Bougainville Games Officially Recognized as First State of Origin

Bougainville Games Officially Recognized as First State of Origin

A Tale of Wartime Rugby League

In the aftermath of World War II, on the remote shores of Bougainville Island, an unlikely sporting rivalry was born. It was 1945, and Australian troops, many of them seasoned rugby league players, found themselves facing off in a series of matches that would later be recognized as the first-ever State of Origin.

Queensland, led by the quiet and unassuming Jack Barnes, emerged victorious in the two-game series, claiming a trophy crafted from a captured Japanese naval shell. This historical event, long overshadowed by the modern Origin clashes, is finally receiving its due recognition.

Among the players who participated in this forgotten chapter of rugby league history was Horace Marjoribanks, father of Wayne Marjoribanks. Horace, a talented five-eighth who played before and after the war, captained the New South Wales side in the inaugural match. Ironically, his nephew, Bob Banks, would go on to become a Queensland legend, representing the state over 20 times before the advent of Origin.

The Bougainville games hold significance beyond the sporting arena. They serve as a testament to the enduring power of sport, even in the midst of war, and highlight the strong sporting ties between Australia and Papua New Guinea. As negotiations continue for a PNG-based NRL team, these historical matches offer a poignant reminder of the shared passion for rugby league that binds the two nations.

The story of the Bougainville games is a fascinating one, shedding light on the origins of a rivalry that has captivated generations of fans. It is a tale of wartime camaraderie, sporting prowess, and the enduring legacy of a game played on a distant island, a game that laid the foundation for the iconic State of Origin we know today.