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50 Years Ago: The 1972 NSW State Championship

Fire Brigade Championships (as we know them today) began as ‘Demonstrations’ where fire brigades demonstrated their skills to the local community. Events in the ‘Demo’ are based on real situations that firefighters face daily and are designed to highlight their talent and expertise. These demonstrations were also used as a way to train firefighters. Now, State Firefighting Championships continue to be one of Fire and Rescue NSW’s (FRNSW; formerly NSW Fire Brigades) most longstanding and proudest traditions.


This week, our Championship Historian and guest blogger, John Hand, takes us back 50 years to the 1972 ‘Demo’ held in Coffs Harbour.


Fifty years ago, Coffs Harbour hosted the tenth State Demonstration, now known as State Championships. The event ran from Monday 9th October to Saturday 14th October at Brelsford Park and was officially opened by the Honourable I. R. Griffith, M.L.A., Chief Secretary and Minister for Sport. This was the tenth ‘Demo’ held post World War II and Coffs Harbour’s first time as host. Over the years, the coastal locations have been attractive venues for teams from across the state, with 90 team entering on this occasion.


The cover of the official programme for the event.

Finley proved to be the best team over the week of competition, finishing ahead of Yass and Narrandera with Bowral and Nowra the next best. Finley walked away as the 1972 state champions and won the esteemed Alfred Webb Cup.


Finley had previously won the State ‘Demo’ in 1970, and with this repeated win, they earned themselves the unofficial title of ‘the Giantkillers’ with respect to defeating Orange (3 wins), Narrandera (3 wins) and Yass (2 wins) who had dominated the competition since the resumption of ‘Demos’ in 1954.


The prizes on offer for the winners of the 'Demo' [Museum of Fire collection]

Points were awarded to the first five placegetters in each event. Finley’s strongpoint was their consistency which earned them the winning score of 108, well ahead of Yass on 69.


Finley placed first in the First Aid Reel and Collector, Scaling Ladder and Hose Reel Events, and set new records in latter two. Following on, Peter Rourke’s second of four wins in the Alarm and Rescue Event set the tone for the ‘Demo’. His Finley teammate, Ken Bevan, placed second. The team earned second placings in Hose Reel & Ladder, Hose Cart & Ladder and Dennis 600 Collector events, with third and fifth in the Ladder Practice.


The Finley team stand proudly on stage and are congratulated by the Board's Secretary, Mr D. A. Webb [Fire News, Summer 1972]

The proud team consisted of Captain ‘Unc’ Adams, Ed Ryan, Jim Matheson, Peter Mansell, Peter Rourke, Barry Wilson and Ken Bevan, who returned to their small town in south New South Wales keen to continue their success, which they did again in 1974 and 1976, becoming the first team to make it four wins in a row.


- Story by Championship Historian John Hand

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