To Peter Marcellos, the 47th Battalion represented his family.
Born in Greece in 1913, Marcellos emigrated to Australia right before the outbreak of the World War II and, shortly after his arrival, enlisted with the 47th Battalion.
Known as the 'Wide Bay Regiment', the 47th Battalion was based across Central Queensland and spent the majority of the war serving in Papua New Guinea.
For Marcellos, this is where he made his first and closest friends from his new home country. And this is why the 47th Battalion Memorial Trophy exists today.
Queensland Rugby League Central region chairman Danny McGuire said Marcellos donated the trophy in 1971, kicking off the rugby league carnival as a long-lasting tribute to his regiment – to his friends and family.
“It was his tribute to the memory of fallen comrades during the battles in World War II,” McGuire said.
“He enlisted in the 47th Battalion where he made many of his first friends in his adopted country.
“In Peter’s own words, the 47th Battalion was his family… the competition began an era which, over the years, drew together rugby league personnel and members of the 47th Battalion in a spirit of cooperation and remembrance.”
The 2022 47th Battalion Memorial Trophy will kick off on Saturday, April 30 in Gladstone, with eight men’s teams and six women’s teams.
The original competition started with just Maryborough, Bundaberg, Gympie, South Burnett and Sunshine Coast, drawing from the same areas as the 47th Battalion did ahead of World War II.
This carnival has grown greatly in numbers over the years – particularly with the addition of the women’s draw in 2011.
While there was a period through the early 2000s where the 47th Battalion suffered due to the development of other competitions, McGuire said the emergence of teams from Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Central Highlands and more has seen the memorial trophy go from strength to strength.
And throughout this time, it has not lost the original spirit.
It represents family, honour, respect and unity, and recognises the past.
McGuire said this was particularly seen with the significance this carnival holds throughout the region and for the players who had played in it.
One particular story that reflects the importance of the 47th Battalion to McGuire is that of Danny Whelan in 2007, who worked hard to have the final match played in the small town of Mundubbera – west of Bundaberg – to encourage growth of rugby league in the area.
Not only did this represent the unity and cooperation the 47th Battalion is about, but it was what happened next that made 2007 one for the history books.
“Danny Whelan is a legendary sportsman from Central Burnett,” McGuire said.
“He wangled for the final between Bundaberg and Sunshine Coast to be played in Mundubbera in 2007 to encourage the local competition.
“But he took ill during the night and was taken up to the local hospital. It upset many that he couldn’t stay to watch the final won by Bundaberg. Coincidently, Matt Gillett had a run on the night as well for Sunshine Coast.
“After the presentations, many of the officials and players went back to a near-deserted bar in town.
“The first people we see in the bar was none other than Danny and his doctor – who had come down to keep an eye on him - both with beer in hand. Danny was not going to miss the night.”
This year’s 47th Battalion will be played at Marley Brown Oval and Briffney Creek Fields in Gladstone, kicking off at 9.30am on Saturday with Toowoomba versus Central Highlands in the men’s draw and Gladstone versus Sunshine Coast in the women’s.