Golden anniversary looms for rugby league in Ipswich

REUNION: Bob Bell and Ray Verrenkamp reminisce about the first game of league on the current North Ipswich Reserve, between Ipswich and Brisbane in 1963.
REUNION: Bob Bell and Ray Verrenkamp reminisce about the first game of league on the current North Ipswich Reserve, between Ipswich and Brisbane in 1963. Sarah Harvey

APRIL 6 is an historic day for rugby league in Ipswich.

Not just because it is the opening day of the Ipswich Rugby League season.

The milestone date also marks 50 years to the day since the first game on the current site of North Ipswich Reserve.

It was a Bulimba Cup match between Ipswich and Brisbane, won 26-19 by the home team despite the majority of the Brisbane-based players also being Queensland representatives.

"We thought we could beat them," former Ipswich prop Ray Verrenkamp said. "We got in front early and held on."

Ipswich's win came despite the second half send-off of lock Bob "Dinga" Bell.

"I was sent off for hitting Jimmy Foreman," Bell said from the ground this week. "We were belting them."

The late Foreman was a former Booval Swifts and Ipswich player, before joining Brisbane Valleys.

A newspaper report of the game says Foreman "appeared to be the target of some rough tackling".

It seems his former teammates didn't appreciate his defection.

Players from the Brisbane and Ipswich teams that day, as well as the Toowoomba team that contested that year's Bulimba Cup, will gather at the ground on April 6 for a 50-year reunion.

Unfortunately, Foreman won't be able to put forth his side of the story, though a number of his teammates surely will.

Both Verrenkamp and Bell were looking forward to resuming old acquaintances and possibly even hostilities if you believe all Bell has to say.

"There's no animosity," Bell said. "We just don't like them."

Before that match in 1963, Ipswich's home ground had been where Len Johnson Oval is now, at the corner of The Terrace and Pine Street.

Only problem was the field faced east-west.

"There was a lot of kicking in those days," Ipswich Rugby League Old Boys president Bob Christison said. "And the sun in the afternoon would get in the players' faces."

There wasn't room to realign the ground north-south, so it was shifted to its current location.

While Ipswich won the battle on April 6, 1963, Brisbane went on to retain the cup that year.

April 6 also marks the opening round of the IRL, with all three A-grade games being held at the North Ipswich Reserve to mark its 50th anniversary.

Topics:  anniversary ipswich rugby league north ipswich reserve

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