Almanac Rugby League: Generations of Brethren

Matt O’Hanlon is a generational footy tragic (his family only calls Rugby League footy) who masquerades as a school teacher. He is awaiting the day that V’Landy’s puts the mighty Fighting Irish Brothers Leprechauns into the NRL when it expands so that his grandsons will get the chance to wear the butchers’ stripes. He fancies himself as a punter of some renown (every Saturday he tells his wife ‘G squared’ that he just broke even) and is president of the Dean Holland Fan Club. Other than any Queensland Origin victory and Dean Holland winning the Adelaide Cup on Surprise Baby (before being dumped for the Cup), his favourite sporting event was watching Kilkenny play Tipperary (the code’s greatest rivalry) with ‘G squared’ at Nowlan Park in the GAA Hurling Division Final. In the future, he would like a job like John Harms has as a reserve grade Melbourne celebrity based at the North Fitzroy Arms!





We love our footy! As a family we always loved to sit at the kitchen table and talk about things, all sorts of things.  A constant thread was the footy. Our footy team is the mighty Brothers, the Irish club, the fighting Irish, the Brethren. A rugby league club playing what we call ‘footy’. You know the anthem after a win, “The team in the blue and the white is the Brothers, The team that’s superior to all the others.” This is what we call football. My Dad always wanted to know, “Who said soccer is football?” In his boyhood in Rockhampton back in the `40s, soccer was as well-known as ice hockey! That’s how we see it, simple and uncomplicated, but more on our sporting bigotry later.


My Grandfather played for CYMS in Ipswich in 1912. Later they changed name to become Brothers. The walls of the impressive Ipswich Brothers Club bear testament with photos of the 1912 side and the 1914 Past Brothers team, resplendent in the butchers’ stripes, with my Grandfather Mick sitting proudly in the front row. On his jersey (or ‘guernsey’ as he called it) is the club emblem which I still have today, an artefact with the motto Signum Fidei (sign of faith) surrounding a star on a shield flanked by a fern and two shamrocks and a cross atop the shield. The Star recalls the story of the three wise men that followed the Star of Bethlehem, trusting that it would lead them to God. Those men in the original Brothers team started a unique adventure that continues today and which I still talk about at the same old kitchen table our family has sat around for five generations.


After leaving Ipswich, Old Mick, a baker by trade, headed to Rockhampton where he played for Brothers at what is now known as Browne Park, a truly great country footy ground that the league took over from the rugby boys in about 1916. Old Mick always called Browne Park the Rugby Grounds. His old habits died hard. He used metho on everything from sunburn to mosquito bites, warm flannel on any joint pain, Vicks VapoRub for any ailment, a bottle of beer and an egg for shampoo, and a good nip of OP Rum for anything else! He slept with a blackthorn shillelagh instead of using keys to lock anything and he never had any unwanted visitors.


Rockhampton was the third city in Queensland to play footy after Brisbane and Ipswich. In 1919, Old Mick moved to Barcaldine where, as a paid player, he captained and coached the first Barcaldine footy team which won the Solley Shield, the symbol of football supremacy in the West, for the first time. Barcaldine newspaper reports of his departure in 1920 told of the town band playing at the railway station as the well-known footballer and pugilist headed back to Rocky to start a family and his own baker’s shop. Country footy was that big. Old Mick’s wife inherited a lovely Queenslander, “Athlone”, in Murray Street, just two blocks from Browne Park, from her childless uncle and aunt. The house, built in the 1870s, was demolished in 2001 with the furniture and anything of value spread across the family. Today I am sitting at the kitchen table from “Athlone” and, boy, could it tell some stories. It’s not the fancy, formal dining table that was the centrepiece of the dining room – someone else got that. This is the kitchen table, the work table. To the uninitiated, it’s just three slabs of pine on four turned legs but, to me, it’s a piece of living history. Six generations of my family have sat at this table and all of them, at some point, have talked or heard about footy around it.


At around the same time, Vince “Polly” Hooper was also playing for the Brothers. He was a tall front-rower who worked on the trams and in the meat works in Rocky.  He lived in the tough suburb of Park Avenue, which was the complete opposite of the New York variety, where he raised seven children, five boys and two girls. Polly was well known around Rocky as he was a bit of a larrikin. He loved the punt and the ALP. In another story, Park Avenue was an enclave of the DLP, a party Polly hated even though he was a strong Catholic. In the early 1920s, Polly was in the front row with Max Scott and ‘Cross Country’ Connors, well-known local blokes. Old Mick was on the Committee and Polly was playing for the Butchers stripes. Polly later became a Committee man as well. At the 1958 Brothers Presentation, Young Mick was named Best and Fairest Player of the Year for the Junior As even though he played a heap of A Grade as well. At just 17 this was a fair effort. A mate of his took Polly Hooper’s daughter to the presentation and, as he had a car, picked Young Mick up, too. “Mick,” he said, “this is Polly Hooper’s daughter, Carmel.”  Carmel was sixteen.  She’s my Mum and she, of course, is a dyed-in-the-wool footy supporter of Brothers and a diehard Parramatta Eels fan. But more on that later.


It was in Murray Street, at what is now my kitchen table, that Young Mick (my Dad) and his brother John, the two babies of a family of 10 (seven girls and three boys), started what they describe as their ‘fervent footy following’. Both have passed on now but, even in their 70s, they would talk about the days in their make-believe team, the “Murray Rovers”, wearing sugar bags as jerseys and playing the mythical “Swampers” from Depot Hills or the “Koongal Killers” from the Northside. Young Mick was always Captain and John was his loyal supporter along with the other kids in the street, the Kellys, the Russells, the Sullivans and the O’Briens. These kids went to Our Lady’s or St Peter’s and then on to the Brothers CBC. My siblings and I grew up on the stories around life at Murray Street. The best of all for me were, invariably, the tales about footy, Browne Park, the Murray Rovers and the mighty Brothers.


Young Mick described himself as an old footy fanatic where the only good thing about getting old was that he could say, “I remember when…” He reckons he remembered being a baby proudly draped in a Brothers jersey and his Dad having a great big smile and the smell of Macs Beer (the local brew) on his breath. He thought he had brought great joy to the family but soon found out that it was because Brothers had just won. He doesn’t like some of the modern rules for he remembers when a good stiff arm got as much applause as a good try. Murray Street was a haven for football discussion. Every Sunday Browne Park would be packed to the rafters. The players who, during the week, were local butchers, bakers, plumbers, firemen and railway men – all hard men (and, just for my benefit, Dad would always throw in “and some school teachers”) – would become footballers on Sunday.


On Sunday nights, the Brothers men would often come back to Murray Street to review the games. Story-telling was essential as Dad’s eldest brother, Kevin, had been blind since the age of five from meningitis. He loved football and cricket and he wanted to hear reports on how the Brethren went. Young Mick and John listened to what amounted to shed talk. They would learn scrum tactics like hair pulling, second row hitting, shin kicking and foot stomping. Just as today’s kids have stars like Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, at Murray Street the stars were the local heroes like Duncan Hall (a true legend of the game), Des Crow, Col Hunt and Leo Jeffcoat (who would marry Dad’s sister and whose brother Kevin would marry another of Dad’s sisters). As Dad and Johnny later realised, it may have been their four, good-looking, older and eligible sisters that most probably added to these visits by the local stars!


As kids in the late 40s to early 50s, the boys would get the train (a special excursion steam train attached by the railway in the days before economic rationalism) from Rocky to Brisbane for the rugby league Tests with their fathers, a football rite of passage. The dads loaded wire crates full of Macs Beer into one carriage and all the boys into the other. The dads would drink all Friday night, go to the game on Saturday and then get straight back on to the train, and the drink, home. Dad went to three Tests and, to his great disappointment to this day, he never saw the Aussies beat the Chooms live.


At Browne Park, just two blocks from Murray Street, Dad saw the Chooms three times, the Kiwis twice, France twice, the NZ Maoris once and the American All Stars once. Being able to watch the great Puig Aubert at Browne Park with about 5000 other people still ranks as a great footy highlight for the old Murray Rover. The 1951 French team defeated CQ that day and won the series against Australia 2-1. The history of that side is a story in itself. These days, the lack of touring teams playing matches in country centres is a great loss to the game. As a kid in the 70s, I saw Central Queensland play the Poms three times and the Kiwis once. It was great to see our local players going up against a national team and the league would put kids’ games on as curtain raisers. I played twice before these big games as did my brothers, cousins and mates. The games started at 8am and the crowd would be there all day.


My father and Uncle both played for Rocky Brothers. Young Mick debuted in 1955 as a 16-year-old centre/three quarter. At the time, each club in Rocky boasted an international, usually at the end of their career, as a paid player/coach. Men like Darcy Henry, Ron Willey, Matt McCoy, Bob Bax, Bobby Banks and Des McGovern. There were also well-known locals like Cyril Connell (a Brothers man and schoolteacher who had to play for Norths), Ces Cooper, Col Geelan and Len Pegg. Brothers did it tough in the 50s and, as a young player, Mick reckons he copped plenty of stick.  Making his debut on the same day was his school-mate Ronny Murphy who, by coincidence, had sons and grandsons who played with younger generations of O’Hanlon boys. Dad recalled that the drug of choice was two nips of OP Rum and the steroids were a pick and a shovel on the roads, a wharfie’s trolley, a milk run or a garbo’s bin – muscle building jobs. There were lean pickings for the Rocky Brothers who did not win a premiership from 1948 until 1963. Mick and John (a strapping front rower) stand proudly, side by side, in the 1963 team photo.


They both tried their luck elsewhere, John in 1962 with All Whites and Mick with Mackay Brothers (then known as Buccas) in the same season. Mick and Carmel had married, had a daughter and I was soon on the way. Dad was a paid player for Mackay Brothers but the club struggled that season. When a vacancy opened up back in Rocky as a laborer at Macs Brewery at the end of the year and with a growing family, Mick headed home. In 2008, Mick and Carmel made the trek back to Mackay to watch their 17-year-old grandson, Patrick, play in the back row for Mackay Brothers in their incredible come from behind 26-25 Premiership victory over Wests. The youngest player on the field produced a memorable performance and was back at school on Monday! He played 33 NRL games across two clubs before suffering a career-ending badly broken leg in the 2014 Bulldogs NRL semi-final defeat of Melbourne as the Dogs went on to the Grand Final before being defeated by Souths.


Uncle Johnny debuted in 1959 and had a season with All Whites in Toowoomba where he played Bulimba Cup. Young forwards in the early 60s copped plenty from old hard heads. Johnny, a true story teller, would recount a pre-game meeting before a Bulimba Cup match against Ipswich. His brother-in-law, Kevin “Bull” Jeffcoat, told young John to make sure he said ‘hello’ to an Ipswich forward who Kev had played with and against ten or so years earlier when Kev was the old head and the Ipswich hard-head was a pup. John dutifully made the connection and the old forward said “Oh, Kev, yeah. Good. I remember him”. John was slightly perplexed by the cold response but it was game day so no worries. Johnny, brim full of STUG (a term he used as it was ‘guts’ spelt backward), packed into the first scrum and Whack! The old Ipswich forward smacked him in the nose splattering it across his face.  When John looked up through the stars and the blood and the sweat he heard, “Can you tell old Kev I owed him that. Pass it on, thanks.”  Both Mick and John cringe when players run on and off or if the game stops for a bit of blood. And don’t get them started on the video ref!


From the age of about five, I would go to Browne Park with my Grand Pop, Old Mick. We would have lunch at my table and then walk to the ground and talk footy – how Brothers would go today and who to watch out for. On entry we would buy our doubles off Jack Pearce, the legendary Rocky Brothers double seller and Camel-smoking supporter, talk some more about who was in and out, and then sit in the same seat every week, fourth row up on the players’ race. All the players would come and say, “G’day” to the grand old supporter who was, by then, in his 80s. I would cheer on my team. Rod Reddy was a star and my favorite player. He went on to a stellar career –Tests, State of Origin 1, Sydney Grand Finals and, in his last game in Australia, the 1987 Foley Shield Final victory for Townsville.


Mum never forgave “Rocket” because he dished it out to me in that final. “Rocket” belted me after I tackled him and she couldn’t understand why he would belt a kid who idolised him. I had to remind Mum that I was 26 and that we all did a bit of that. “Rocket” also belted her favourite Eel, Ray Price, in the drawn Grand Final, so at least I was in good company. I am sort of glad he did it to me, although I wasn’t at the time, because if it had been any other member of their no-nonsense pack, it would be long forgotten. Whenever Rod speaks at a schoolboy carnival dinner, one of the lairs always asks him to “tell us about the day you whacked “The Mattress” (my nickname in school league circles).


What a player! I can still see him charging down field with a mop of curly black hair and offloading to supports. The modern game would be made for “Rocket”, although he would have to give up putting players to sleep! Other players were Ronny Milne, Col O’Brien, the Denman brothers, John Paap, Shane ‘Cyclone’ Sullivan and ‘Sharky’ Newsome.


At half-time, Old Mick would give me 10 cents. As a 7-year-old in 1970, that was a lottery win. In 1978 he would still give me 10 cents. I guess he lost track of the inflation of the 70s. When the games were over we would head back to Murray Street to catch the Brisbane game on TV at 6pm.  Dad would turn up and we’d talk about the games. I couldn’t have been happier talking footy in front of a Pye television at a table that would one day be mine.


As the third generation entered the fray, there was only one sport in winter and that was footy. Both Mick and John coached plenty of kids’ teams. Brothers was a Catholic club and, as juniors, we all played in the Catholic Primary Schools League. We were called “fish-eaters”, usually with one or more adjectives to aid the noun and mainly unprintable.  Anti-Catholic sentiment was strong but about to wane because the Menzies government’s State Aid for Non-Government Schools policy began to reverse a perceived discrimination. The DLP split Catholics in Rockhampton but that is a whole other story.


The O’Hanlons were not alone in the generational thread through the Catholic Primaries. My two great school mates, Peter Gilbert and Damian Chapman, were third generation Brothers boys and their grandfathers had been mates with my two grandfathers. In the 1963 Premiership photo, there were the two playing O’Hanlons, the father and son Chapmans on the Committee and the parish priest, Fr Frank Gilbert, to ensure Signum Fidei. My mates’ sons are now playing or have played in the butchers stripes. We have all sat at my old table and talked footy just like our grandfathers did 90 years ago.


In the 1980 season, all six O’Hanlon boys played for the Brethren. I was in the Under 18s with Peter Gilbert, my brother James was in the 16s with Damian Chapman, cousin Tony was in the 15s with Peter’s brother John, cousin Mick played in the 14s with Damien’s brother Lloyd, my brother Ben was in the 13s and Dan played in the Catholic Primaries. Dad was President of the Brothers Leagues Club and Johnny coached the 15s. Polly Hooper died that year after Old Mick had died the previous year. Both Old Mick and Young Mick were Life Members of the club. We all loved our footy and, to this day, still talk about it all year round.


We played in a range of other clubs. I had stints with Brisbane and Bundaberg Brothers where I captain/coached, and coached and served on the Senior and Junior Committees as our three boys were playing. I was also the ground announcer for Mackay Brothers. When I was transferred to Atherton as a teacher, I had to play in different colours against the Butchers stripes. My wife, ‘G Squared’, an Our Lady of Good Counsel Range college girl and Brothers supporter, refused to wear anything but navy blue and white when we played Cairns or Innisfail Brothers. It was a unique experience. Growing up, I had played many Brothers clubs on junior exchanges, however this was a first. As we sat in the tiny Atherton Roosters Shed at the Showground, the team started a trance-like and potent inflammatory mantra about killing the (add your own multiple expletives) fish-eaters. I was ready to punch my own teammates, such was the ferocity. Nevertheless, after I copped one from an opposition forward, a good Brothers boy, a (adjective) fish-eater who said, “Get that bit of fish into ya,” I soon forgot the niceties the nuns had taught us in primary school. Nowadays, the “fish-eater” tag is almost a term of endearment, a sign of how much the Protestant/Catholic sectarian Australia debate has been removed. Old Mick, the “Knight of the Southern Cross”, wouldn’t have copped it as they were fighting words.  Today, my old table welcomes all.


My brothers all played their junior footy with Rocky Brothers and most of their senior footy as well. Jim travelled around as a builder and played with Bundy Brothers (with the Gilbert boys), The Bribie Warrigals, Fitzroys and Yeppoon in Rocky at different times. He had soft hands and could play anywhere in the backs and, as he got older, the forwards as well.  At 50, he still lines up for Yeppoon at the Masters each year. He coaches at Capricorn Coast Brothers where his two boys play. He is a very passionate, member Number 44 for the Central Queensland NRL Bid team. They love footy.


Ben went from school to Brisbane Brothers and then played for me at Bundy Brothers. He was a powerful forward in the Mule Hosking’s style who could absorb massive punishment when he carted the ball up. Just as in 1963, the 1990 Bundaberg Brothers Group 1 Premiership photo has Ben and me there with my old school mate Peter Gilbert and his brother John. The local paper ran a story on the Bundaberg Brothers brothers. In the photo there were two O’Hanlon’s, two Gilberts, two McGraths, two Popes and an incredible four Hamiltons. Ben finished up with a few games for Rocky Brothers. Dan played for Rocky Brothers, firstly under Peter Gilbert and then coached by Paul White Bronco’s CEO  and Anthony Griffin of Broncos/Penrith fame. He could play anywhere. Dan also played with Yeppoon and now his youngest bloke plays for the Parkwood Sharks. Like his mum, he is a diehard Eels fan.


At the risk of my sisters ever reading this, they had no choice but to love footy. Josephine married a Pearson from Rocky. My sister’s boys lived around the world and all played a bit in Canberra where they settled. Their schools played the “garrison’ game but they love their footy. I promised to take them to an Origin at Lang Park if they ever moved to Brisbane. Sure enough, my sister had a one year stint in Brissy and – you guessed it – it cost me two Origin tickets. But I loved it as it fitted into that long link that went back to my table built in the 1870s. The boy’s father was a Pearson from Rocky. All six Pearson boys pulled on the Butchers stripes in Rocky and, at the same time, the five Griffin boys (Anthony’s family) also donned the Leprechaun above their heart.


Big Irish Catholic families may be a thing of the past but our post-war parents sure took the ‘populate or perish’ policy seriously. Playing for Brothers in Rocky was a point of difference for Catholic kids growing up in Queensland country towns into the early 80s. It was a label but we loved it and little did we know that it was started with Signum Fidei. My baby sister, Louise, only has girls but she loves footy. Her acerbic commentary would reduce many modern players to blubbering messes. Her current passion is to text me during games to bag any player, official or commentator who does anything to which she takes exception.


When I coached Atherton, I took some Brothers blokes up with me, including Peter Gilbert at five-eighth and Timmy Robinson (who played rep footy for NQ and captained Innisfail-Eacham to two Foley Shield wins) at half-back. Mark ‘Ox’ Anderson (another NQ rep who played in five winning Foley Shield teams with Innisfail and Mackay) was my other bookend and Mick Bagley was a no-nonsense and very tough centre. Atherton ran last with just two wins in 1988 but, with these recruits, we got beaten in the first Cairns District Rugby League Grand Final at Barlow Park. They couldn’t all come with me to Bundy where Bundaberg Brothers already had some outstanding country footballers.


Just as my Dad and I had watched Rocky Brothers teams in the 40s and 70s, now it was my boys’ turn to watch Bundy Brothers in the 90s. Ronny Harch, Patty Pope, the Hamiltons, ‘Rooster’ Rackemann, Bobby Bell, Paul Sanderson and ‘Soapy’ Rutledge were all players they loved. Because we went to local footy every weekend, the local team and the local players were just as important as the ARL matches. They even had a villain just like Dad and I had in the old days. Dad’s villain in the 40s was Jack Kelly from Fitzroys. Mick and John hated Jack, except when he was dishing it out in rep footy in Rocky colors. Kelly was a well-known Police Sergeant and, by all reports, a very tough man. My public enemy was Stewie White, an Aboriginal centre who could cut any team to ribbons. White was from a family of tough footballers and many of his relatives have been and still are involved in footy today. As well as scoring tries, White could also dish it out. His son Graham was a tremendous player in Rocky in the 90s and is a leader in the Indigenous community today. We often catch up and have a yarn, never planned but always at a game of footy.


In the 90s, the player my boys loved to hate was West’s captain/coach Darren Fleming, a tall, tough forward. He gave and expected no quarter. If the boys ever complained about life at home, their mother would say, “If you keep that up, I’m going to phone Darren Fleming”. He was the best behavior modifier ever. I recently bumped into Darren and recounted the story to him. He thought it was hilarious – sort of. But, when he was in Bundy colors, my boys loved seeing him get stuck into another team’s forwards.


The first of the fourth generation of the footballing O’Hanlons started their playing days at Bundaberg Brothers. Not dissimilar to the situation with the Rocky Brothers, playing for the ‘fish’ in Bundy made you loved or hated. I had moved to Bundaberg as a teacher and captain/coached Brothers in 1990. The link between Brothers clubs ran strong. Shane ‘Cyclone’ Sullivan, who I had watched as a kid, was on the Committee while the Reas and the Byrnes had sons who had played with me in Brisbane. My old school mate and half-back, Peter Gilbert, came with me from our previous season in Atherton.


At the same time, Johnny’s daughter had a number of sons in Townsville. The Young boys loved their footy and they loved Brothers. The older boys, Matt and Jake, played in a number of Townsville Brothers sides including the 2011 Premiership team which won a thriller over Burdekin. Johnny made the trip up for the game and, of course, he loved seeing the Brothers win and being coached by an old Rocky Brothers boy, Murray Hurst. Modern work commitments impacted on the boys’ availability after that but Johnny assured me they will have boys playing in the blue and white somewhere in the future because ‘that’s just what we do’. He always said in his laconic voice, “They say I’m one-eyed but I’m not. I’ve got one Blue eye and one white eye.” And he means it!


An advantage of moving with kids is that you get the opportunity to not only see many places but also meet many people. As we trekked around Queensland, it was our boys and their sport, footy, which allowed them to make friends and us, as parents, to be involved in the communities we lived in. There were always kids playing footy somewhere. Sadly, you just don’t see a lot of kids doing that anymore.


Well-known Bundaberg rugby league identity and ground announcer Terry Dodd bumped into me a few years ago at a recent Lang Park match (Yes, that’s right, Lang Park – as it will always be!) and asked after our three boys. When I said they were all fine, he said that they must have hated him. I was puzzled and asked why he thought that. He replied, “All I ever said was, ‘Will those boys move away from the sideline? Yeah, that’s right, you O’Hanlon boys and your mates’.” We laughed but, boy, were they games of footy. No ref, no parents, just kids of mixed age playing away without a care in the world – just like I did with my brothers and mates and just like Young Mick and Johnny did with the Murray Rovers. You could be whichever star of the day you wanted to be and score that try or make that tackle to win the game. It was the greatest freedom lucky kids ever had. If you copped a bump or bruise you both rubbed it hard and played on or you drifted out. ‘G Squared’ always knew if they had copped one as they would come and sit beside her, quietly recomposing and working out if it was safe to go back into the fray. Often Monday at school meant Mum had rubbed some oil or bandaged up a joint so they’d be right for the next weekend when it was on all over again.


With the advent of Origin, a new family bond emerged. This may be hard to believe but we only support Queensland. Blindly. Origin night was and still is a special night. If we can’t get to the game together we use texting technology to communicate during the game. Messages ebb and flow as the battle rages between the Blue and the Maroon. Group texts bagging anything blue and the commentary team are allowed. It’s all the more special if we know someone playing or, when the junior clubs of the players are named, there are a few Brothers boys playing. Origin players like Matt Scott, Dave Taylor and Ben Hunt played with our sons at school and in the juniors when we were in the Central Highlands of Central Queensland. Some of them have sat at the old table and had scones and a cordial just as names past have done.


Each of our boys played for Bundy Brothers as their first club and they loved it. As well as playing against local clubs, they also had the chance to play Brothers in Brisbane, Gladstone and Rockhampton in friendlies just as my brothers and I had done against Bundaberg, Ipswich and Mackay Brothers in the 70s and 80s. The boys all won premierships in the butchers stripes and, in 2009, Jacob and Thomas played in the Brisbane Brothers team that won the Open Northside Division 2 Sub-districts premiership. Just as Young Mick and John had won in 1963, Ben and I had won in 1990, and Matt and Jake Young had done in Townsville, a pair of O’Hanlon brothers were in the 2009 Premiership photo. It may not have been at the greatest level or on the highest stage, nevertheless it was in the butchers stripes with their mates. Some of their mates were sons of Brothers boys I had played with like the Munros and Russells. Being at the final at Davies Park that day was like a Brisbane Brothers reunion. Brisbane Brothers had fallen on hard times since their last premiership in 1987 and the traditional supporters were out in force and in good voice to see the Brethren take their first senior prize since then. What a win, and we celebrated like it was St Patrick’s Day.


It is impossible to put a value on some items. It is impossible to comprehend the volume of conversation about footy over a hundred years at a table. Those original Brothers men started a unique adventure that is still going and, while it may not be directed to God today, it is an organisation providing direction and opportunity to a whole group of kids. And to think that our family, who are in our fifth generation supporting the club, with young O’Hanlon’s about to turn 5 and 6, still talk at the same old kitchen table. My table was there in the thick of the action from the very beginning and still is. I’m left with only one thing to do. I stare at the table and I have just whacked it with my fist. I stare again and, just as Michelangelo did to his Moses, I yell loudly, “SPEAK!” ‘G Squared’ yells out, “Is everything OK?” I reply, “Yes, everything is just fine. It’s just the wind”. I could feel that wind just blowing gently on my back.


Post script: My father, “Young Mick”, passed away in 2016 after a long battle with illness. The funeral filled Rockhampton’s Cathedral, the church where he was baptised, with Brothers men. His most trusted possession, his 1956 torch bearers Olympic Bronze Medal, was passed around during the Eulogy by my brother Jim. At the end of the service, James said to me, “I’ve lost the bloody medal!” I said not to worry and, within minutes, Dad’s old wingman, his younger brother John, Uncle Johnny, came over with it. “Boys”, he said, “I’ve got the Medal. I wasn’t gonna let any of those bastards get Mick’s Medal.” We laughed. In 2019, just after his 77th birthday, just like his brother Mick, Uncle Johnny passed away. They loved their footy!


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  1. That table should write its memoirs! What tales it could tell – especially with the odd bit of Irish blarney thrown in. The result would be a layman’s general history of rugby league in Australia, with particular reference to rugby league in Queensland and the confraternity of Brothers clubs throughout the State. Set up a recording device and get that table to talk, Matt. (And, by the way, a beautiful table.)

  2. Scott Munro says

    What a great read and generates memories of a bygone era, which is only a generation passed, but sadly, is unlikely ever to be revisited.

  3. Tom Cranitch says

    Great read Matt – plenty of laughs and memories and the odd tear. Up Brothers!

  4. Matt O'HANLON says

    Thanks fellas. I have fielded a few complaints from family members. My mother’s youngest brother said he can’t believe I didn’t mention the 1969 Rocky schools grand final when playing for the Brothers (school) He stepped around Rocket who was playing for rocky high. My brother in law said what about his youngest scoring a long range try to win a game forCanberra Marist. You gotta love footy!

  5. You’re having us on MOH. You could never live south of the Tweed.

    I will respond appropriately in due course.

    But this is simply magnificent.

  6. Dan OHanlon says

    They say There’s a league team in old Rocky town , Brothers they call us by name. Proud of the jersey they wear on the field , proud of The rugby league game …

  7. What a fantastic article Matt! A witty and very accurate chunk of Australian history, every country town born Aussie has had some association with the local footy! Your stories were a great reminder!
    I too have had the honour of sitting at that old table, the energy. was palpable! Beautiful people you O’Hanlon’s!

  8. Sinead’s Personal Assistant says

    Fantastic article Matt.

    Just curious as to why you excluded your niece’s footy**** career and how she was the 2019 recipient of the Coach’s Award and named best on ground twice.

    Not a huge deal – She’s currently retired – but perhaps an angle for your next piece.

    *** footy – potato /poTAto

  9. John Michael Gorman says

    written Matthew. Cheers.
    u got to tell how g sqaured got her name.
    Hi to all

  10. Mark Anderson says

    Well written Ox. As a late comer to having played for the team in the blue and the white they call Brothers, I was amused at how well respected our taste for marine life was to opposition players.

  11. bob bell says

    Love it Matty, once a fish always a fish.

  12. Matt Young says

    Great read Matt! Lecko would have loved reading this! Thanks for the mention too, I always loved sitting with him and listening to his old footy stories, thanks for writing this.

  13. Paul Garth says

    Great article Matt .. as a Victorian our clan was and remains fanatical about Aussie Rules yet the generational story reminded me of going to the footy with my mum & grandma, playing, watching sons and now grandsons, .. regardless of the code footy is so important to the fabric of communities.

  14. Mick O’Hanlon says

    Well written Matt – Grandad, Mick and Lecko , would be proud. ??

  15. Mick O’Hanlon says

    Well written Matt – Grandad, Mick and Lecko , would be proud. ??

  16. MOH your uncle Mick as coach in U15/16 had unique trading drills – work boots, hessian bags, the rest is best told over a beer. A fantasy bloke.

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