1932 GREAT BRITAIN RUGBY LEAGUE. THE STORY BEHIND THE TOUR OF AUSTRALIA.
1932 Great Britain Rugby League tour of Australia and New Zealand were captained by Welshman Jim Sullivan. The following reports provide historical details on the three test matches played in Australia. Their style and content are taken from the details available from the tour.
At Sydney Cricket Ground — 6 June 1932 Australia 6 Great Britain 8 (HT 6-8)
A world record crowd for a rugby league match jammed itself into the SCG on a perfect Monday afternoon. Thousands more were locked out. Those who were fortunate enough to see the game must have been thoroughly satisfied. For it was hard, fierce, skillful, end-to-end rugby with barely a whisker between two fine teams.
The contest began sensationally as the Lions took the lead. With one of the quickest tries in test history. “The Master”, Daily Messenger kicked off ceremoniously. And as was customary in such circumstances. A scrum was formed on the centre spot. Australia won the ball. And were making good progress down the left-wing. Threatening to score. Cliff Pearce threw an inside ball.
1932 Great Britain Rugby League star player Alf Ellaby
Which was plucked from the air by Alf Ellaby, the last man Australia wanted to see in possession. And with space to move. Ellaby was uncatchable. Though Frank McMillan did try. But he still crossed for a try at the corner. Sullivan’s conversion attempt brushed a post but missed. Eric Weissel missed with a couple of penalty attempts. But, he eventually landed one after Ernest Pollard went off-side at a scrum. The Australians took the lead when Weissel landed a second penalty.
At this stage, a reporter wrote. “The tackling was simply terrific, and not always above board”. Britain took the lead again with another tremendous try. Stan Brogden put in a kick from the middle of the field out to the right-wing. Where Cliff Pearce was caught unawares. Ellaby went past him at a rare rate of knots. And took the ball one-handed. He raced toward the corner. And, when challenged flicked the ball inside to Arthur Atkinson, who touched down. Sullivan hit a peach of a conversion. The only other score of the game was a third penalty. This went to Weissel after the Lions transgressed a ruck.
At Brisbane Cricket Ground — 18 June 1932 Australia 15 Great Britain 6 (HT 10-0)
Australia leveled the series. In a game dubbed “The Battle of Brisbane”, one of the toughest tests ever played. One critic described it as “tense and tough as war”. While another said it was “as hot as fire and as hard as steel”. Australia certainly came off worse in the casualty stakes. Being reduced to 10 men at one point in the second half. Dan Dempsey broke a wrist. Weissel sustained a bad ankle injury but soldiered on. And Gee, Norman, and O’Connor were all removed from the action. Albeit temporarily. It was therefore surprising that the penalty count was only 11-10 against Britain.
1932 Great Britain Rugby League v Australia Rugby League Hector Gee Scores a try
Australia led from the first minute. When Hector Gee danced over wide out following a play-the-ball near the British line. Weissel kicked a splendid conversion. Ten minutes later Australia led 8-0. When Gee worked a move from a scrum. 25 yards out for Joe Wilson to touch down. Just before half-time, Weissel landed a penalty. From under the posts and at 10-0 Australia looked comfortable. As the body count mounted Britain began to gain the ascendancy. Stan Smith grabbed a try.
This was after good passing. And Ernest Pollard fortuitously added another. This was when a crazily bouncing ball flummoxed all the Australian defenders. Sullivan missed both conversions. By then Australia were packing only three forwards. But tackling heroically. It seemed that Britain must eventually take the lead.
But minutes from time Australia sealed the victory. Which they fully deserved. When Britain lost possession on their own “25”. Weissel grabbed the ball and hobbled forward. Somehow eluding Sullivan, who turned and downed him a few yards from the line. The ball went loose. And Gee stole in to scoop it up and score. “Joe” Pearce landed the conversion. The enraptured crowd bore skipper Herb Steinohrt from the field in triumph. At the final whistle.
Sydney Cricket Ground — 16 July 1932 Australia 13 Great Britain 18 (HT 9-3)
The deciding test of the 1932 Ashes series lacked the ferocity of the preceding games. But I more than made up for that in terms of exhilarating rugby. And fluctuations of fortune. Australia looked to have a winning lead as half-time approached. But the Lions’ final advantage of four tries to one more accurately told the story. Weissel potted a lovely 40-yard penalty. This was from near touch to give Australia the lead on 15 minutes. And added another from 35 yards seven minutes later. With Australia winning the forward exchanges. The lead was stretched to 9-0 when Cliff Pearce and Fred Neumann shattered the defence. They put Frank O’Connor in for a try. It was goaled by Weissel.
1932 Great Britain Rugby League Lions hit back
Just prior to the break the Lions hit back. It was from a scrum on halfway. By the time the ball reached Stan Smith on the wing, he was in full flight. He easily outpaced the coverers to score at the corner. Weissel kicked a penalty to make the score 11-3. But as far as Australia were concerned the calm before the storm was about to break. Brogden clinically severed the Australian defence. From 25 yards out and scored at the posts.
Then Gus Risman, on his debut, latched on to a loose Australian pass. And sent Smith shooting to the flag. Sullivan converting from touch. Sullivan took Britain into the lead at last. With a timely drop goal. Only for Weissel to level at 13-13 with his fifth goal of the match. Weissel could have won the Ashes. But missed another simple penalty. And Australia paid the ultimate price. When Stan Smith flew down the wing to score at the corner. Sullivan adding a towering conversion. Smith’s hat-trick was the first in an Ashes test since 1910. The Lions won the scrums 36-25. And the penalties 14-13. All in all, it was a good afternoon’s work.
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