MAROON GROWN HEROES
 

Rupert McCall was just like tens of thousands of young boys growing up, playing backyard cricket with younger brothers Brett and Steve. Or Pooh Bear and Boghead as he calls them.

There wasn't a shot he couldn't play, a ball he couldn't bowl or a catch he couldn't take as he lived the childhood dream of one day wearing the maroon cap of Queensland.

So when Australia's No.1 sporting poet was asked to pen an ode to the Queensland Bulls to underwrite the 2004-05 marketing campaign it was like an extension of his early days, when the trees were fielders, the house a backstop and young Rupert was the star in waiting.

"It wasn't such a complicated concept because it was something I've lived myself and in my eyes every young Queensland cricketer absolutely aspires to one day wear that baggy maroon," he said.

So it became a story not just of passion and pride, of dreams and destiny, but of the personal utopia that burned inside the young man turned wordsmith who has found a way to put it all down on paper. To tell the story that means so much to so many. Wonderfully so.

It was always the intention of Queensland Cricket for "Maroon Grown Heroes" to be an ongoing marketing vehicle and so, leading into the 2005-06 season, the wording of the official "Code of the Bull" was given a facelift.

Rupert McCall was asked to re-word the poem to take into account the circumstances of the time and bring it more into the present. Rather than the past, it was to focus more on the next generation of Bulls like James Hopes and Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and Chris Hartley.

So, there is now a new version of the 'Code of the Bull'.

The official poem of Queensland Cricket and the Bulls may well be further updated in years to come but there will always be only one original which tells the story of that unforgettable day on Tuesday 28 March 1995 when the Sheffield Shield was won for the first time.

McCall, a one-time lawyer and rugby player turned poet, TV reporter and 4BC radio host, among other things, was there at the Gabba when Queensland lived its cricketing dream.

In fact he was there every day as the Bulls ended one of Australian sport's great droughts when they crushed South Australia. When Carl Rackemann took that final catch off Paul Jackson at backward point to dismiss Jason Gillespie and bring the Shield "home".

He remembers Trevor Barsby's 151 and Martin Love's 146. And Allan Border's 98 and Matthew Hayden's 74 in Queensland's mammoth 664 after they'd rolled SA for 214 on day one. And how the wickets were shared between Rackemann and Jackson (5), Andy Bichel and Dirk Tazelaar (4), and captain Stuart Law (1) as SA, with 349 second time in, lost by an innings and 101 runs.

Over five days he missed two hours' play on the Friday due to a speaking engagement, but he never contemplated missing another ball. On the hill he sat, enjoying the wonderful camaraderie of hundreds of strangers turned best mates.

"Family matters aside it was the five most unforgettable days of sport in my life," he said. "I went along every day by myself but you'd meet so many different people. That was the beauty of the social institution that was the hill. You were instantly among friends."

On the last day, when victory was a formality, McCall and his new-found mates were singing and chanting. Enjoying the moment that had been so long coming, McCall found a glorious position on some shoulders and recited his State of Origin epic "Beware the Wounded Queenslander". There was a hush, a memory he says he'll take to his grave. Just like the victory itself.

Yet when Rackemann's catch put Queensland sporting tragics out of their misery McCall didn't follow the mob onto the field. "I wanted to stand still and lap it all up. It sounds a bit corny and cliched, but there was this wonderful Queensland family atmosphere, a bit of a bond that you can't describe, and I wanted to enjoy the moment," he said.

McCall doesn't remember that wonderful day just because of the famous Queensland sporting triumph. For it was also the day he met Kate, a young lass from Augathella who would become his wife. And the mother of his two children - Ella and Jake.

"Her great uncle was a QCC member. He'd died 12 months earlier but she and a friend had convinced the guy on the door that they needed to be there to represent the family," he recalls.

McCall had played First XI cricket at De La Salle as a handy batsman/keeper and played a few games at Sandgate before rugby took over. But cricket and racing remain his foremost sporting loves. A box quinella, says the man who loves and lives all sport.

So, writing "The Code of the Bull" was as much about personal experience as anything for McCall. And it was fitting that one member of the current Bulls side who typifies what the spirit of the poem is all about actually had a part to play in its early formation.

Joe Dawes went to primary school with McCall at Our Lady of Lourdes, Woody Point. They shared many a game of backyard cricket. "I had his measure in those days - I used to cart him all over the place," he said with a broadening grin.

They grew apart, as kids do, and it wasn't until Dawes made the Bulls side that they were reunited.

"He (Dawes) was the epitome of the young kid in the backyard," said McCall. "Maybe he didn't have as much natural talent as some but he clung to that mission, that dream, with that steely determination, and achieved his goal. And when you look at it you don't get a better example of what the poem is all about."

"The Code of the Bull" began as a mixture of thoughts, some scribbled on a scrap of paper, before the master poet pulled them all together on a laptop. Like most of his works. But this took a little longer than some. Because it had to be special.

For McCall recalls as a young boy watching on television as Carl Rackemann wept openly after Peter Clifford and Dave Gilbert had put on 14 runs for the last wicket to deny Queensland victory in the Shield final of March 1985.

How 12 months later Harry Frei had slammed his boots into the dressing room wall after "Dutchy" Holland and Murray Bennett, with only Mike Whitney to come, kept the Maroons at bay again. How another Herculean effort had gone unrewarded. Again.

He recalls how six times between 1983-84 and 1993-94 Queensland had reached the final only to lose. And that after a multitude of near misses in the pre-final days.

"I lived and breathed it and I was shattered. I knew how important it was and how much blood, sweat and tears had gone into winning it. So it had to be the best," he said.

McCall had gone to QC with a first draft but he wasn't entirely satisfied. He added a few extra ideas and slowly it came together. Like a tidal wave of compelling emotions, he said. You know when it's right.

QC were delighted. And it is the intention not to archive these words of wonder after 12 months. They will live on. The names may change but the concept never. Just like the spirit of the Bulls.

But better than a tick from the hierarchy was the seal of approval from the players. They loved it. And for the young kid who used to idolize his cricketing heroes and is now a good mate to them all that meant the world.

"I was really proud and privileged to be asked to do something like this, and as much as it was really for the fans I was pleased that the boys think it's OK," said McCall.  

 

   

The Code of the Bull 2005-06


It hurts to think we were poised at the brink
of so near but yet so far away
But the strength of a team is to fearlessly dream and this one is ready to play

The fever returns and a Bull's courage burns
in the blaze of a Queensland vendetta
Remember that kid with the stars in his eye?
Well this time the story gets better!!!

Turn a new page! Take that cricketing stage
with a formula proven and proud
When maroon hearts are thumping
the Gabba is pumping
It's big and it's live and it's loud!

Red leather flies there's belief in the skies
For the skill and the thrill of the mission
For the charge and the chase and
the look on his face
When the game is aflame with ambition

When Johnson's the speed with
a venomous seed
and Perren is scorching the ropes
With Flipper and Harts playing
passionate parts
and the brilliance of Watson and Hopes

The balance of youth with the veteran of truth
and once again, "Q" is the letter
We're ready - we're set, no excuse, no regret
This time the story gets better!

March on you Maroon Grown Heroes!
Queenslanders rise as they go
With the weight of our state right behind them
Our hearts and our hunger will show

With our Bulls we can rectify justice!
With our Bulls, we can carry that pride!
March on you Maroon Grown Heroes!
We're coming along for the ride!

Rupert McCall 2005
 


The Code of the Bull 2004-2005


How many times did you stand there?
You'd just hit your neighbour for four
Pretending your yard was the Gabba
And hearing the Queenslanders roar

You'd look in the eye of your team mates
And know you were never alone
On top of your head, the reason…
A cap that was coloured maroon

That was the road you were marching
The hours you spent in the nets
That was the moment you lived for
As good as a Queensland dream gets

Legends aren't born – they're inspired
And heroes aren't made – they are grown
And destiny favours the player that savours
The cap that is coloured maroon

So many years we had waited
So many twists to the tale
Nothing will ever replace it
The taste of that first Holy Grail

The mouth of the cricket world doubted
But the tank in our engine was full
With our hand on our heart, it meant everything
To honour the Code of the Bull

  AB - thank God he was with us!
Haydos stands true to the test
Big Carl unleashed with the spirit
And Stuey gave all for the crest!

There's Kaspa, Chuck, Lovey and Simmo
And Bich with a passion well known
And Jimmy on fire – a captain’s desire
For caps that are coloured maroon

Now the day has arrived and you stand there
Your heart felt the passionate pull
You believed in yourself – that's the moral
That was "The Code of the Bull"

For the neighbourhood son, you walk forward
The pride chills your blood and your bone
You dreamt of this day - they can't take it away
And the cap… it is coloured maroon
          
March on you maroon grown heroes!
Queenslanders rise as you go
With the weight of the state right behind them
Our cricketing glory will show

With our Bulls, we can bring home another!
With our Bulls, we can carry that pride!  
March on you maroon grown heroes!
  We're coming along for the ride

Rupert McCall 2004