Fog, Rain, Gales, Lightening, Swaying Power Lines and a Blackout and Schoolboy Aussie Rules

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Regional teams from all over Queensland arrived at the Toowoomba show grounds on a Friday afternoon, excited and looking forward to compete in the 11th state secondary schoolboys’ championships and play and watch some “good Footy”. The opening games were to be played under lights, something the boys loved to experience. But that was not to be. Toowoomba’s welcoming weather that night was frightening and downright dangerous.

Before the championships could begin, a conference of visiting officials was held. After all the paperwork was completed; billeting arranged and printed programs distributed, the Darling Downs organising officials informed the visiting officials that a bus to transport the two teams that were not being billeted. However, no driver was rostered or provided to bus the players to and from a hostel outside Toowoomba over the course of the championships. The championship convenor asked if any visiting official had a bus licence. One teacher coach indicated that he did have such a licence. He was asked if he would drive the bus as one of the teams was, in fact, his team. So he drove the bus conveying his team, Brisbane South, and the Gold Coast team. If he had known what he was in for on that first night, he certainly would not have volunteered.

The opening night of the carnival, played at the Toowoomba Show Grounds, was a night of extremes. Toowoomba, at the best of times in winter at night is a very cold place in Queensland. Before the first night game, the weather turned nasty. As night approached, the temperature dropped quickly and at the commencing siren, it was freezing cold. But that was not all. Then, a thick fog enveloped the ground so much so that the officials could not see the goals at either end while standing in the timekeeper’s room at the centre wing. They only knew a goal was scored when the ball was bounced in the middle. How the players managed to keep up with the game was quite a miracle as well.

. A teacher remembers this about these championships.

Toowoomba displayed very little compassion toward the game with a wintery spell that had the Show Grounds covered in a thick fog for most of the game. There are numerous stories of one of the umpires rushing over near the coach’s boxes and advising the teacher/coaches to head over to the far wing where a player had been down 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 does have a great story to tell his grandchildren.

To umpire such a game was indeed not the easiest of chores. 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 further!

This fog was followed by a violent, windy rain storm that lashed the showgrounds. The light towers of the showgrounds were connected by long, dipping power lines. While lightning and thunder abounded during the storm, the wind grew stronger and stronger to gale like proportions. This caused the electric lights wires between the posts to sway haphazardly about. Sparks began to fly as the wire touched. Eventually, when they became really tangled they fused out the whole system. The showgrounds went into total darkness. The remaining games programmed to be played that night were postponed, as it was not possible to repair the lighting system until the storm abated.

The drama was not finished there. The nominated bus driver had to transport his and the Gold Coast team to their hostel after the games were abandoned. Driving the bus through a violent storm on a narrow winding unfamiliar mountain road proved a major feat of human endeavour. He was forced to drive very slowly and carefully given his responsibility of ensuring that both teams of teenage boys arrived safely. At times, the visibility was so poor; he had to get out of the bus to see if he was on the road! On one occasion, he had to negotiate a fallen tree. Whenever that Toowoomba championship is mentioned he reminds his audience that his experience on that night was one of the most traumatic experiences in his life time.

Despite that night and the necessity of some teams playing two games on the next day, the championships went on to be a great success. The championship finished on a great note for the Darling Downs supporters when their team won its very first championship game ever on the final day of the championship.

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write by Christopher

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