Lang Park is the spiritual home of rugby league in Brisbane, and each year it becomes the shrine at which State of Origin is worshipped. Originally a cemetery, it is now seen as the burial grounds of the hated Blues (New South Wales) players and supporters who annually aspire to an Origin win here. Actual burials though, ceased when the cemetery was closed in 1875, with the remains of those interred being transferred to Toowong Cemetery. Then the area was used as a rubbish tip prior to its development as a sporting ground. The picture below, from 1919, shows the rudimentary playing fields, and behind them can be seen the signage for the Ithaca Baths in Caxton St.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #21561)
During the fifties and sixties, prior to the State of Origin concept, Brisbane club premiership matches at Lang Park were as keenly followed as today's interstate clashes, particularly when the local Wests team was in winning form. Lang Park was regularly filled for the Brisbane club grand finals. I played the other code, rugby union, but it's hard to avoid rugby league influences here in Brisbane. Rugby union supporters are often referred to as "rah-rahs" because it is mainly played in private schools (I, in fact, attended state primary and secondary schools in the heartland of rugby league - I'm just contrary sometimes!), and we in turn called league players and supporters "mungos", a reference to the Mungo Man of early evolution. State of Origin was also known as "Origin of the Species" in a backhanded compliment to the toughness of these matches. So I didn't visit Lang Park too frequently. I once took a girlfriend to a grand final in which the local rugby league team she supported was playing for the Brisbane premiership, but they lost. The relationship seemed to go downhill quite quickly after that.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)
Of course, every Queenslander knows that the Lang Park name no longer exists, but, like the cockroach (gratuitous sledge aimed at Blues supporters!), it has proven to be hard to eradicate. The place has been renamed Suncorp Stadium, and after a couple of makeovers it is now a modern sporting venue with impressive facilities. A more complete history of Lang Park/Suncorp Stadium can be found here, and my picture (above) will give you an idea of this huge complex. Spectators can be delivered right to the door by bus, and train travellers have been provided with a covered walkway that takes them from Milton Station to the front gate. Suncorp Stadium now hosts not only rugby league, but also other major sporting events including the rugby union Super 14 series and test matches from both codes. It is also used as an outdoor concert venue - the recent Andre Rieu concerts were completely sold out, and Suncorp Stadium was teeming with blue-haired grannies instead of blue-haired NSW supporters.
Click here for a Google Map.
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