The ’88 touring side that stole QLD’s trophy, sneaked into Expo, and came home empty-handed

Sun, Jan 22, 2023, 10:00 PM
NT Rugby
by NT Rugby
Wylie Lingman (centre) and Tony Thompson (right) with the 1988 QLD Schools trophy at Brisbane's Crosby Park.
Wylie Lingman (centre) and Tony Thompson (right) with the 1988 QLD Schools trophy at Brisbane's Crosby Park.

When Tony Thompson got the nod to take a NT invitational side to Brisbane in 1988, he wasn’t expecting too much from his young charges.

Queensland Rugby had offered NT a last-minute place in their state schoolboy rugby tournament – held at Brothers' home ground Crosby Park – and an U13s side was quickly slapped together to make the journey.

Though a few players were school or club teammates, there was no prior squad experience.

Thompson was juggling the head and forward coaching roles while good mate Wylie Lingman ran the backs and managed team duties.

All in all, NT’s prospects weren’t great.

As Thompson recalls, they were only supposed to be “making up the numbers”.

NT U13 state champs (cropped)

“We went through the tournament and the Queenslanders weren’t expecting us to do anything – I think they thought we should just be happy to be there,” Thompson said.

“But sure enough, we ended up making it through to the final and scored the only try of the game right on the bell!”

Sure enough, Thompson’s side were crowned QLD U13 tournament champions after a thrilling and low-scoring final – but not without an almighty stink from their hosts.

“The Queenslanders couldn’t believe it. They were furious and didn’t want to acknowledge the result at first,” Thompson said.

“We had to ask for the trophy ourselves – they didn’t hand it to us - and we could only take a picture with it on the ground.

“We had to ask if we could get our name engraved on the trophy, and they said they’d do that, but they wouldn’t even let us keep it or take home a smaller replica trophy.

NT U13 '88 winners pennant -

“All we got to show for it was a red and white pennant.”

Thankfully, the touring squad found better hospitality off the paddock with Thompson revealing his U13s enjoyed backstage access to the biggest ticket in town – Brisbane Expo ’88.

“The whole tour was looked after by NT Tourism and one day we went down to Expo to visit the Northern Territory pavilion they had set up.”

“We ended getting all the boys through the back door and straight into the middle of Expo. It was unbelievable. Such a good experience for the boys.”

The pennant has since been located and will be returned to NT Rugby

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