NORTH Queensland Cowboys young gun Michael Morgan’s promise of what the Confraternity Shield would mean for the rest of their lives drove a precise Ignatius Park College back to schoolboy rugby league’s most cherished prize in Bundaberg today.
Morgan has won an NRL premiership, State of Origin series and a World Cup for Australia but, over dinner a few weeks ago with Townsville’s Ignatius Park team, he told them the Confraternity Shield was right up there with his favourite memories.
Ignatius Park didn’t forget his advice as they charged to their sixth Confraternity Shield win with a 34-0 shutout of Rockhampton’s Cathedral College in the July 5 final before a packed crowd at The Waves Sports Complex.
It was Ignatius Park’s sixth Confraternity Shield triumph – Morgan and his Cowboys teammate Kyle Feldt were part of the team that claimed the Townsville school’s first shield in 2008.
“Michael (Morgan) sat down with our players over dinner and he told them that his Confro memories were as good as they got in football – it was about playing with and for your mates and your school and the school community,” Ignatius Park coach Steve Lansley said.
“He told them he would never forget his Confro win and it remained right up there with all he had done since.
“We remembered that this week and our players really responded.”
The spirit of Confraternity showed on the Ignatius Park bench where backrower Dean Barnes insisted on dressing in his playing gear despite the fact that his plaster-encased broken arm, suffered earlier in the week, would prevent him from running on.
The carnival brings together 48 private school teams – almost all Catholic schools – from across Queensland to continue a tradition that began with six teams in Bundaberg in 1980.
Ignatius Park have established themselves as the dominant Confraternity force over the past decade – Valentine Holmes, Patrick Kaufusi and Coen Hess were part of the team that won three straight from 2011.
But they were wary of The Cathedral College, which stormed into the final with five consecutive wins.
Cathedral College used early kicks to try to turn Townsville’s larger pack around, hoping the big men would tire by covering metres.
But coach Lansley’s tactics worked – Ignatius Park’s forwards laid a platform and their faster, smaller men found the holes to complete a lopsided win that resembled the 42-6 triumph by Johnathan Thurston’s former school St Mary’s College, Toowoomba, in last year’s final in Charters Towers.
St Mary’s defeated Ignatius Park in the semi-final last year and Mr Lansley said that experience had toughened his players and focused them on responding this year.
They had to overcome the loss of their halves pairing, meaning Ignatius Park had to reshuffle its key players.
But they responded by conceding only two tries in their six matches during the carnival.
“That’s what Confro is about – you never get everything to go your way. It’s always a challenge,” Mr Lansley said.
“We learned a lesson last year that we had to peak on Thursday and Friday.
“We didn’t want to leave it all out there early in the week and the preparation worked out perfectly for us.
“We were clunky in attack all week but we finally put it together today.”
Third place went to Marymount College, Burleigh Waters, after they overcame Padua College 20-4 in their playoff.
Padua was among the most impressive teams of the week, setting up well for the AIC schools’ first staging of rugby league as a term sport later this month.
All 48 teams played three pool matches on Monday and Tuesday morning before the teams were sorted into pools of eight to play for the Confraternity Shield, Trophy, Plate, Bowl, Cup and Challenge.
St Patrick’s College, Mackay, claimed the second-tier Bob Linder Trophy with a 42-8 win over St Patrick’s College, Shorncliffe, while the Confraternity Plate went to Clairvaux MacKillop College, Upper Mt Gravatt, which defeated St Thomas More College, Sunnybank, 18-10.
The locals celebrated when host Shalom College edged Caboolture’s St Columban’s College in the Confraternity Bowl final.
Holy Spirit College, Mackay, won the Confraternity Cup while the combined team from St Patrick’s College, Gympie, and St Mary’s College, Maryborough, won the Confraternity Challenge.
An honorary team of the carnival’s best players was named, featuring five players from the shield final.
The fields were turned out in superb order and the Bundaberg community rallied around the carnival, which was held at the same time as the Queensland Independent Secondary Schools’ Netball carnival, which attracted teams from 64 schools.
QISSRL president Peter Elmore rated the carnival as a success.
“We speak about the spirit of Confraternity because this carnival is always about spirit, fair play, fellowship and all of the good qualities of sportsmanship,” Mr Elmore said.
“We saw that throughout the week.
“I congratulate all players and team officials for the outstanding way in which they played.
“We look forward to the 41st Confraternity Carnival next year, to be hosted by Iona College.”