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  • Writer's pictureStephen

Ballymore: Faded Glory

I had originally intended to publish a photo-essay about the decay of Ballymore Stadium, using some photos I took in late 2016, with very little text. But then I was given access to a aerial photo of Ballymore in its heyday, around 1979. The photo is from Mark Loane's personal collection, and was provided by John Sayer (Maroon Dam Images) who was in the process of cataloguing the collection.

The date and the photographer of the aerial photo itself is unknown, but is believed to be from around 1979. I think it is possibly a QLD v NSW game, rather than a test match, as there seems to be a lot of red/maroon colour in the crowd. If you have any info about the photo, please let me know.

It is such a great photo, I thought it deserved a more of a write-up of the glory days of Ballymore. Therefore I have selected a handful of famous, or infamous, games played at Ballymore since it's opening in 1967, and done a bit of research into how the games were reported at the time.

Same photo, zoomed in on the crowd.

1967 - First games at new ground

The first competition game at the new Ballymore stadium was Wests v Teachers on the 1st April 1967 (Saturday). And on the following day, a game between Brothers and University. University ran out 17 - 8 winners, with two tries to centre Charlie Woodward, and one to Steve McReady. Brother's try was scored by B. Sullivan and according to the Courier Mail's Frank O'Callaghan, their best were halves Mick Barry and Barry Honan

1968 - Official Opening

The official opening of Ballymore Stadium was on April 21st 1968. The Sunday Mail gave a glowing review of the new ground and spectator stand

"Today at Ballymore the Governer (Sir Alan Mansfield) will give his blessing to one of the most laudable sporting projects attempted in Queensland.

At 3 p.m. he will officially open the Ballymore Rugby Union complex of three ovals and a $69,000 stand.

The ultimate object is to create a civic rather than a mere adornment for Brisbane

Seven months ago, when the 1967 season ended, Ballymore's No. 1 field was little more than a dust bowl, flanked by ugly scaffolding stands.

Last June, during Brisbane's record floods, the ground was more than 5 feet under water and debris, swept by flood, flattened a large section of the high wire fence bounding the area.

The ground was a bog so heavy that it was unplayable for five weeks.

Today the field is lush green, so well drained that in January, when Brisbane had 15 inches of rain in a week, the ground was playable within 24 hours of the rain stopping.

Main attraction for many people, however is the stand which offers a bird's eye view of all matches on No. 1 field."

1968 - First Test match - Wallabies v All Blacks

The first test match played at Ballymore was Wallabies v All Blacks on the 22nd June 1968.

The All Blacks had been 'relentless' in the First Test in Sydney, scoring six tries to one, and winning 27-11, but Wallabies coach Des Connor was hopeful of a better showing in Brisbane.

The Wallabies were forced into a couple of team changes, with John Brass suffering a dislocated collarbone, and Ken Catchpole with a torn thigh muscle. Catchpole's injury was the result of the being pulled from a ruck by All Black Colin Meads, and was sadly the end of his career.

The Ballymore test was a thriller, with the All Blacks winning 19-18 with the game decided by a 78th minute penalty try for obstruction to All Black centre Bill Davis while chasing a kick. The subsequent kick from in front of the posts gave the All Blacks the win. Referee Kevin Crowe (obviously a New Zealander with a name like that*) had to be escorted from the ground by police.

The Courier Mail's regular Rugby League writer, Jack 'Mr Rugby League' Reardon, was not impressed with a dour first half, but was full of praise for the Wallabies' efforts in the 2nd half - "They ought to strike a medal for every Australian forward and the halfback John Hipwell for putting their courage going down on the ball in front of ruthlessly efficient pack of All Black forwards. When that set of young giants start raking for the ball in a ruck they don't seem very particular whether it's a head, an arm, a leg or the mall they are mauling with their boot tags" and "one player had a brief haka danced on his back"

Australia's only try was scored by Catchpole's replacement, John Hipwell, with all other points coming from the boot of Arthur McGill

Teams: Australia: Arthur McGill, John Cole, Phil Smith, Barry Honan, Alan Cardy, John Ballesty, John Hipwell, David Taylor, Greg Davis, Hugh Rose, Stuart Gregory, Peter Reilly, Roy Prosser, Peter Johnson (c), Jim Roxburgh,

New Zealand: Fergie McCormick, Graham Thorne, Bill Davis, Baker Cottrell, Tony Steel, Earle Kirton, Chris Laidlaw, Ian Kirkpatrick, Graham Williams, Tom Lister, Sam Strahan, Colin Meads, Anthony Kreft, Bruce McLeod, Alister Hopkinson

*Just kidding, Crowe received a OAM and QRU life-membership for services to rugby

1971 - A rare win against the Lions

In 1971, the British (and Irish) Lions played 2 matches in Australia before a 24-match tour of New Zealand.

A mid-week crowd of 12,000 witnessed a historic win by Queensland over the Lions 15 - 11.

The Lions scored the game's only try, but 3 penalties and 2 field goals gave Queensland the win. Referee Kevin Crowe had learnt from his previous mistakes*, and caned the Lions 15 penalties to 5.

Frank O'Callaghan reported "Dunworth, Alan Skinner, Michael Flynn, and Mick Freney did valiant deeds, none more than Freney, the smallest forward on the field."

The win was the first by an Australian State/Provincial side over the British Lions, and remained that way until the Brumbies knocked over the British and Irish Lions in 2013.

Queensland 15 (J. McLean 2, R. Miller penalties; L. Graham 2 field goals) defeated British Lions 11 (J. Spencer try; R. Hiller 2 penalties, conv), Ballymore, 12 May 1971


British Lions - R. Hiller, D. Duckham, J. Spencer, S. Dawes (c), A. Biggar, M. Gibson, R. Hopkins, P. Dixon, F. Slattery, D. Quinnell, G. Brown, W. McBride, S. Lynch, F. Laidlaw, I. McLambie

Queensland - L. Graham, R. Miller, A. Pope, B. Honan (c), J. McLean, G. Richardson, M. Barry, K. Bell, R. Kelleher, M. Flynn, A. Skinner, S Gregory, B. Brown, M. Freney, D. Dunworth.

* Just kidding, again.

1973 - Tonga Trouncing

Not a famous victory, but rather a stunning upset.

Tonga played the Wallabies at Ballymore in the 2nd Test match, after being defeated by the Wallabies 30-12 in the 1st Test in Sydney. Tonga showed glimpses of brilliance in Sydney, but thrilled the Ballymore crowd of 10,000 with an upset 16-11 win. The Tongans scored 4 tries to 2 and left the field to a standing ovation.

Frank O'Callaghan reports "The Tongans were a delight. They won an argument for uninhibited rugby over sophistication". Sydney newspapers were not so gracious, calling for the head of Mark Loane in only his second test. "Young Queenslander Mark Loane went missing in action as Tonga scored two tries down the blind side. He'd better treasure his jersey, as he'll never get another one". Indeed, Loane and Coach Bob Templeton were sacked in the aftermath, however Loane went on to be one of Australia's greatest ever Wallabies.

At this point, the Wallabies still had not won a test at Ballymore, also losing to France in 1972.

Tonga 16 (Tries: Kavapalu, Latu, Mafi Pahulu, Vave) defeated Australia 11 (Tries: Cole, Tindall, Pen: McGill)


Australia: 15. Arthur McGill, 14. John Cole, 13. David l'Estrange, 12. Trevor Stegman, 11. Owen Stephens, 10. Geoff Richardson, 9. Eric Tindall, 1. Ron Graham, 2. Chris Carberry, 3. Jake Howard, 4. Stuart Gregory, 5. Garrick Fay, 6. Dick Cocks, 7. Peter Sullivan (c), 8. Mark Loane

Tonga: 15. Valita Ma'ake, 14. 'Isikeli Vave, 13. Tali Kavapalu, 12. Sione Foliaki, 11. Sami Latu, 10. Malakai 'Alatini, 9. Ha'unga Fonua, 1. Eukaliti Hehepoto, 2. Tevita Bloomfield, 3. Ualeni Pahulu, 4. Polutele Tuihalamaka, 5. Fa'aleo Tupi, 6. Siaosi Selupe, 7. Fakahau Valu, 8. Sione Mafi Pahulu (c)

1975 - The Battle of Ballymore I - Wallabies v England

In 1975 England selected an 'experimental' team for a 2-test match tour of Australia. England lost both Test matches, but the tour is best remembered for the 2nd Test at Ballymore, which came to be known as the 'Battle of Ballymore'

For years, Greg Cornelsen's 'Cornie's Lunch' started with a video clip of some of the 'highlights' of the match, with MC Stu McDougall featuring heavily in a all-in-brawl after a line-out, followed by Mike Burton becoming the first Englishman to be sent off in an international, after a late tackle on winger Doug Osborne. A long-haired dual-international Ray Price also stars in the action.

The Wallabies had finally got a win at Ballymore.

Australia 30 (Tries: Fay, Monaghan, Price, Smith, Weatherstone; Conversion: Brown Wright; Penalties: Brown, Wright) defeated England 21 (Tries: Squires, Uttley; Conv. Old 2; Pen. Old 3)

Teams: England: 15. Alistair Hignell, 14. Peter Squires, 13. Jeremy Janion, 12. Peter Preece, 11. Alan Morley, 10. Alan Old, 9. Peter Kingston, 8. Andy Ripley, 7. Dave Rollit, 6. Roger Uttley, 5. Bob Wilkinson, 4. Bill Beaumont, 3. Mike Burton, 2. John Pullin (c), 1. Barry Nelmes.

Australia: 15. Robert Brown, 14. Laurie Monaghan, 13. John Weatherstone, 12 Geoff Shaw, 11. Douglas Osborne, 10. Ken Wright, 9. John Hipwell, 8. Mark Loane, 7. Ray Price, 6. Tony Shaw, 5. Garrick Fay, 4. Reg Smith, 3. Ron Graham, 2. Peter Horton, 1. Stuart Macdougall.

1979 - A record win against NSW

'Not a game - it was a shame' were the headlines after a record thrashing of NSW by Queensland in 1979. Queensland scored 7 tries to 2 in the 48-10 victory.

NSW were always up against it in this game, Queensland were boasting a near Test-strength team, and had only lost 2 of their last 29 games. The backrow of Tony Shaw, Mark Loane and Greg Cornelsen wouldn't be out of place in any past or present international side, and added to the class of Paul McLean, Andrew Slack and wingers Moon and Grigg in the backs, the Queenslanders proved practically unstoppable.

To their credit, NSW only trailed 18-10 at half-time, but 6 tries in the second half, including 3 to Peter Grigg resulted in the record score-line. Paul McLean was the Man of the Match, according to the Courier Mail's Frank O'Callaghan, easily outpoint his rival Tony Melrose. However, for McLean a bigger challenge was looming on the horizon - Mark Ella.


NSW: J. Coolican, D. McDougall (c), S Huston, M. Mathers, K. Besemo, A. Stewart, R. Hall, D. Price, D. Forsyth, T. Melrose, P. Crowe, M. Clareborough, W. McKid, P. McPherson, L, Monahan

QLD: S. Pilecki, W. Ross, C. Handy, P. McLean, D. Hall, G. Cornelsen, M. Loane, T. Shaw, R. Hauser, P. McLean, B. Moon, A. Slack, G. Shaw, P. Grigg, B. Cooke.

1980 - Queensland Defeat All Blacks

Brimming with confidence from their winning streak against NSW, Queensland then took on Rugby's ultimate challenge - The All Blacks.

Both sides had plenty of motivation - The 3-Test Bledisloe Cup series was currently poised at 1-all. The Wallabies winning the 1st Test at the SCG, while the All Blacks had won the 2nd test at Ballymore the week before. Several Queenslanders were looking for big performances to gain selection for the Wallabies for the 3rd and deciding Test, particularly Paul McLean hoping to regain his starting spot, lost to Mark Ella for the First and Second Tests. According to Frank O'Callaghan, Mark Ella - 'has not been a raging success' and a good performance from McLean could see him recalled.

The match was a tight contest, with neither team scoring a try. According to O'Callaghan - "The tourists played to their strengths. Their forwards bullocked, barged and barrelled their way downfield, always in control of the ball and against a defence that seemingly had to crack." and "QLD were forced to seek refuge in the touchline - flyhalf Paul McLean with a delicate touch and fullback Roger Gould fairly booming the ball off his boot"

The boots of McLean and Gould proved the difference on the day, with both kicking fiekld goals to earn a first-ever win over the All Blacks.

Coach Templeton liked what he saw - "A proud Queensland coach Bob Templeton could only stutter: 'We actually had them going backwards at the finish'. Those fabled All Black forwards can be dominated if the spirit flows as it did at Ballymore yesterday"

Despite the gritty win, Paul McLean was overlooked for the 3rd Test, with Mark Ella retained. His cousin Peter, however, was recalled, and Peter Griggs also selected for his test debut. The Wallabies went on to win the 3rd test 26-10 , retaining the Bledisloe Cup which they had won in a single Test series in Sydney the previous year.

Queensland 9 (P. McLean pen, P. McLean, R. Gould field goals) def New Zealand 3 (B. Codlin pen.)


Queensland: A. D'Arcy, W. Ross, C. Handy, G. Brand, Peter McLean, B. Kennon, A. Shaw, D. Hall, D. Forsythe, Paul McLean, B. Moon, G. Shaw, A. Slack, P. Grigg, R. Gould.

New Zealand: G. Knight, H. Reid, J. Ashworth, A. Haden, J. Fleming, G. Hines, L. Rutledge, M. Shaw, D. Loveridge (c), M. Taylor, S. Wilson, B. Robertson, I. Cameron, M. Watts, B. Codlin

1987 - First Rugby World Cup

Ballymore was one of the venues for the first Rugby World Cup, which was jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Australia only played one match in Brisbane, against the United States, which they won 47 - 12 (Crowd: 10,855). Other pool matches were:

Japan 18 defeated by USA 21 (Crowd: 4,000)

Ireland 32 defeated Tonga 9 (Crowd: 4,000)

Ballymore then hosted a quarter final and semi-final, neither featuring Australia, who were knocked out by France in their quarter-final at Concord Oval in Sydney

QF - England 7 defeated by Wales (Crowd: 15,000)

SF - New Zealand 49 defeated Wales 6 (Crowd: 22,576)

1989 - Battle of Ballymore II - Wallabies v British Lions

The second game also known as The Battle of Ballymore is the 2nd Test of the 1989 British and Irish Lions Tour

In the previous week, the Wallabies had won the 1st Test 30-12 with Dan Crowley and Greg Martin making their test debuts.

Stung by a convincing loss in the 1st test in Sydney, the Lions took a "strongarm and strongboot tactics" according to Wayne Smith in the Courier Mail. Coach Calder denied they were violent tactics. "Commitment. We were committed and very clinical". Smith wryly notes that Steve Cutler was on the receiving end of such commitment - "enraging Tom Lawton" in the incident shown in the video below.

"Australia has squandered many a test match at Ballymore but never has it self-destructed so late in proceedings and never so spectacularly" comments Wayne Smith. He doesn't hold back, laying the blame squarely on David Campese for the final try, after spilling two kicks in 30 seconds.

Worse was still to come for Campese, with infamous in-goal mix-up with Greg Martin in the 3rd test in Sydney contributing to the series loss.

Lions 19 (Tries: Guscott, AG Hastings; conv. Andrew; pens. Andrew, AG Hastings; drop goal. Andrew) defeated Australia 12 (Tries: Martin; conv. Lynagh; pens Lynagh 2)


Lions: Gavin Hastings, Rory Underwood, Jeremy Guscott, Scott Hastings, Ieuan Evans, Rob Andrew, Robert Jones, Dean Richards, Mike Teague, Finlay Calder (c),Wade Dooley, Paul Ackford, David Sole, Brian Moore, David Young.

Australia: Greg Martin, Ian Williams, Dominic Maguire, Lloyd Walker, David Campese, Michael Lynagh, Nick Farr-Jones (c), Steve Tuynman, Jeff Miller, Scott Gourley, Bill Campbell, Steve Cutler, Dan Crowley, Tom Lawton, Mark Hartill

Crowd: 21,000

1992 - Carozza felled by Loe Blow

1992 saw the opening of the new Eastern stand in June when the Wallabies played Scotland. A crowd of 22,500 saw the Wallabies win 37-12, to win the series 2-0. Appropriately, John Eales scored the last Australian 4-point try, tries increasing in value to 5 points for subsequent games.

However, the main event of 1992 was the Bledisloe Cup in July. Australia had scored a narrow 16-15 win in the 1st Test in Sydney, thanks to tries to Campese and Horan and the boot of Michael Lynagh, and the stage was set to win back the Bledisloe at Ballymore, for the first time since 1986.

On the day Paul Carozza was the two-try hero, scoring the match winner 8 minutes from fulltime. However, most people will remember his first try, where he was elbowed in the face by All Black prop Richard Loe after he scored the try.

It was a Golden Age for the Wallabies, who now had the Bledisloe Cup to add to the Rugby World Cup they had won at Twickenham the previous year.

Australia 19 (Tries: Carozza 2; Pens: Lynagh 3) defeated New Zealand 17 (Tries: Timu, Kirwan; Conv. Fox 2, Pen: Fox)


Australia: M. Roebuck, D. Campese, J. Little, T. Horan, P. Carozza, M. Lynagh, N. Farr-Jones, S. Scott-Young, T. Coker, D. Wilson, J. Eales, R. McCall, E. McKenzie, P. Kearns, T. Daly. Reserves: D. Nucifora, A. Blades, G. Morgan, P. Slattery, R. Tombs, A. Herbert.

New Zealand: J. Timu, J. Kirwan, F. Bunce, W. Little, V. Tuigamala, G. Fox, A. Strachan, Z. Brooke, A. Earl, K. Schuller, R. Brooke, I. Jones, R. Loe, S. Fitzpatrick, O. Brown. Reserves: S. McDowell, M. Cooksley, A. Pene, J. Joseph, T. Wright, G. Dowd, J. Preston, E. Clarke.

Crowd: 27,507

1993 - Record Crowd - Wallabies v Springboks

Public interest in Rugby was at an all-time high, with the Wallabies recent success. Adding to the excitement levels was the first Springbok tour of Australia since 1971. South Africa had been re-admitted to international rugby the year before, with the Wallabies winning a test in Cape Town.

Such was the interest in the game, The Courier Mail ran a 12-page colour lift-out preview of the match. Hard to believe in today's era of meagre press coverage.

The Springboks, led by Francois Pienaar, had upset the Wallabies in Sydney keeping them try-less, and winning 19-12.

The Springboks got off to a great start with an intercept try to Stransky, and lead 10-3. Jason Little than made his mark on the game, with 2 brilliant solo tries, one either side of half-time.

Tim Horan then stretched the lead, diving on a David Campese kick that bounced at right-angles.

The visitors were then reduced to 14 men when James Small was set off for dissent, after the Springboks were twice penalized for back-chat. However, the Springboks were able to score the last try, but it was too late, the Wallabies had won 28-20, in front of a record crowd of 28,879. Ilie Tabua was Man of the Match for his bone-crunching defence.

The Springboks returned to Sydney for the 3rd and final test, which was won 19-12 by the Wallabies, giving them the series 2-1.

Australia 28 (Tries: J. Little 2, T. Horan; Conv. M. Roebuck 2, Pen. M. Roebuck 3) defeated South Africa 20 (Tries: J. Stransky, J. Olivier; Conv. Stransky 2; Pen. Stransky 2)


Australia: M. Roebuck, D. Smith, J. Little, T. Horan, D. Campese, S. Bowen, N. Farr-Jones, T. Gavin, I. Tabua, D. Wilson, G. Morgan, R. McCall, E. McKenzie, P. Kearns, T. Daly. Reserves: D. Nucifora, D. Crowley, W. Waugh, B. Johnstone, M. Burke, A. Herbert.

South Africa: H. Reece-Edwards, J. Small, P. Muller, H. Fuls, J. Olivier, J. Stransky, R. Du Preez, T. Strauss, D. Lotter, F. Pienaar, N. Wegner, H. Strydom, B. Swart, U. Schmidt, K. Andrews. Reserves: J. Styger, I. MacDonald, J. Allen, H. Honiball, A. Joubert, J. van der Westhuizen.

Crowd: 28,879

2005 - Last games for Reds and Wallabies at Ballymore

With an incoming British & Irish Lions tour in 2001, Ballymore was not large enough for the huge crowds that a Lions tour draws. The 1st Test of the series was played in Brisbane at the Gabba, drawing a crowd of 37,460. By this stage Stadium Australia, home of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was complete and capable of seating over 100,000 fans. It was clear that Ballymore's days as a international venue were numbered.

By 2003, Suncorp Stadium was opened on the redeveloped Lang Park site. It was used for the 2003 Tri-Nations and Rugby World Cup as it boasted a capacity of slightly over 50,000.

The Queensland Reds continued at Ballymore for a few more seasons, just hosting a few 'blockbuster' Super Rugby games at Suncorp Stadium (Waratahs in 2004, Brumbies in 2005).

The Queensland Reds made a permanent move to Suncorp Stadium for the 2006 Super Rugby season.

Ballymore Now

Ballymore is still home to the Queensland Reds who train and have the QRU offices there. It is regularly used for club rugby, junior representative games, and also the National Rugby Championship games as the home ground for Brisbane City.

However, Ballymore has been in the news recently, with a proposed redevelopment to a 'boutique' sports stadium





Although the playing surface of Ballymore have been maintained in great condition, the 3 grandstands are old and tired, and quickly becoming dilapidated. The following photos were taken in late 2016 at a Brisbane City v Queensland Country NRC game.


  • Frank O'Callaghan, Courier Mail and Sunday Mail, 1967-1975

  • Jack Reardon, Courier Mail and Sunday Mail, 1967-1968

  • Wayne Smith, Courier Mail and Sunday Mail, 1989

  • ESPN Scrum,

  • Bernie Pramberg, Courier Mail, September 13th 2008, Kevin Crowe stands by call that divided rugby fans

  • Peter Meares, Legends of Australian Sport: The Inside Story, 2003, University of Queensland Press

  • Mark Loane, Personal Collection, courtesy of John Sayer.


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