Sports columnist Vince Habermann looks at the rugby league Confraternity Carnival, which has been going strong for 40 years, featuring many young players who would go on to play for Australia.
For the past 40 years, the first week of the mid-year school holidays has brought together the schoolboys rising stars of rugby league for the Confraternity Carnival, which has for years been under the banner of the Queensland Independent Secondary Schools Rugby League.
The event, which has developed into the premier schools footy carnival in Australia, was inaugurated by Christian Brothers College (CBC) Bundaberg back in 1980, and it has since been contested at many different venues around the state.
When Shalom College, which had been born as a co-educational school in 1984 after the closure of the CBC and girls’ Catholic college Loyola, were successful in their application to host the first Confraternity league-fest of the new Millennium in 2000, which was the Carnival’s 21st anniversary event, they also inaugurated the Queensland Independent Secondary Schools Netball (QISSN) Carnival, which like the league showpiece started with humble beginnings, but for both, from little things, big things have grown.
Last year, Shalom hosted both carnivals with 48 league and 64 netball teams from throughout the state battling it out over five days at the Waves Sports Complex and the Multiplex respectively, and Ignatius Park College running away with the blue riband Shield grand final but Shalom claiming a famous victory in the fourth division Bowl decider. Somerset College, Mudgeeraba, won the QISSN Cup.
Confraternity had started with six teams, while QISSN had 16 in its first year.
Sadly, both carnivals have been cancelled for this year in the wake of Covid-19.
The first Confraternity carnival all those years ago produced one future International, Bob Lindner, who was an integral part of the victorious Aquinas College Gold Coast team.
Many future NRL, Origin and Test stars have continued to emerge from the carnival over the years and 14 of Queensland’s successful 18-man Origin squad in 2017 were Confraternity graduates – Jonathon Thurston, Valentine Holmes, Cameron Munster, Dylan Napa, Michael Morgan, Corey Oates, Aiden Guerra, Jacob Lillyman, Anthony Milford, Nate Myles, Coen Hess, Ben Hunt, Cooper Cronk and Felise Kaufusi.
But the crop of 2000 at Brothers Sports Club Bundaberg was probably the richest harvest seen in our city.
Every year, a Merit Team is chosen from the carnival and after St Patrick’s Mackay defeated St Mary’s Toowoomba 26-16 in the Shield grand final, St Patrick’s five-eighth Brett Seymour, who went on to 123 NRL games for Brisbane Broncos, Cronulla Sharks and New Zealand Warriors, but was plagued by off-field indiscretions and finished his career in the English Superleague, edged out St Mary’s pivot Jonathon Thurston for the No. 6 jersey in the team.
As the then NewsMail sports journalist covering the carnival, St Mary’s manager Bob Bell, who had played for the Bundaberg Grizzly Bears in the State League and Brothers during a stint in the Rum City a few years earlier, had told me that the then scrawny Thurston was a future superstar – and how right he was. Thurston, who retired as one of the great goal-kickers was not even the goal kicker for St Mary’s that week.
The Player of the Carnival was won by St Patrick’s Mackay halfback and captain Grant Rovelli, who also was named as the Merit team No. 7 and went on to win a Premier League grand final with the Sydney Roosters before going on to play 94 NRL games for the Warriors and Cowboys.
Bundaberg had one representative in the team, powerhouse St Luke’s Anglican School centre Steve Irwin who went on to win a Queensland Cup with Broncos’ then feeder-club Toowoomba Clydesdales, and scored four tries in as many games for the Broncos, including a double on debut and another double for the acclaimed ‘Baby Broncos’ in their famous victory over Wests Tigers in 2002 before his NRL career was unfortunately cut short.
The front rower in the side was St Mary’s Jaiman Lowe, who went on to play 142 NRL games for the Cowboys, Rabbitohs and Melbourne Storm, while other future NRL stars who missed the cut included Padua College duo David Shillington and David Stagg, Jacob Lillyman (Columba College Charters Towers) and Nate Myles (St Augustine’s Cairns).
Shalom won their first Confraternity title at that 2000 carnival, defeating Rockhampton’s Cathedral College 26-16 in the battle for the Bowl, led by captain Josh Hanson and their Player of the Carnival Jane Murphy under coach Adrian Stallard.
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