Ration Shed chairperson Sandra Morgan in the new rugby league room in the old Boys Dormitory

July 8, 2014

Cherbourg’s NAIDOC celebrations were kicked off in a spectacular fashion with the official opening on Monday of the Ration Shed’s new Play The Ball exhibition.

Two rooms in the old Boys Dormitory have been turned into a celebration of Cherbourg’s many sporting heroes.

There’s a boxing corner,  a wall dedicated to Cherbourg’s marching girls, a “Wall Of Fame” and a very special rugby league room filled with guernseys, photos and other memorabilia.

A video showing rugby league players in action and many historic photos is playing in one corner with a soundtrack sung by Robert “Rocko” Langton.

The exhibition was officially opened by Cecil Brown Snr, a Cherbourg league player from the 1950s.

Also unveiled was a display celebrating the “Cherbourg Team Of The Century” selected in 2004 by Roy Fisher, Percy Iszlaub, Bill Oliver and Eric Law.

The celebrations at the Ration Shed opening followed a reunion organised to mark the official opening of a new tombstone in Cherbourg Cemetery to commemorate one of Cherbourg’s greatest sporting heroes, Frank “Bigshot” Fisher.

Frank was a spectacular rugby league player and also excelled in other sports, but did not achieve the recognition he deserved until after his death in 1980.

“He was a great man. He was a great footballer. He worked very hard to achieve good things in the community,” daughter Lillian Gray said.

  • NAIDOC celebrations will continue today (Tuesday) with a Community Open Day at the Ration Shed Museum from 10:30am. There’ll also be a barbecue, a musical playground, indigenous art, fun activities for children, film screenings and much more.

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Frank "Bigshot" Fisher
(Photo: Vock Collection)

Frank “Bigshot” Fisher (1905-1980)

Outside Cherbourg (and rugby league circles), Bigshot Fisher is usually referred to as “Cathy Freeman’s grandfather” … but in the South Burnett, he’s a legend in his own right.

Racism – there is no nice way of saying it – stopped Frank from shining on the international rugby league stage, but he did get the opportunity (twice) to turn out for Wide Bay against Great Britain touring teams in the 1930s, where he made a huge impression.

In fact, he was offered a contract in 1936 from an English rugby league club but the State Government refused his passport application.

In 2004, Bigshot Fisher was named in the Cherbourg Team Of The Century, four years later he was named in the South Burnett Team Of The Century and the Wide Bay Team Of The Century.

The ultimate accolade was his selection in the Indigenous Team Of The Century in 2008 alongside modern rugby league greats such as Eric Simms, Steve Renouf, Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Arthur Beetson and Cliff Lyons.

Not bad for a man who was rarely allowed to play league at the level his talent deserved!

Frank was also handy with a bat and ball.  He once hit 105 runs in 32 minutes while playing cricket for Cherbourg against Goomeri – including 11 sixes and five fours.

NB. In 1996, the new bridge heading into Cherbourg was named in his memory.

* * *

For the record, the Cherbourg Team Of The Century (1904-2004) selected in 2004 were:

  • Jack O’Chin – Fullback
  • Johnson Mate Mate – Wing
  • Jack Simpson – Centre
  • Eric Law – Centre
  • Daryl Harrison – Wing
  • Frank “Bigshot” Fisher – Five-eighth (captain)
  • Jack “Champ” Malone – Halfback
  • Bill Hegarty – Prop
  • Norman Bird – Hooker
  • Les Wragge Snr – Prop
  • Darcy Burke – Back Row
  • Duker Hart – Back Row
  • Duncan Cobbo – Lock
  • Charles “Toady” Hill – Reserve
  • Jack Watson – Reserve
  • Bev Costello Snr – Reserve
  • Arnold Murray – Reserve
  • Frank Malone – Reserve

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Family at the graveside ... from left, Gary Fisher, Tanya Gray, Elizabeth Kennell, Avril Gray, Troy Dunstan, Davina Carlo and Niquesha Gibson, Allan Fisher and Arnold Murray (Photo: Marcus Priaulx)
Grandson Farin Gray unveils the new memorial to Frank Fisher (Photo: Marcus Prialux)
Cr Arnold Murray and Cherbourg CEO Warren Collins at the opening
Cecil Brown Snr did the official duty of opening the new exhibition in the Old Boys Dormitory ... Cecil, 84, lives in Murgon these days but grew up in Cherbourg and is one of the last of the rugby league players from the great 1950s Cherbourg teams
Frank "Bigshot" Fisher's daughter Lillian Gray with Ada Simpson and Jennifer Hart at the unveiling of the new tombstone (Photo: Marcus Priaulx)
Russell "Skippy" Exelby spoke at the opening of the exhibition
League tragics Cr Barry Green and Frank Malone shared memories
Eddie Gilbert's son Eddie Barney with Ken Edwards, co-author of a biography of the famous fast bowler who infamously bowled Bradman for a duck at the Gabba in 1931
As well as a league player, Cecil Brown Snr was a handy boxer ... he's in front of a photo showing him downing Woorabinda fighter Claude Tomson in a bout in the Cherbourg Welfare hall in 1951
Jocelyn Clancy, mum of Aussie champion beach volleyball player Taliqua, with Frank Fisher's daughter Adelia Brooker, from Ipswich
Two of Bigshot's great-great-grandchildren Niquesha Gibson, 2, and Steven Carlo, 2, from Ipswich
Checking out the rugby league display were Elgar Harrison, from Hervey Bay, with Shamus Cobbo and Charlie Watson, from Cherbourg
Former Cherbourg State School principal Chris Sarra, representing the ARL Commission, unveiled a tribute to the Cherbourg rugby league "Team Of The Century" from 1904-2004 ... he's pictured with Aunty Sandra Morgan and former league player and boxer Cecil Brown Snr
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