Regional teams from across Queensland arrived at the Toowoomba Fairgrounds on a Friday afternoon, excited and eager to compete in the 11th State College High School Championship and play and watch “good football.” Opening games were to be played under the lights, something the children loved to experience. But that was not to be. The cozy Toowoomba weather that night was terrifying and downright dangerous.
Before the championships could begin, a visiting officials conference was held. After all the paperwork was completed; accommodation arranged and printed programs distributed, Darling Downs organizing officials informed visiting officials that there was a bus to transport the two teams that were not housed. However, no driver was listed or provided to transport players to and from a hostel on the outskirts of Toowoomba during the course of the championships. The championship coordinator asked if any visiting officials had a bus license. A teacher trainer indicated that he did have that license. He was asked if he would drive the bus as one of the teams was, in fact, his team. So he drove the bus carrying his team, Brisbane South, and the Gold Coast team. If he had known what awaited him that first night, he certainly would not have volunteered.
The opening night of the carnival, which was played at the Toowoomba Show Grounds, was a night of extremes. Toowoomba, in the best of winter at night, is a very cold place in Queensland. Before the first night game, the weather got nasty. As night approached, the temperature dropped rapidly and by the start of the siren, it was freezing. But that was not all. Then a dense fog engulfed the ground so much that the referees could not see the goals at either end while standing in the timekeeper’s room in the center wing. They only knew that a goal had been scored when the ball bounced in the middle. The way the players managed to keep up with the game was also a miracle.
. A teacher remembers this about these championships.
Toowoomba showed very little compassion towards the game with a wintry spell that had the Show Grounds covered in thick fog for most of the game. There are numerous stories of one of the umpires running near the coach boxes and advising the teachers / coaches to go to the far end where a player had been 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 has a great story to tell his grandchildren.
In fact, refereeing such a game was not the easiest task. On that first night, the two referees were able to control the game with great difficulty until the lights went out. But the weather deteriorated even more!
This fog was followed by a violent windy storm that hit the fairgrounds. The light towers of the fairgrounds were connected by long immersion power lines. While lightning and thunder abounded during the storm, the wind grew stronger and stronger until it reached gale-like proportions. This caused the electric light wires between the poles to swing randomly. Sparks began to fly when the wire touched. Finally, when they became very entangled, they merged the entire system. The fairgrounds plunged into total darkness. The remaining games scheduled to be played that night were postponed as the lighting system could not be repaired until the storm subsided.
The drama did not end there. The nominated bus driver had to transport him and the Gold Coast team to their shelter after the games were abandoned. Driving the bus through a violent storm on a narrow winding unknown mountain road proved to be a great feat of human endeavor. He was forced to drive very slowly and carefully, given his responsibility to ensure that both teams of teens arrived safely. Sometimes the visibility was so poor; He had to get off the bus to see if he was on the road! On one occasion, he had to navigate a fallen tree. Every time the Toowoomba championship is mentioned, he reminds his audience that his experience that night was one of the most traumatic experiences of his life.
Despite that night and the need for some teams to play two games the next day, the championships turned out to be a great success. The championship ended on a high note for Darling Downs fans when their team won their first championship game on the final day of the championship.