The Newtown Bluebags rugby league team of 1941.

From Newtown to Kokoda

Bill Ryan was born in Petersham, NSW in the late 1910s and his brother Bruce Ryan was born in Newtown in the early 1920s.

Bill and Bruce were inseparable during their time together at St Joseph's College and were members of one of the school's undefeated football teams. Bill Played as a centre for the Newtown Bluebags (as they were known from 1908 to 1972), and Bruce, as a NSW amateur sprint champion, was a natural winger.

Bill was selected for the NSW City Firsts in 1941.

They enlisted and served in Papua New Guinea together with Bill attaining the rank of Lieutenant in the 55/53rd Australian Infantry Battalion. Bill Ryan was killed in action on the Sanananda Track on December 7, 1942, aged 23.

Bruce juggled his military and rugby league commitments between 1943 and 1944 and was a part of the 1943 Newtown premiership-winning team. He transferred to the RAAF for the remainder of the war and missed the entire 1945 season. 

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Bruce returned to play for Newtown in 1946 before finishing his career in England. 

Athol Stewart was born in Bombala in the Monaro region of NSW on April 7, 1919. He joined Newtown from Bombala in 1938 and scored 12 tries from 12 games in his debut season.

Stewart was also selected for NSW in his debut season for Newtown. He returned to bush in 1939 but re-joined Newtown in 1940 and again was selected for NSW. 

In November 1941 Stewart enlisted in the AIF's 3rd Battalion and spent three years in khaki. He was shot in the elbow while repelling Japanese advance through Papua New Guinea.

Stewart returned to Newtown in 1945 and scored 20 tries in 15 games.

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