Sport

Class of 1959 an inspiration

MY GENERATION: Johnathan Thurston and Noel Kelly enjoy themselves at the Maroons’ 2013 State of Origin launch on Monday night.
MY GENERATION: Johnathan Thurston and Noel Kelly enjoy themselves at the Maroons’ 2013 State of Origin launch on Monday night. Scotts Shotz Photography

FOR a young generation of rugby league fans, Queensland's State of Origin dominance over New South Wales seems almost endless.

For almost eight years Queensland has reigned supreme in the battle of the states.

But it was not always so.

In fact, it was the dominance of New South Wales that led to a change in the eligibility laws and birth of the State of Origin concept.

Before then, players represented the state they played in.

As the Sydney clubs grew rich on poker machine revenue, they increasingly poached the best players from north of the Tweed.

It was part of the reason Queensland failed to win a series against NSW between 1959 and the start of Origin in 1980.

On Monday night, the survivors of that 1959 team were honoured at the function to mark the announcement of this year's Queensland State of Origin team.

Even back then there was resentment towards the NSW faction that seemed to dominate team selections.

Gary Parcell, who was one of the 1959 Ipswich trio along with Dud Beattie and Noel Kelly, which made up the Queensland front row, remembers it well.

"In 1954 I played my first game for Queensland," Parcell said.

"They wouldn't let us play on the Sydney Cricket Ground because they reckoned we weren't good enough.

"From 1954-58, we got belted by everyone."

In 1959, with Parcell united with his Ipswich teammates Beattie and Kelly, it was a different story.

Queensland won the series 3-1 yet could only get seven players into the 26-man Ashes touring squad.

New South Welshman Darryl Chapman got picked ahead of the more deserving Queenslander Mickey Shannon, "because he could play piano," Parcell said.

The Australian forward pack for the opening Test of the tour, against France, contained five of the seven Queenslanders in the squad, with Johnny Raper the lone New South Welshman.

The 1959 tour was the last time Australia lost an Ashes series to Great Britain in England, going down 2-1.

After winning the first Test 22-14, the Kangaroos lost the second by a point (11-10) and went down 18-12 in the third.

Kelly, Beattie and Parcell were reunited at Monday night's function.

Parcell, the only one of the three still living in the Ipswich region, recalled how Kelly got his first representative start, taking some credit himself.

Kelly joined the exodus to the Sydney competition in 1961, becoming a legend of the Western Suburbs club and forging the career that earned him selection in the Australian team of the century.

But heading into the 1959 season, he was behind Denis "Boxhead" Jackwitz in the pecking order for both Ipswich and Queensland.

"Boxhead was a better hooker, and quicker," Parcell said.

"But Kelly was heavier.

"Boxhead got hurt.

"A draught horse stepped on his leg or something and Jack Morgan (president of the Ipswich Rugby League) rang me and said 'what about that bad bugger form Goodna, isn't he always getting chased by the cops?'

"I said 'don't worry about that, he's got plenty of ability and can fight, just put him in the side'."

On Monday Parcell and his wife Wyn were picked up by a limousine and driven to the function where Parcell and his 1959 comrades were honoured.

It was a well-deserved tribute.

Topics:  editors picks, gary parcell, kangaroos (rugby league), maroons, noel kelly, nsw blues, state of origin




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