“Have a bit of pride in they jersey, have a bit of pride in the city, work as a team and as Jack Gibson used to say – run hard, tackle hard.”
Former Ipswich centre Col Dwyer said it pretty straight-up about what players preparing for the XXXX Chairman’s Challenge this weekend could learn from their predecessors of one of the fiercest inter-city competitions in the state.
While they have had many forms, the Bulimba Cup running between 1925 and 1972 was inarguably the most prestigious as Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba battled it out each year.
Dwyer, president of Ipswich Rugby League Old Boys Association, represented the city for nine years in the brutal competition before player payments came into vogue to drain Ipswich of their stars in a similar vein to Queenslanders being lured to New South Wales.
“I played my first Bulimba Cup game in ‘64 or ‘65 and we were all pretty young guys and it meant everything,” Dwyer said.
“It was our way of having recognition to go on to higher things like to play for Queensland.
“We liked nothing better than to play Brisbane and Toowoomba and give them a flogging.
“There’s always been a good tradition with Ipswich. They always had good hard sides and always had lots of players in Queensland sides from Ipswich and it was a privilege to represent your city.”
Dwyer’s crowning glory came in 1966, when Ipswich last claimed the coveted Cup – the deciding game a fiery 7-2 win at Lang Park featuring four send offs, including Dwyer late in the game.
“It was a fantastic experience really. 7-2 we won, which tells you how tough it was, but the reporters of the day gave us a bit of a rubbishing because they reckon we were offside all day and that’s why Brisbane lost,” he said.
“It was a real thrill to beat Brisbane in a final because they had six or seven Queensland players in it and we had none at the time.
“Bob Christison our hooker was a senior player but other than that the other 12, we were all young fellas. There wasn’t anyone else over 23.”
Ken Churchill represented Ipswich in the Bulimba Cup as a 19-year-old in 1971 before later going on to Wynnum Manly in the BRL and recalled North Ipswich Reserve was known as an inhospitable place for visiting teams.
“They were tough days, not that we thought so at the time. When you look back on it though it was pretty tough. The tackle rules were, more or less shall we say, loosely applied by the referee,” Churchill said.
“North Ipswich Reserve, in those days it was like concrete. Brisbane were used to playing on Lang Park and when they turned up they weren’t happy about getting tackled on the pitch in those days.
“They were great days in a way, and the Ipswich people loved their footy.”
Ipswich Diggers captain Luke Pollock said the significance was not lost on his playing group as they prepared to face reigning XXXX Chairman’s Challenge champions Gold Coast Vikings and two teams representing Brisbane.
“It’s a pretty proud history in Ipswich so it’s a bit of an honour. I was co-captain last year as well so to be named it again is a pretty big honour and I’m pretty keen to represent the town,” Pollock said.
“I’ve heard about the Bulimba Cup and how tough it used to be.
“It’s always mentioned to the boys about how proud the history is there and we’re always trying to put our best foot forward so hopefully this year we can have a good competition and do well. We’ll have a pretty handy side.”
Pollock hoped for a strong crowd to turn up to cheer them on at the unique North Ipswich Reserve.
“I think because it’s sunken in a bit the crowd sort of echoes more around the field, so if we’ve got the support there we should have with the locals I definitely feel we’ll be able to hear them loud,” he said.
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Main image: Ipswich's Col Dwyer chases down Brisbane's Mick Retchless in the 1967 Bulimba Cup