Sinon Bernard Boland
- 24Wallaby Number
Like his namesake, the strategically cunning mythological Greek soldier behind the Trojan Horse, Sinon Bernard Boland was a formidable force in his field of combat, rugby. Born on 12 July 1875 in Toowoomba, ’Sine’ was the son of Edmund and Catherine (nee Stapleton) Boland. His Irish-born, butcher father was Mayor of Toowoomba from 1889 to 1897. Sine represented Queensland in rugby from 1898 to 1903, a member of the Past Grammar Schools Football Club in Brisbane. When selected for the Australian team to play Great Britain in the first international series in 1899, the Referee newspaper called him a “first-class athlete” in recognition of his performance in seven or eight previous intercolonial rugby matches.
Standing at six-feet tall and weighing 12 stone, 7 lbs (80kg) in 1899, Sine played forward in the final two Test matches in the premier international series against Great Britain in August 1899 in Sydney. He again represented Australia in 1903 in the first-ever international Test match against New Zealand. He was named to the “Gallery of Great Players” on the occasion of Queensland Rugby Union’s Jubilee in 1932 for representing the State on more than 10 occasions. Sine’s total was 15 matches: 13 against NSW as a forward, one against Great Britain and one against New Zealand. Sine was instrumental in the founding of the Queensland Rugby League in 1907, when he loaned five-pence to the convenor, Carl Swenson, to cover postage for letters inviting interested parties to the meeting that established the League. Sine was elected to the first general committee of the League at that meeting as secretary, along with Queensland Rugby international players Mickey Dore, John Fihelly George Watson and three others.
Boland was also an accomplished oarsman, a member of the Brisbane Rowing Club who by 1899 had twice rowed in the Queensland Eights against Victoria and was selected for the next intercolonial contest. He was also fond of coursing. Sine had a distinguished military career in the Boer War. As a Lieutenant in the 6th Queensland Imperial Bushmen regiment, he was slightly wounded at Tinter's Kop in December 1901 and in 1902 was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ award, and the Queen's South Africa Medal. In 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Sine served briefly at Gallipoli late that year as Captain in the 1st Light Horse Brigade, 2nd Light Horse Regiment, 8th Reinforcements, but was discharged for alcoholism and returned to Australia in early 1916. Career-wise, Sine worked as a clerk and fettler for Queensland Railways. He was initially appointed as a 15-year-old apprentice clerk in April 1891 at the Southern and Western Railway, Traffic Department Branch, on a salary of 30 pounds per annum. By 1915, he was employed at the Railway Commissioner’s Office, Brisbane.Sine attempted to commence a political career after the First World War, and ran as an independent nationalist candidate for the seat of Inner Brisbane in 1919, but garnered only 773 votes. One other unusual episode stands out from Sine’s career. In 1909, he authored and copyrighted a nonsense novel, I Should Smile: A Neat Narrative, under the pseudonym Hank Humber. The book, long on bizarre streams-of-consciousness and word plays, makes occasional amusing references to rugby, including to “Jim the Janitor” who remembered the days when “they played without a ball, and anyone carried a goal post, who could pull one off the fence”. The fictional Jim “was the man who scared Gwynn Nicholls and Bob McCowan, and it was a great pity that the Wallabies didn’t take him home to lift the Leek from Wales”. Interestingly, Nicholls and McCowan were Boland’s Welsh rival and Queensland team-mate, respectively, from the 1899 international Test series. Sine married Mary Kathleen Phillips in Brisbane on 12 January 1904, and was the father of Bernard, Dudley and Paula. He lived in Brunswick Street, Valley, and died on 3 August 1954.
Howell and Howell have this to say about Boland in The Greatest Game Under the Sun: The History of Rugby League in Queensland: “The first secretary of the QRA [Queensland Rugby Association], A.B.”Sine”Boland, reportedly convened the first meeting. He worked for the Railways Department and was vice-President of the North Brisbane Rugby Union until his switch to Rugby League. He played Rugby Union for Queensland and Australia, as a forward. He participated in three Tests for Australia in the amateur code, two in 1899 against the British Isles and one in 1903 against the New Zealand All Blacks. He played for Queensland against NSW in 1898, 1899, 1900, 1902 and 1903, against New Zealand in 1903 and Great Britain in 1899. He was too old at 33 to play representative Rugby League in 1908. The fledgling Queensland Rugby Association changed its name in 1909 to the Queensland Amateur Rugby League (QARL). This name only seemed to last until 1911, when it became the Queensland Rugby League. When the QARL was formed in 1909, Boland, one of the pioneers , found himself no longer an officer. The Australian Team in his debut Test at the SCG in 1899 was Wally Cobb, Lonnie Spragg, Frank Row (capt.), Syd Miller, Peter Ward, Iggy O'Donnell, Arch Boyd, Alf Colton, Roger Barton, Sine Boland, Paddy Carew, Walter Davis, Charlie Ellis, Bill Webb and Bob Bouffler. It was a 10-11 loss.