AUSTRALIA KANGAROOS RUGBY LEAGUE HISTORY (Part 2). THE 1908-09 & 1911-12 TOUR OF GREAT BRITAIN.
Australia Kangaroos Rugby League History. And the legendary Dally Messenger & Chris McKivat.
Despite the splendid crowds attracted by the Lions’ 1908 Rugby Union tour. And the well-established support for Sydney’s district clubs in the Rugby Union premiership. The initial Rugby League premiership competition succeeded. Messenger’s crowd appeal boosted crowds for all the Eastern Suburbs’ club matches. He went straight into the season with Easts on his return from the All Golds English tour. He played three Tests against a New Zealand league touring team. And went back to England with the first Kangaroo tourists in 1908-09.
The Australia Kangaroos Rugby League Tour 1908-09
On the voyage to England with the first Kangaroos. The players elected Dinny Lutge captain. But Lutge did not play in a Test. In the first Test in London. The Kangaroos clawed their way back from a 17-5 deficit in the second half to level the scores at 22-all by full time.
A controversial penalty goal by Bill Heidke gave Great Britain victory in extra time. Only 2,000 people, who paid a total of £70 in admission. Watched the match. Great Britain won the second Test at Newcastle 15-5. And the third Test at Birmingham 6-5. The first Kangaroos played 46 games, winning 18, losing 22, and playing six draws. A poor result, considering Messenger scored 155 points on the tour. From 9 tries and 64 goals. The tour lost money and manager Jim Giltinan was declared bankrupt after several court actions.
The Australia Wallabies Rugby Union Tour 1908
The Australia Kangaroos Rugby League Tour 1911-12
McKivat cleverly avoided head-to-head encounters with the physically powerful British forwards. And encouraged his forwards to run the ball at every opportunity. British critics accused the Australians of avoiding the essential skills of solid scrummaging. But they repeatedly ran their opponents ragged. McKivat’s influence was clear. Every time he played and he had the immense satisfaction of leading Australia to a 19-10 victory in the first Test. Playing an 11-all draw in the second Test. And becoming first winner of a Test series. By taking the third Test 33-8. They were the first team to defeat Britain in a Rugby League Test. And the first to win a series in England. A feat not repeated until 1963-64 when Arthur Summons. Also a halfback, led Australia to a series triumph in England.
Australia Kangaroos Rugby League Legend Chris McKivat
McKivat, who played fly-half to Australian halfback Fred Wood. When he first appeared in representative rugby. Matured into one of the outstanding tacticians in Rugby League history when he switched codes. He was always calm under pressure. Thoughtful, observant, with an in-built flair for using the skills of his players.
His Kangaroo team won 29 of their 36 matches. Losing five. And drawing two. They scored 673 points. And had 287 scored against them. McKivat’s value to the team was shown in his appearance in 30 successive games. His team was harshly treated by English referees. And when the players returned home they had only been fairly beaten twice.
Kangaroos Full Back Sensation – Howard Hallett
The second Kangaroos pulled off a masterstroke. When they switched Howard Hallett, chosen as a centre, to fullback. Hallett proved superior to the team’s first picked fullback. Webby Neill. And well ahead of the teenager “Chook” Fraser. Hallett’s handling in the mud was a revelation to British critics. And established him in the fullback position. Where he forged one of the league’s all-time great reputations. Tom Berecry was the team’s outstanding winger.
But only slightly ahead of Dan Frawley. Next to McKivat. The outstanding personality of the tour was Herb Gilbert. Who had been a great success with the first Wallabies. Herb Gilbert proved the Kangaroos’ top try-scorer with 20. But as a centre he was only slightly superior to Vivian Farnsworth. As a combination, Farnsworth and Gilbert rate among the finest pairings Australia has ever fielded.