to this carnival (although it was borrowed from the Soccer World Cup). This is an award that teams take very seriously ane the feedback from the referees (judges) provides ample opportunity for officials and schools to guard what is precious to us.
Each year too, convening schools put their special stamp on the carnival and if that works it’s usually taken up by the convenor the following year. So over 25 years we have a tried and tested formula. It’s fine-tuned every year and success breed’s success. I like to tell the (true) story how in 2001 at Yeppoon the PA system operator got his times wrong and was an hour late for the start of the carnival, but at 9am the carnival started without a hitch, without a message being broadcast. How many other carnivals could hope to match that!!
The growth in numbers did necessitate an expansion of the divisions (and trophies). The Bob Lindner Trophy (named after our first international player from the carnival) was introduced by 1988 convenor John Telfer. There were now more than 16 teams in the competition and it seemed only fair to cater for all levels of interest and ability. In 1996 when nominations jumped to 28 (including quite a few schools second XIII) it was decided to introduce the Plate division. Two years later the ‘Bowl’ became a new addition and now we have a situation where all teams are ‘alive’ when it comes to Quarter Finals on a Tuesday afternoon. Sadly, half of those teams have been knocked out by the end of the day’s program and the ‘rest day’ takes on a completely different perspective depending on what your situation is.
One of the unique tenants of a carnival is that schools rely on each other’s integrity to nominate for the division they feel best suited. We really haven’t had an instance of any school purposely trying to ‘win’ one of the minor divisions by nominating in that field. A case in point has been the Rockhampton Grammar School who despite coming 19th (of 32) the previous year chose to nominate in the top division of 16 for 2003. They saw this as a ‘coming of age’ and earned the respect of all for that decision, when they could of easily have justified a stay in the second division and probably win the PLATE.
Small schools like Blackwater, Maryborough and All Souls from Charters Towers have never shirked playing against schools that have 3 – 4 times their number. They see it as a challenge and a part of that ‘growth’ their students enjoy.
They have been an integral part of this success story we call Confro. Without their presence and particularly the way they conduct themselves on and off the field we wouldn’t have the carnival we do.
In my interview with long standing servants Ian Irwin, Peter McPhee and Charlie Roberts (over 50 carnivals between them) its obvious that there was a story of camaraderie among them as a group, as a subject of the larger Confro family.
They talk about the friendships they have made with other referees from different districts, officials from the schools and indeed the players. Who can forget 1993 when players dragged regular referee Dean Saunders through the mud (from a number of schools) after the wet final. Dean had been living in the same dormitory as a number of teams and had been giving a bit of cheek each day, so it was no surprise (nor was it any surprise that none of the other official tried to help him).
When they are the field they do try to do their job with a minimum of fuss. Ian and Peter have ensured that the game is allowed to flow and that penalties are kept to a minimum (Ian’s best was one penalty for the match). They enjoy Confro because there is more ‘congratulations and thank you’s’ than the abuse they normally get on a weekend in club fixtures. They appreciate too the backing the receive from the officials – it’s not common for a player to go over to the refs after the match and apologise for a comment they might have made in the heat of the moment.
Penalties for foul play are rare at Confro and send offs even less frequent. I know we went 10 years without a send off and didn’t have a formal judiciary till the mid 90’s such was the generally good behaviour of our teams, and the trust one school had for the officials from the opposing schools.
Peter McPhee (current Director of Referees) suggests that even the rare send offs we have are only because of the high standards we expect of the players and such a penalty may not be the case in a normal weekend fixture.
Selectors come from all over the state and the invitation is issued to all those qualified. It’s certainly not a closed shop or a clique of southern referees. Each year they need to gather 25 referees, so the local association need to be active in their support as well. What readers need to appreciate is that these referees who travel each year do so at a cost to themselves. They need to take a week off work and get themselves to the venue. Whilst they get looked after during the week there must be something that keeps bringing them back.
One such thing is the ‘Brick Award’ which in recent years has been the highlight of the referee’s social life. They meet each afternoon at the end of play for a few drinks and the stories abound relating to their performance that day (and the previous night) and the stories or the events are rated. If there is a touch of Hollywood about most of our referees – this is their Academy Award.
The Qld Referees Assoc. sponsors the Fair Play award so that each player in the winning side receives a trophy. Not only that, Bob Lindner either donates $1000 or merchandise to a similar amount to the winning school.
A list of all referees used in the final follows and it includes the British referee Fred Lindlop who did the 1982 final. Barry Gommesall said in his memoirs the 1983 final was one of his top three highlights during an illustrious career (who can forget the towering field goals in the dying minutes to break a 20 – 20 deadlock between Mt Carmel College and the host school St Brendans. (List of referees for finals)
Referees Attendance 1980 – 2004
Ian Inwin 22 Dean Saunders 11
Peter McPhee 20 Robert Irwin 11
Charlie Roberts 13 Tim Cosgrove 10
Rob Alexander 13 Mick Smith 10
These fine groups of gentleman are the ‘seen but not heard’ professionals of the association. In the early days it was just John Rae (father of Tony and Michael) who was attached to Brothers Club in Bundaberg with Eric Gelling, another Brothers identity. There were only two needed when you had just six teams but since then the numbers have grown in line with the 700 players on show and there is a selector at every game.
In recent years, the selectors have had the task of selecting a Man of the Match from each game as well as the best player from the other side. Following that the selector will say a few words to the players and staff about their impression of the game and sometimes offer a suggestion as well as general encouragement. The players seem to hang on every word that is offered such is the respect these people engender.
Man of the Match awards began in 1990 at the suggestion of Paul Bunn (current football manager of Brisbane Broncos) when that year he convened the carnival at St Brendans. Later on it was expanded to include an award to both teams.
Of course when you talk Confraternity selectors you think of one man especially – Reg Cannon a Brothers Club (Brisbane) stalwart of the 60’s and a player who not only represented his state but played in World Cup trials, so he knows a bit about football. It’s worth a look in Reg’s Phoenix Hotel in Gympie to see the memorabilia he has from footballers around the world. Reg has been Chairman of Selectors for the past 10 years, but has attended close to 15 as his sons played in the carnival as well.
The selectors don’t miss much. One story I like to tell goes back to 1996 in Mackay when the St Brendans 2nd XIII won the inaugural Plate division. They had a halfback who was pretty good and the selectors wondered if he could have a run in the 1sts. There wasn’t much between the two halves as players but when it’s like that you usually give preference to the player in Year 12 and that’s how it was. St Brendans 1st player went on to make the independent side but didn’t go on with it after that. How astute were the selectors to notice this lad from the 2nds and seriously consider him for the state side. His name! P.J Marsh.
Whilst there are always disappointed players (and parents) I can’t remember any outstanding players ever missing a Guernsey. The selectors are independent of any politics and school pressure and will often pick players in positions different to those they have played for their school. Just as a Kangaroo squad is often dominated by Grand Final combatants, so too many of those chosen in the honorary side are from the two teams who meet in the last game on Friday – that’s just the way it is.
PLAYERS OF THE CARNIVAL
1982 Paul Young (
1983 Gary BEDDOES (St Edmunds)
1984 Anthony GRIFFIN (Emmaus)
1985 Gary ANDERSON (St Brendans)
1986 Clinton PETERS (Mt Maria)
1987 Andrew SCHICK (St Brendans)
1988 Alan BARRETT (St Augustine’s)
1989 Julian O’NEILL (St Brendans)
1990 Peter PHILLIPS (St Pats)
1991 Butch FATNOWNA (St Pats)
1992 Wendall SAILOR (St Pats)
1993 Cameron McNAB (St Augustine’s)
1994 Robert BELLA (St Patricks’)
1995 Shane WALKER (St Marys)
1996 Chris WALKER (St Marys)
1997 Danny BAMPTON (St Brendans)
1998 Ned MURPHY (St Marys)
1999 Matt BOWAN (St Teresa’s)
2000 Grant ROVELLI (St Pats)
2001 Ryan BARTLETT (St Augustine’s)
2002 Darren RODGERS (St Brendans)
2003 Daniel WILLIAMS (St Pats)
WHATEVER HAPPENED TOO . . .?
AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLBOY CHAMPIONSHIPS
For two years in the early 80’s the QISSRL did compete in the Australian Schoolboy Championships with minimal success (only a few schools participated at that time). However when it came to pass that the private schools were accepted into the whole gambit of Qld Sec. School Sports Assoc it was deemed unfair that our boys should have ‘two bites at the cherry’ (quote long term advisory Barry Gavin). It was a difficult argument to refute and we couldn’t risk giving up the opportunity to participate in swimming or athletics etc at state level via our usual regional competition. Not only that the QSSRL needed our better players to be part of their team if they were to be really competitive against the strong NSW teams (where there are two strong teams – one of which is the combined Catholic Colleges).
It’s interesting to note now how the politics has gone the full circle. The Cathedral College coach Steve Parle is now President of that same body that forced us out of the championships and Paul Canning one of our Vice Presidents is or has been a national selector. Although Qld is much stronger now in Rugby League and could justify two teams on player strength alone I’m not sure the side selected at the carnival would do us justice as they are quite tired and jaded after their week of football.
Sometimes though it has forced a ‘clash’ and players have made decisions not everyone agreed with. Martin Bella, did not come to Confraternity in 1982 whilst at St Pats Mackay, nor did Ben Walker when he was at St Mary’s in . . . Julian O’Neill chose not to make himself available for the national trails 1990 even though he had made the schoolboy side the previous year so he could captain his college when they hosted the carnival in their jubilee year.
‘DO YOU WANT TO BORROW MY MOUTHGUARD’
This is one of referee Ian Irwin’s favourite stories from a match when a St Marys 2nds player was replaced. Ian was linesman at the time and was there beside the players as the comment was made. All this, before the Bloodbin rules and regulations and health success.
PLAYERS FORMAL DINNERS
Yes it’s true! In the early years players sat down to a three course dinner at Brothers club or similar as part of the presentation ceremony. Numbers just didn’t allow that to continue but it was nice while it did and for some of the ‘bushies’ a chance to experience something special. For a while there (1987 at Mackay) they tried to at least give everyone a feed en masse after the finals but just as the opening ceremony is a big task in itself it couldn’t be repeated and would add to the cost in a significant way.
3 GAMES A DAY
This was tried for a couple of years (1983 – 1984) beginning when I convened the ’83 carnival in Yeppoon. I was conscious that it was a shame sides could go through undefeated all week and still not make the finals, so the more games (opposition) you played the less chance of that happening. Of course three games a day was just too taxing but it still hadn’t solved that earlier problem which was exposed to the max when host school Shalom College couldn’t get into the final in 1985 even though they were undefeated. How things have changed with our new format when there wasn’t a single side left undefeated in 2003 including the Shield winners.
Yes in 1983 on the Monday morning of the carnival we had a full march pass of players in their playing gear (some with flags) in front of Senator Ron McAuliffe Qld Rugby League supremo. As the convenor I had the idea of borrowing from the ‘Games’ that this would be a good idea. Not too many people shared my idea and it never happened again. Teenagers of 16 – 17 probably thought they were too old for that sort of thing. Coaches don’t want players up any earlier than necessary (nor did the referees). We got all the formal photos taken immediately following the march and games began at 9am. As I said, Ron and I thought it was very impressive, but it’s GONE! The nearest thing to it was in 1994 a parade of competing schools at Stockland’s Stadium prior to an international match between the Cowboys and Salford (U.K)
RED FACES NIGHT
At least this lasted two years! Paul Canning had the idea that on the night of the rest day instead of a Dance we have now, each school should submit an item as part of a concert involving all participants. Again how are working with adolescents who are very concerned with ‘image’ and loathe to embarrass themselves or it might have been the censorship issues that saw its demise. Another good idea that didn’t reach its potential.
In recent years we have simply selected an honorary representative team, but for a few years in the 90’s this team went into camp and played an exhibition game against a Colts side from the Broncos or the Gold Coast. In the early 80’s they did play in the Australian Schoolboy Championships and in the mid 80’s games against a Junior Kiwi side were arranged (NZ Junior = Under 21). All this fell through when we realised that a sizeable part of our budget was being spent on an elite group of players (bringing them into camp etc) when nearly all of them already had dealings with NRL clubs and financial support from them.
THAT ONE – LEGGED BROTHERS ‘STRAPPER’
During the early years, a regular face at the carnival was . . . (and his wife). It was at a time when the Brothers club at Corbett Park were one of the key stakeholders. Big Jim would park himself at the tent and in the early 80’s would strap anyone (it was a time before schools took their own strapper). He would have two going at once and we (the association) would pay his costs to travel north to other venues. I would suggest many players experienced strapping for the first time in their life and as word got around the number of sprains and aches increased. Big Jim would have done over a hundred in one day at some of those carnivals.
TOUR OF P.N.G
A representative of the ‘Vikings’ who at the time were playing in the State League competition approached us in Mackay. All the promises in the world were made for such a tour, but it didn’t have the authorisation of the ARL so it fell through. Mind you it would be good to have a composite side from PNG (under 18 if that’s possible) participate in our carnival as a development strategy.
COACHES/SPONSORS FORMAL DINNER
Yes it’s a pet topic of mine that the Tuesday night dinner has been allowed to slip back to a few beers and nibbles around the bar. I for one like the formality of dressing up, having a sit down meal listening to a good guest speaker and acknowledging some special people in a more formal atmosphere. It was changed to allow more mixing presumably and that might indeed happen, but at what cost. . ?
SUNDAY NIGHT MASS
This used to be a traditional part of our coming together on that opening night. The recent trend has for it to become more of an opening ceremony incorporating some economic service that is relevant to all those young people in attendance from a variety of schools – Catholic or non Catholic. There are many that would probably prefer the Mass to be there to satisfy on Sunday commitment. Players would all be part of the opening procession (in their blazers) and also be part of the choir.
From the mid 80’s Brothers Albion in Brisbane had a scholarship for players of potential selected in the Confraternity sides. There was a feature story in the Rugby League Week one month about it, how they all lived in around Corbett Park under the guidance of Eric Gelling, proceeded to play with Brothers and attend to studies or an apprenticeship. Notable players were Tony Rae (Shalom), ‘Hook’ Griffin (Emmaus) and Grant Graving (St Brendans). The demise of that scholarship era coincided with the collapse of Brothers Club itself.
Yes that’s right! In the early years the players were billeted or guests of the host school. Could you imagine doing that today? The best we can do nowadays is offer Paul Canning and his St. Mary’s boys the library floor and the home economic room at the host school.
This section is really dedicated to those gentlemen who keep turning up year after year with a bunch of raw recruits knowing that they have little or no chance of taking out the major prize. When it’s all said and done there will only be about half a dozen schools who are strong enough because of the numbers and/or the competition they play in to really give the Shield proper a shake. It was for that the association has introduced all the other divisions, so that when quarterfinals began on Tuesday afternoon nearly all teams are ‘alive’ in one competition or another.
The most successful coach, on trophies won would have to be Mick Apriel who took St Pats Mackay to a record five consecutive premierships from 1988. Mick attracted wonderful loyalty from his players and supporters – almost to a fault. He was single minded in his efforts to make his teams successful. It was a challenge to win the Shield and he certainly did that, but Mick had minimal liaison with other coaches and was rarely seen at the social functions that are so much a part of the week. My experience suggests that coaches who are not part of the school staff often have this attitude. Winning is everything and the association and its carnival is just an avenue to add to the trophy cabinet.
Jim Stephenson, the inaugural convenor told me in an interview that he hoped there would never be any acrimony between players. That has generally proven to be the case. There has been some traditional rivalry over the years and one particular side will always produce their best against a certain team, but acrimony, NO. Since then he did suggest that some schools were ‘coming to win’ and supporters were a bit ‘over the top’. St Brendans and St Pats would both be guilty of this at times, but rarely have we seen the ‘ugly parent’ syndrome where supporters have been an embarrassment to their school. Convenors and Executive Members have been quick to remind supporters of the code of conduct and sometimes it is necessary for principals and coaches to remind the parents of the ethics of the carnival.
Two of our more illustrious non-teaching coaches have been Joe Pennisi from Abergowrie and Darren Gulbransen from All Souls in Charters Towers. Both these men love their footy and are excellent coaches in that they get the best out of their players but just as importantly they are the heart and soul of what Confro is all about. They put the ideals of Confraternity above everything else.
Two of the longest servicing coaches are Paul Canning and Lionel Williamson. Paul has been in charge of the Mary’s boys for 20 years and they have always been strong and no nonsense footballers. Paul has always been prepared to let some of his star players reach their potential (the Walker boys for instance) if other championships conflicted with the Confraternity timetable. Like most coaches he can be a bit grumpy after a loss but more often than not it’s a ‘we’ll get over it’ attitude that sees him large as life very soon afterwards. He has been very humble in the success St Mary’s have had and is quick to sing the praises of his players. Lionel Williamson has been in charge of the St Augustine’s boys for nearly all their 20 years of involvement. Their success in 1993 when they hosted the carnival was a highlight but until you’ve shared a dormitory with Lionel you can’t appreciate what a coach he is. He starts of as the bus driver of their 50-seater coach – very often a long, long trip south. He is one of the cooks when the boys are in camp. With his wife Carmel, he is a nurse to the physical and emotional needs of the players. I have seen him up to midnight as a physio, treating corks on players. He is the counsellor for the touring party, the bursar and then has to go out and do the warm ups and get the boys ready to play. Given the number of indigenous/islander boys in his team Lionel’s has a great capacity to work extremely well with indigenous young people and always gets the best out of his charges.
Bob White (President of the Association for 10 years and a Life Member) was another successful coach winning the Shield in 1983, 85 and 87 and runner up in ’88. Bob would be the first to admit he was never at the forefront of coaching techniques and match plans but what he did have was an outstanding rapport with his players and was able to get the very best out of them. This was the era before formal coaching qualifications but Bob was a man-manager a la Wayne Bennett. More important than any success his team had was the code of conduct. Bob would not tolerate foul play form any of his players nor disrespect to officials or opposition players. He would quickly remove any players who stepped over that very clear line. In short he practised what he preached.
But it’s the ‘bread and butter ‘coaches who go along each year, providing a week of total fulfilment for their players. These coaches, their managers, strappers etc are at the ‘core’ of a Confro week. Without their sacrifice and input the week would not be what it is. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in winning or near winning sides as a coach or ‘harry hanger on’ (more often the later) but I have an enormous amount of respect for the coaches and staff helpers of those smaller and newer schools. I hope their rewards maintain the enthusiasm. You are the grass roots of Confro.
SPONSORS AND SPONSORSHIPS
In the early years the carnival was known as the Canterbury Shield because the major sponsor was Canterbury knitwear who were really just getting established in Queensland. Les Jones of Padua knew the State Manager Ron Charles and he agreed to put up the $1000 for that first year. That support may have continued had it not been for Mr Charles returning to New Zealand. That shield now resides at St Brendans (since they won the trophy over 3 years).
In 1985 whilst the carnival was being held at Bundaberg the local Building Society (Wide Bay Capricorn) were so impressed by the carnival they approached the convenors and executives wanting to come on board. It has been that way since that time with the carnival selling itself and people wanting to be part of it.
Of course their involvement created a bit of a problem when the obvious name transfer would be too cumbersome. Canterbury Shield was ok but competing for the Wide Bay Capricornia Building Society Shield was never going to work. So with the permission of that generous sponsor ($5 000 up front) we explored new names. Whether it was the suggestion of Frank Melit or whoever we are not sure but at that time the Brothers Confraternity (All Queensland Clubs) were in a position to offer financial assistance and thus the Confraternity name began.
Wide Bay continued to sponsor the carnival till ? When as is their customs they support other sports and organisation. ‘World of Sport’ took over as they had a good relationship with many of the schools as the chief provided of goods for the sport and PE department. It was an amicable relationship and that continued when another sporting company TRIPLE PLAY became the major sponsor.
So popular in fact is the carnival that offers were made to buy the carnival. Peter Moore from Canterbury Bulldogs would have come up with any amount of money, but there would have been too many strings attached and knowing Peter would have wanted first option on all players. We have never been at the bequest of any one club and the association prides itself on its relationship with a number of NRL clubs. We have had to (grudgingly at times) accept their talent scouts presence but they responded positively to our code of behaviour so that they didn’t interfere with the tone of the week.
On another occasion, the Chairman of Selectors – Reg Cannon was approached by a number of influential Mackay businessman who wanted the carnival to permanently locate itself in Mackay. They were prepared to double the current sponsorship figure to $10 000 on an annual basis. Of course the proposal never got to first base, but it shows how well received the success has been.
No coverage of sponsors would be complete without the support of the Queensland Rugby League, Ross Livermore in particular has been a constant supporter. Similarly the Brisbane Broncos have always been generous with financial merchandise and personnel. For a few years there the Gold Coast Seagulls hosted our representative side and it gave the players the chance to meet Billy Johnstone and learn about some of his unique training methods. What a blast. The North Queensland in recent years have been supportive particularly when the carnival has been held in Townsville.
Of course all schools have to raise money for themselves. No sponsorship money is given to any school to assist them in getting to the carnival. They do this via a range of fund raising nights – sports dinners, delivering telephone books, car washes, lamington drives etc. and in the case of All Souls, the annual clean up of the showgrounds following the music festival. How costs have changed. In the early days it was possible to take a team away at a cost of less than $50 per player compared to something like ten times that figure today.
THE PLAYERS AND TWO CASE STUDIES
I don’t intend to dwell on the statistics of the carnival, there is a list of ‘players of the carnival’ in any year’s program. All schools have their special players who have gone on to the NRL and they are often listed in their biography. The representative side chosen at the end of the week is not the point of the carnival (it is really an afterthought).
I did ask Cyril Connell who he thought was the best player he had seen in over 10 years as the Broncos recruitment officer. Hi answer may surprise a few – Danny Bampton (SBC 1997). I can’t disagree Danny was the closest I saw to the immortal Reg Gasnier and it’s a real shame injuries forced him out of the game at such an early age (he did debut for the Broncos as their youngest 1st Grade player the year after Confro). He never lasted a full season in his five years at school such were his anatomical troubles – he clearly chose the wrong sport.
For Reg Cannon it was Julian O’Neill. He played in three carnivals – each time knocked over by St Pats Mackay when they were at their best in 1988, 89 and 90. As a 15-year-old he kicked St Brendans to an early lead in the final, on Nudgee’s hallowed Ross Oval via a field goal, but that was as close as it got. In 1989 he lost his front teeth courtesy of a high tackle during a two-point loss in the semi-final. He showed tremendous courage to tuck the teeth in his socks and play on almost snatching victory. A quick dental job saw him play outside Brad Fittler the next week in a successful Australian Schoolboy side. The next year saw Julian’s school St Brendans host the carnival as part of their Golden Jubilee celebrations. The convenor at the time was current Broncos football manager Paul Bunn who with myself tried to coach a winning side to put a shine on the celebrations. It wasn’t to be St Pats did us again and once again singled out Julian for special attention (he was knocked out early in the match). The St Pats side were uncompromising and relentless – but it was a winning formulae. We were a little soft and it showed up in their dominance. It was a shame for Julian who again had showed a lot of courage to go back on the field and had sacrificed another Australian Schoolboy jersey to lead his side.
PRESIDENT SECRETARY TREASURER
1980 Br Lionel Magee Les Jones Les Jones
1981 “ “ “
1982 Fr Paul Rout “ “
1983 “ “ “
1984 “ “ “
1985 “ John Gorringe John Gorringe
1986 Fr Barry Kirby “ “
1987 Bob White Col Hennessy “
1988 “ “ “
1989 “ “ Paul Canning
1990 “ “ “ 1991 “ “ “
1992 “ “ “
1993 “ “ “
1994 “ “ “
1995 “ “ “ 1996 “ “ “
1997 “ “ “ 1998 “ “ “
1999 “ “ Mark Bunting
2000 Br Lionel Magee John Butterworth “
2001 “ “ “ 2002 “ “ “
2003 “ “ “
2004 “ “ “
From 2000 Snr Vice-President: Lionel Williamson
From 2000 Jnr Vice-President: Paul Canning
From 2003 Snr Vice-President: Dan McMahon
DECADE ‘TIE’ MEN
1996 Br Schofield John Telfer
Dennis McClosky Lionel Williamson
Ross Cruice Marty Sanderson Col Hennessy Bob White
Ian Irwin Peter McPhee
Lionel Magee John Gorringe
Charlie Disney Paul Bunn
Paul Canning Mick April
Brian NcNeil Stan Johnson
Jim Stephenson Peter March
Joe Pennisi Gavin Milton
Bob Butler Marlene Butler
Les Gamble Carlos Cavallo
Diane Williamson Cyril Connell
Bob Out Fr John Boland
Fr Barry Kirby
Bill Norton Stewart Norford
Graham McPhail Mac Horne
CARNIVAL PLAYERS WHO HAVE COACHED 1ST XIII SIDES
1998 Damian Fall Padua St Brendans
Adrian Stallard Shalom Shalom
Steve Hooper Padua St Edmunds
Chris Smith Clairvaux Clairvaux
2000 Andrew Elphinstone Shalom St Augustine’s
John Sessarago St Edmunds Marymount
Scott McGuire Padua Padua
David Paul St Patricks Holyspirit
David Trudgen Padua Holyspirit
2001 Matthew Barradene St Edmunds St Edmunds
Michael ? St Edmunds St Edmunds
Brendan Logan ? Ignatius Park
Paul Dever ? Cathedral College
Xristian Woolf ? Ignatius Park