Mike Higgison's history of BSDRL
FANTASTIC FOOTY FLASHBACK …. History Of Second Division
by Mike Higgison (Rugby League Historian)
Underpinning the Queensland Cup competition, and before that the Brisbane Rugby League competition, is a level of football rich in culture and heritage, and with as much passion as any level of the game. The Brisbane Second Division provides not only an avenue for all open-age people to participate in the game, but allow a fully diverse spectrum of teams and clubs to compete fairly in graded competition. The colourful nature of this competition has seen its participating teams come from senior and junior clubs, professional and amateur clubs, pub sides, government bodies and private companies, religious groups and educational institutions, ethnic and cultural groups, social groups, and at one stage even had both deaf side and a prison side !!! As the largest fully-graded rugby league competition of its type in the world, the Brisbane Second Division can lay claim to forming part of the very fabric that makes Brisbane what it is today.
From the early 1960’s, the BRL offered fourth and colts (U/20) competition in conjunction with the three senior grades of football. But the quickly expanding nature of Brisbane saw many new ‘satellite’ junior clubs appear under the banner of the district football concept still being utilised by the BRL. Only Qld University and the Teachers College were fielding teams outside the realm of the eight traditional BRL clubs. Then in 1971, at the instigation of the BRL committee which included characters such as Arthur Sparks, Peter Scott, Fred Harrold and Bill Hunter, a fully fledged sub-district open-age competition was instigated, and run parallel with a two-grade U/23 district competition. This first open grade competition fielded Souths/Sunnybank, Brothers/St.Brendans, Norths/Brighton, Redcliffe/Caboolture, Valley United Stars, Yelangi, University, Q.I.T., and A.I.S.H.R.A. which was an indigenous sporting group, with St.Brendans defeating Sunnybank 23-5 in the grand final. In the district grades, Norths took out the ‘A’ grade, while Souths won the ‘B’ grade. The overwhelming success of allowing sub-district and junior clubs their own avenue of amateur competition outside of district rules, laid solid foundations for the eventual birth of Second Division as we know it in years to come.
The ensuing seasons saw a number of new clubs join the competition, which collectively would form the backbone of sub-district football in Brisbane. Mt.Gravatt (1972), Carina (1973), Inala (1973), St.Josephs (1973), Arana Hills (1973), Aspley (1976) and Pine Rivers (1978) really expanded the amateur code into previously untapped areas, and to this day these clubs are still regular participants. Until 1976, the competition remained under the direct auspices of the BRL. Following a series of meetings between club delegates, the Sub-District Rugby League committee was formed in February 1977, with BRL vice president George Dziewicki as chairman, and Mick Tierney as secretary. Still an under-23 competition, a total of 14 clubs registered 15 teams to play in northside and southside competitions. Besides the grand finals, won by Wests/Kenmore (north zone) and St.Brendans (south zone), the season highlight was the staging of two matches as curtain-raisers to internationals at Lang Park. These matches were clearly well received by patrons at the ground. 1977 also saw Eastern Suburbs lead the premiership tally by winning a grand final for the sixth consecutive year. St.Brendans also achieved the honour of recording the first undefeated season in the 1974 Open-1 grade. The following year then saw the first sub-district representative side selected, which played the BRL U/23 team at Lang Park before a test match.
The slow demise of various other local competitions – Public Service League, Church League, Y.C.W. League, Commercial RL and Metropolitan RL – combined with the expansion of Brisbane during the 1980’s, saw sub-district football explode in popularity. Well-known teams like Hamilton Cities, Balmoral, Sandgate, Normanby, Newspapers, Police Academy, City Council, Natives and Stafford all now participated in the sub-district competition which had become anywhere up to ten grades, with 1991 seeing a record 63 different clubs participating. Although Davies Park had been used to stage a one-off grand final in 1975, it was in 1981 that all the league’s grand finals were first staged there. Many like myself who frequented these finals, often enjoyed the atmosphere and passion of grass-roots crowds in excess of three and four thousand. What days …. what memories !!! Notably, the Waterford club set a new benchmark in 1985, when they won the Open-2 grade undefeated in their very first year of competition.
1992 became a watershed year for the league, being incorporated in its own right as Brisbane Second Division. It also signalled the start of the much appreciated sponsorship by XXXX which still stands today. A Sevens competition was also run for the first time before the 1992 premiership commenced, with Natives beating Souths in the final. A fully-fledged two-grade club competition was also instigated in 1992, with Waterford, Sunnybank, Inala, Carina, Aspley, Mt.Gravatt, Deception Bay, and St.Brendans all participating. This concept ran for five years, with Aspley the only club to win the double in 1995. The following year saw St.Brendans win their 11th premiership to become the Second Division’s most successful club.
The Albert Bishop Shield (U/22) and Arthur Sparks Shield (U/20) competitions were introduced in 1998, while my old junior club Carina was a club on the move in spectacularly taking out three premierships in the same season. Sadly, 1999 saw the passing of long-time Chairman Ted Beaumont, and ironically saw a record 90 teams participate. Sunnybank also won its 12th premiership. Season 2000 saw the inauguration of the Ted Beaumont medal for the Second Division player of the year (Daniel Henry from the Samford club became the first recipient). That year saw Mick Tierney become the league’s new chairman, while amazingly a record 850 matches were played in Second Division competition. St.Brendans then recaptured the mantle as most successful club in 2002, when they won their 13th premiership. The release of a five-year development plan the following year was a first for Second Division, which instigated moves like a Leaguenet website in 2005 with over 199,000 hits, and the edict that no Qld Cup club can directly field teams in Second Division. The end of the 2005 season, the competition’s 35th, incredibly left Sunnybank, St.Brendans and Carina all with 13 second Division premierships.
Logan Brothers then equalled Carina’s record of three premierships in the 2007 season. However, the Carina club wouldn’t have been too worried given the following year they won their 15th premiership to stand alone as the most successful club, a mantle they still hold today with 17 premierships. Second Division then reunited a single top grade in 2009 with the “Premier” grade, which also moved to 40-minute halves. Last year, the womens and tertiary competitions both operated under the banner of Second Division. Clearly, the nature of the Second Division competition changes to accommodate the time and needs of the rugby league community, and no doubt will continue to do so into the future.