The 1977 BARLA southern hemisphere tour

In 1977, just 4 years after the inception of the independent governing body of the amateur game, the BARLA Great Britain Open Age Rugby League Team staged its first tour to the southern hemisphere. The tourists were away for 38 days, travelled a total of 30000 miles, visiting Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand, and played nine matches in total.

Port Moresby, in Papua New Guinea, was their first stop for a series of three matches against Zonal sides, with the local crowds playing a key role.  The first game at Rabaul, was a fairly one sided game with the Great Britain team running out convincing 41-13 winners, in front for 5600 supporters. The second game at the Rugby League Oval in Lae was a much closer encounter. After 74 minutes the locals were 4-2 up, but then in one corner of the ground, local spectators invaded the pitch and began attempting to attack the British players, causing the match to be abandoned. The British team were ready to leave, but after constant discussions they stayed to complete the series. A thrilling final game saw Britain hang on to a 26-25 victory at Mount Hagen and in a good position heading to the next stage of the tour.

Two matches were then played against University representative sides in Australia, at Leichard Oval, home of the famous Balmain Club, before the last leg of the tour began across the Tasman Sea. In New Zealand the party was given a cocktail reception at Parliament House by the Prime Minister and the groundbreaking tour ended with a match against Waikato Province which was televised live the ‘Sport on One’ programme.