After a wipeout and a false start, rugby league’s famous Confraternity Carnival – featuring mostly Catholic schools from across Queensland – returns this year with the promise of a full competition for the first time since 2019.
And “Confro”, as it’s become known, will have its Opening Mass just hours before Sunday night’s second State of Origin match underlines the Carnival’s importance in developing the next generation of Queensland league stars.
Eight Confraternity Carnival graduates are in the Maroons squad for Origin II – Daly Cherry-Evans (St Patrick’s College, Mackay), Cameron Munster (Emmaus College, Rockhampton), Valentine Holmes (Ignatius Park College, Townsville), Ben Hunt, Harry Grant and Corey Oates (St Brendan’s College, Yeppoon), Felise Kaufusi (Shalom College, Bundaberg), and Lindsay Collins (Padua College, Kedron). Xavier Coates (Marymount College, Burleigh Waters) was injured during Origin I.
Confraternity Carnival brings together schools teams – 48 schools will contest the boys’ competition while nine schools will contest only the second girls’ event. The carnival will be held in Mackay for the third time, and the first time since 1996.
At the same time, the Queensland Independent Secondary Schools Netball tournament will be held in Mackay with 64 teams expected at the Mackay Multisport Centre. Many Catholic co-educational schools are represented in both tournaments.
Confraternity Carnival, organised by Queensland Independent Secondary Schools Rugby League, was held every year from 1980 until 2019. In 2020, the carnival could not be held because of Covid-19. Last year, “Confro” had reached its quarter-final stages at Iona College when a Covid-19 lockdown in southeast Queensland forced its immediate cancellation.
More than 1000 schoolboys and almost 200 schoolgirls – almost all from Catholic schools along with some Independent schools – will make their way to North Queensland this weekend to play for one of the most cherished trophies in Queensland school sports. Mackay’s St Patrick’s College and Mercy College are the joint hosts.
Townsville’s Ignatius Park College – the home of some of North Queensland’s greatest players – will aim to break a drought and defend the Confraternity Shield that it won in the last tournament to be completed in Bundaberg in 2019.
Ignatius Park will attempt to become the first team to defend its Confraternity Shield title since St Brendan’s College, Yeppoon, backed up in 2015. The title has moved between teams since then as Confro continues to throw up graduates who become NRL stars.
The arrival of new players each year makes it difficult to predict winners but teams from outside southeast Queensland including Ignatius Park College, St Brendan’s College and The Cathedral College, Rockhampton will be competitive.
St Patrick’s College, Mackay will be among the favourites as it attempts to win its school’s first Confraternity Shield since 2003. That was St Patrick’s’ eighth Shield title and its third in four years in a stretch that included future stars Grant Rovelli and Brett Seymour.
Southeast Queensland’s claims lay with the likes of Johnathan Thurston’s alma mater St Mary’s College, Toowoomba and Coates’ former school Marymount College while a strong contingent of schools from the Associated Independent Colleges across greater Brisbane and beyond will also prove competitive.
The participating schools for the second girls’ competition – and the first to reach a final – are: Shalom Catholic College (Bundaberg), St Joseph’s College (Toowoomba), Emmaus College (Rockhampton), The Cathedral College (Rockhampton), St Patrick’s College (Mackay), Marymount College (Burleigh Waters), Southern Cross Catholic College (Townsville), St Margaret Mary’s College (Townsville) and St Ursula’s College (Yeppoon).
Former NRL players Matt Geyer (Marymount) and his 1999 Melbourne Storm premiership teammate Tony Martin (The Cathedral College, Rockhampton), Chris McKenna (Iona College), Antonio Kaufusi (Shalom College girls), Scott Minto (St Brendan’s) and David Faiumu (Rockhampton Grammar) are involved in the coaching and management of teams.
QISSRL president and Padua College Rector Peter Elmore said Confraternity Carnival brought together teams united by a Christian background.
“The Carnival has grown in size since it was first contested in 1980 but it remains an event in which fair play, respect and fellowship are most highly valued,” Mr Elmore said. “We are proud of the many schools and players who have contested this event over the decades. While there is a great list of former Confraternity players who have gone on to the game’s highest levels, we’re always just as proud of the manner in which the Carnival is played.
“Following the challenges of the last three years, we look to the carnival in Mackay with much optimism. Like previous regional carnivals, I am sure that this year’s event will also make a significant contribution to the local community, and I thank the broader community of Mackay for their hospitality and their support.”
Janelle Agius, principal of the host schools, said: “St Patrick’s College and Mercy College united together are proud of being granted the privilege of hosting. The carnival brings together people and builds teamwork, resilience, integrity and community spirit. These experiences will give (players) the strong foundations and skills required to tackle many more adventures that await them on their journey of life.”
The boys’ carnival is contested in three divisions of 16 teams each with matches to be played on June 27, 28, 30 and July 1. The make-up of the divisions can be found on the QISSRL website: www.confraternitycarnival.com.au Each team plays two matches of 20-minute halves on the opening two days. Finals begin on the second afternoon and culminate in the Confraternity Shield final at 12.30pm on July 1.
The girls’ teams will each play two games on Monday 27 June and two games on Tuesday 28 June. Those results will determine the order for Thursday’s finals, during which each team will play one match. The girls’ grand final will be held at 1pm on Thursday 30 June.
Every match from the six playing fields will be livestreamed at www.confraternitycarnival.com.au