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Fog, Rain, Gales, Lightening, Swaying Power Lines and a Blackout and Schoolboy Aussie Rules
Regional teams from across Queensland arrived at the Toowoomba Showground on a Friday afternoon, excited and looking forward to competing in the 11th State Championship for Secondary Boys and playing and watching ‘good football’. The opening games would be played under lights, something the children loved to experience. But that was not to be. The cozy weather in Toowoomba that night was terrifying and downright dangerous.
Before the championships could begin, a visiting officials conference was held. After completing all the paperwork; Accommodations being arranged and printed programs distributed, organizing officials at Darling Downs informed visiting officials that a bus was not being accommodated to transport the two teams. However, no driver was assigned or provided to transport the players to and from a hostel on the outskirts of Toowoomba during the course of the championships. The championship coordinator asked if any visiting officials had a bus license. A teacher trainer indicated that he did have such a license. He was asked if he would drive the bus since one of the teams was, in fact, his team. So he drove the bus carrying his team, Brisbane South, and the Gold Coast team. If he’d known what was in store for him that first night, he certainly wouldn’t have volunteered.
The opening night of the carnival, played at the Toowoomba Show Grounds, was a night of extremes. Toowoomba, at best in winter at night is a very cold place in Queensland. Before the first game of the night, the weather turned nasty. As night approached, the temperature dropped rapidly and when the siren sounded, it was freezing cold. But that was not all. A thick fog then enveloped the pitch so much that the referees were unable to see the goals at either end as they stood in the timekeeper’s room in the center wing. They only knew a goal had been scored when the ball bounced up the middle. The way the players managed to keep up with the game was also a miracle.
. A teacher remembers this about these championships.
Toowoomba showed very little compassion towards the game with a winter spell that had the Show Grounds shrouded in thick fog for most of the game. There are numerous stories of one of the umpires running near the coaches’ boxes and advising the teachers/coaches to head to the far wing where a player had been injured for most of the quarter.
The fog was so thick that no one could see the injured player. He was seriously injured. But he has a great story to tell his grandchildren.
Obviously, officiating such a game was not the easiest task. On that first night, the two umpires were able to control the game with great difficulty until the lights went out. But the weather deteriorated even more!
This fog was followed by a violent and windy rain storm that hit the fairgrounds. Light towers at fairgrounds were connected by long immersion power lines. While lightning and thunder abounded during the storm, the wind grew stronger and stronger until it reached gale proportions. This caused the wires for electric lights between the poles to sway haphazardly. Sparks began to fly when the wire touched. Eventually, when they got really tangled up, they merged the whole system. The fairgrounds were left in total darkness. The rest of the games scheduled for that night were postponed, since it was not possible to repair the lighting system until the storm abated.
The drama did not end there. The nominated bus driver had to transport him and the Gold Coast team to his hostel after the games were abandoned. Driving the bus through a violent storm on an unknown winding mountain road turned out to be a great feat of human endeavor. He was forced to drive very slowly and carefully given his responsibility to make sure both teams of teens got there safely. Sometimes the visibility was so poor; He had to get off the bus to see if he was in the way! On one occasion, he had to negotiate a fallen tree. Every time Toowoomba’s championship is mentioned, he reminds his audience that his experience that night was one of the most traumatic experiences of his life.
Despite that night and the need for some teams to play two games the next day, the championship was a great success. The championship ended on a high note for supporters of Darling Downs as their team won their first championship game on the final day of the championship.
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