Almanac Rugby League – The Revolution can wait: radical Brisbane and rugby league

Queensland remains a wonderful place, full of obvious contradictions; the sort of contradictions which are hidden away in other places, the ones that work hard to present an air of sophistication and urbanity. Queensland’s down-on-the-farm, rent-a-holiday-unit-to-a-southerner conservatism prevails. But from colonial times Queensland has given rise to a small, energetic group of progressives; intellectuals and artists whose radicalism, while influenced by individuals and movements overseas, has always had a local flavour and the heartening element that it could have been developed from first principles. (I always find this more than reassuring).

Karl Marx wasn’t one to sing the praises of religion, and the thinkers who have followed in his tradition have conveyed a similar view of mass sport. (Although I did see a wonderful postcard done by fine Melbourne sports artist Jim Pavlidis, of a heavily bearded nineteenth century man in footy knicks taking a grab on the footy field with the caption “Karl Marx in the forward pocket”). However, the radicals of Brisbane have their own understandings.

Dan O’Neill is one of Queensland’s characters. A lecturer in literature at the University of Queensland he has influenced (literally) three generations of Queenslanders. He advocates free thinking, and the pursuit of understanding for its own sake. For years he has been talked about  by many for whom he has been (and remains) an inspiration.

Dan is a key member of the 17 Group which meets monthly in Brisbane. Here is a recent message from Dan, on finding out about a forthcoming clash:


Consulting the Originist liturgical calendar for the current year we find that the most important Holy Day of Obligation occurs on the day of this coming month of July on which the 17 Group would ordinarily hold one of its meetings.  This being the case, given that many of our own politico-cultural adepts are equally Originist devotees (mainly Maroonites) and despite the objections of such prominent and aggressive non-believers as Richard Dawkins, we will hold the July meeting, not on Wednesday the 4th of July but on Wednesday the 11th of July, when Ciaron O’Reilly will speak on Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

The outcome of the third ecumenical conference on this coming Wednesday, for indeed such is the important form taken by the celebration of this feast day this year, at a time when the points at issue between the Maroonites – not to be confused with the Maronites (from another religion) –  and the Blueites – not to be confused with the Bloomites (from yet another religion) – the outcome, I say, will resolve a theological dispute that has seen the Maroonites emerge as the ‘ major vehicle’ (to borrow terminology from yet another religion) for the last six years.  As  practising Maroonites we can only, for a favourable providential intercession, invoke the saints:

Saint Wally of Lang Park pray for us!

Saint Darren of Lockyer bray for us!

Saint Billy of the Back Line catch for us!

Saint Thurston of Headgear kick for us!

(from Dan O’Neill)


  1. JJ Leahy says

    State of Origin is the great tribal unifier for people living in Queensland. It breaches the divides of wealth, politics, religion, ethnicity, and location. People I know who have made Queensland their home from Americans to Afghanis are entralled by it. It is just about the best social glue we have.

    Roy Masters on the ABC’s Sporting Nation last night remarked that State of Origin only existed because Queenslanders have a chip on the shoulder. This is a superficial analysis. We have a chip on both shoulders.

  2. Greg Mallory says

    nice piece on Dan O’Neill and radicalism in Brisbane. I remember in the 60s when Queensland student radicals used to go to Melbourne for a conference they were amazed that the Victorians used to close the conference at 1 pm so they could all go to the football. I think Dave Nadelwas one of these, going off to the Collingwood match. The Vietnam War could wait until Sunday!

  3. Yes, in Victoria sport, and politics interact nicely. My mind casts back to the 1990’s, working in a public hospital. There was a simmering dispute the orderlies, management could not resolve, so the orderlies met to work out how to up the ante. Bingo, it was a Monday ,last day of a shield match. The members walked out, off to the cricket. Next morning they returned, management had an offer to settle. How can U fault that?


  4. I’ve just heard a Blues loving Queensland ABC employee (why the ABC thinks they can foist these NSW blow-ins on us worries me) bagging Queensland’s State of Origin fervor – and then going into meltdown about Manley pinching North Sydney players.
    You’d think he’d understand, but then again, he comes from Sydney.

Leave a Comment