1908–09 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain
- Not to be confused with the 1908-09 Australia rugby union tour of Britain
A Kangaroo tour is a rugby league tour of Great Britain by an Australia representative squad. Traditionally Kangaroo tours took place every four years and involved a three-Test Ashes series against Great Britain and a number of tour matches. In the later twentieth century the tours were shortened, sometimes only involving one Test encounter and tours came to no longer include France.
The first Kangaroo tour was in 1908 to England and Wales.The tour coincided with the first Wallabies Rugby Union tour of Great Britain,which in hindsight put the Kangaroos in a tough position.The game of rugby league was not yet twelve months old in Australia however a New Zealand side had already toured to Britain (the All Golds in 1907), Australia had encountered New Zealand during the 1908 season and the pioneer Australian leaders of the game were keen to match up against the Northern Union founders of the code.
The first Kangaroo tour was considered a financial failure, with poor weather and economic conditions contributing to smaller than expected gate takings. The tour was later depicted in the disappointing and less than accurate 1988 Australian television movie The First Kangaroos.
Matches played: 45 Won: 17 Drew: 6 Lost: 22
The Ashes: Great Britain 2-0
The Kangaroos sailed for Britain on RMS Macedonia prior to the close of the 1908 NSWRFL season, denying some of the selected players to appear in the inaugural grand final. They worked as stokers to keep their fitness levels up as well as doing daily sessions in the ship's gymnasium and boxing ring. The jerseys were coloured sky blue and maroon, combining the state colours of NSW and Queensland respectively. When tour captain, Lutge was injured early in the tour, Messenger became captain in the 1st and 2nd Test Matches. After he was injured, Alec Burdon assumed the captaincy for the 3rd Test. One of the players Pat Walsh sailed to Britain separately on the ship, Salamis and brought the live Kangaroo mascot with him. Walsh arrived in England for the 5th match of the tour against Salford.
The Kangaroos scored some truly memorable victories,including wins against Yorkshire,Lancashire and Hunslet(featuring their fearsome forwards "The Terrible Six").The seven-month tour proved to be a true test of survival and was almost a disaster due to small gate-takings. A crippling cotton mills strike in northern England made it difficult for many fans to afford their way through the turnstiles and there was some criticism of what the Australians wanted to charge as entrance fees. The Australians morale ebbed during one of the meanest northern winters on record. Dally Messenger was the tourists' leading point-scorer with 160, which was 103 points clear of next highest-scorer. In addition, the live marsupial mascot of the team died before the end of the tour."The Kangaroo which the Australians took with them died on March 9,the execrable weather was too much for it"(The Arrow. April 17, 1909). The Leading try scorers of the tour were Devereaux 17, Messenger 10, Frawley 10, Walsh 9, Courtney 8.
"We are having nothing but rain, snow, sleet and cold... why, you cannot feel your hands and feet and the referees are cruel, don't give us anything at all."
James Giltinan, tour manager of the tour, writes home in 1908
Deane, Walsh, Frawley, Devereux and Rosenfeld all stayed behind to play in the wintry Northern Union competition when the Australians boarded the RMS Seuvic for the journey home. On the return journey Messenger met and fell in love with Annie Macauley whom he would marry. Also while en route back to Australia, secretary J. J. Giltinan, president Harry Hoyle and treasurer, Victor Trumper, the men who had done most to form the NSWRL, were being voted out of it.
Rugby league then made its first appearance in Scotland in in 1909 when Glasgow’s Celtic Park hosted a game between the Northern Rugby Football Union representative side and the touring Australians.
12 December 1908
|Australia||22 - 22||Great Britain|
|Jim Devereux (9 - 3t)
Arthur Butler (3 - 1t)
Dally Messenger (10 - 5g)
|(6 - 2t) William Batten
(3 - 1g) Johnny Thomas
(7 - 1t, 2g) Ernie Brooks
(3 - 1g) George Tyson
(3 - 1g) Asa Robinson
Great Britain led 14-5 at half-time and stretched to 17-5 before Australia began their fightback spearheaded by Devereaux's three ties. They led 22-20 in the dying minutes before Great Britain snatched a draw with a penalty goal.
AUSTRALIA: Mick Bolewski, Bill Heidke, Sid Deane, Dally Messenger (c), Jim Devereaux, Arthur Halloway, Arthur Butler, Larry O'Malley, Jim Abercrombie, Alex Burdon, Pat Walsh, Sandy Pearce, Tedda Courtney.
GREAT BRITAIN: Harry Gifford, William Batten, Bert Jenkins (c), George Dickenson, George Tyson, Ernie Brooks, Johnny Thomas, Arthur Mann, William Jukes, John Higson, Asa Robinson, Arthur Smith, William Longworth.
23 January 1909
|Australia||5 - 15||Great Britain|
|Dally Messenger (5 - 1t, 1g)||(3 - 1g) Johnny Thomas
(9 - 1t, 3g) James Lomas
(3 - 1g) George Tyson
AUSTRALIA: Mick Bolewski, Dan Frawley, Albert Rosenfeld, Dally Messenger (c), Andy Morton, Arthur Conlan, Arthur Butler, Larry O'Malley, Jim Abercrombie, Tom McCabe, Pat Walsh, Sandy Pearce, Tedda Courtney.
GREAT BRITAIN: Harry Gifford, George Tyson, James Lomas (c), Bert Jenkins, William Batten, Ernie Brooks, Johnny Thomas, William Jukes, John Higson, Asa Robinson, Arthur Smith, William Longworth, Dick Silcock.
10 February 1909
|Australia||5 - 6||Great Britain|
|Jim Devereux (2 - 1g)
Dan Frawley (3 - 1t)
|(3 - 1g) Johnny Thomas
(3 - 1g) George Tyson
A heavy pitch limited scoring opportunities and Great Britain went to the half-time break with a three nil lead. Australia's defence was solid throughout the second half and when Frawley scored for Devereaux to convert they took the lead. However Oldham winger George Tyson scored late in the match and secured The Ashes for Great Britain for the first time.
GREAT BRITAIN: Frank Young, William Batten, Bert Jenkins, James Lomas (c), George Tyson, Ernie Brooks, Johnny Thomas, Frank Boylen, Arthur Mann, William Longworth, Arthur Smith, Richard Padbury, William Jukes.
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