Speech by Barry Larsen at 35th Anniversary Dinner – Saturday 9th August 2014

My role tonight is to tell you about the way things were for the people who were in the club at the beginning and up to 1994. By doing so I hope that I can help you all to feel a bit closer to the Club that is now in your care and safekeeping.

I first became aware of the club early in the school year of 1979. Our son, Peter, who was in grade 2 at Our Lady of the Way Convent at Petrie, came home from school and announced that Brothers was coming to the district and he was going to play rugby league. On the strength of that I attended a meeting at Holy Spirit Church Hall where I learned that Don Hurren and John Gilfoyle had conceived the idea and approached Past Brothers Rugby League Football Club to support a junior club in our area. There was already a committee in place with Don the Treasurer, John the Secretary and our President was Mike Lawler, Principal of Our Lady of the Way School.

Don and John and their committee had the wheels turning for three teams to play in the competition in 1979 with coaches and managers in place.

In those days Junior Clubs had to be affiliated with a senior Brisbane Rugby League Club and were known as Satellite Clubs. Brothers were only too happy to submit the necessary nomination of our new club if it could get up and running and with their help we applied to be part of the Brisbane Junior Rugby League. Satellite clubs were very important to senior clubs because they were a prime source of player recruitment.

Our first application to the BJRL was opposed by Pine Rivers RLFC which was a satellite club of Redcliffe on the grounds that they should be the only club entitled to operate in the area and as such our application was rejected. The BJRL went further and banned us from applying again for 2years.

Our solution was to play as a part of Brothers Juniors and Minors for three years so as to not lose the momentum already achieved. Our home ground, like all Brothers teams, was Corbett Park and we wore Brothers jerseys and the leprechaun logo. This worked and in 1979 we entered three teams in the competition.

It was the middle of that first year that I attended the Annual General Meeting and was elected President for the first time.

We ran our own affairs and finances but existed as a sub-committee of Brothers RLFC. In turn, Brothers Juniors and Brothers Minors were sub-committees of the senior club and our individual teams were part of those sub-committees also. It was probably as complicated as it sounds but we were only concerned with the survival of the club and playing football so we didn’t worry too much about the details.

During those three years we had enormous support and assistance from Ken Munroe, Chairman of the Brothers Minors and I can’t thank him enough both personally and on behalf of our Club.

We applied to the BJRL again after 2 years and were accepted during our third year.

It was during this time that the Club became incorporated for the first time with the assistance of Mr Tom Frisby who was a solicitor and legal advisor to Brothers. The Associations Incorporations Act was still new to Queensland clubs and he guided us through the steps needed to become incorporated. Thank you Tom.

Steady growth meant our days at the Holy Spirit school were numbered and we were able to secure a lease on Francis Road during 1984. The older boys actually trained there for part of that year. We made the formal move there in 1985. 1984 was also the first year we sent a team on tour. Our under 12’s travelled to Rockhampton by train to play against the Park Road Convent School in North Rockhampton.

The new field was prepared by volunteer labour. We worked all day every Saturday under the direction of our groundsmen Kevin Ralphs and Peter O’Brien and we acquired three outbuildings to carry out our activities in – a black truck body, a workmen’s hut from Pine Dam and a shipping container, all gathered at the Francis Road end to be close to power.

We built the first clubhouse and added a large pergola to it in 1986/87. It consisted of the dressing rooms, a kitchen and bar/clubhouse. These improvements were made possible by a bank loan and it in turn was made possible by a group of nine members now known as the Foundation Members who lent some money to secure the loan and backed it with personal guarantees for the balance. Their faith was rewarded by the fairly speedy repayment of the bank loan and the eventual return of their own funds.

1988 was the first year for 10 year player awards and a photograph of that group hung in the clubhouse for a long time and is now safely stored elsewhere.

1990 was the first time we fielded all age groups – U7’s to U18’s. By this time the club had started to win premierships. Although the years and age groups escape me now, their photos tell the story in the clubhouse.

By 1993 poker machines had been introduced to Queensland and we sought ways of cashing in on this new opportunity. Brothers Football Club had tragically lost Corbett Park and did not have a home base. However they had $100,000 available in cash and our two Clubs made a deal to build a licensed Club and share playing facilities.

We added to the clubhouse in 1993. The bar was upgraded, poker machines added, the kitchen became the football office and the bistro and more toilets were built. After passing many constitutional, licensing and gaming hurdles we had our licenced Club. Since then front and rear improvements have been made and we have dined in the best of those improvements tonight.

1994 was Brothers first season out of Bray Park and they played in the Queensland Cup and South East District Competitions. I can recall crowds of up to 4000 attending those matches. Those of you who were there will know that I am not exaggerating. The committees of the day probably still have nightmares about it.

We never achieved enough financial success to build Queensland Cup standard dressing rooms and after a while Brothers moved on to the next stage of their journey and sadly, to their eventual demise.

This covers approximately the first 20 years of the life of our Club as well as I can recall it and as well as I can pass it on to you. I can only add that the great majority of the people who served on committees with me and as coaches, managers, strappers, referees etc had wives, husbands or partners who supported them as well as they supported the Club. I would like to take this opportunity now to thank them publicly for their contributions they have made which I see as the equal of those elected or appointed. Personally I have been given the honours of being made a Life Member of the Football Club and the Sports Club, but the honour that best reflects the contribution I made, together with my family, is the Certificate of Appreciation awarded jointly to my wife Val and me in 2001. No doubt there are many partners and families who deserve the same recognition as those of us who have been elected and recorded in the minutes. Thank you one and all.

The last 20years have been the work of your hands and those of your committees. I have remained in touch enough to know that you have been extremely well served by those you have elected during those 20years. It is extremely gratifying to me to know that the Club I was so closely involved with for such a long time continues to go from strength to strength in such capable hands and that boys and girls are still learning the skills of rugby league and of life from your capable coaches and managers. I am also particularly appreciative of the way the current committee values the history of the Club and has allowed me to be part of this historic occasion, the 35th Anniversary of Holy Spirit Rugby League Football Club.