Billy Wilson (rugby league)

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Billy Wilson
Personal information
Full name William Alfred Wilson
Nickname Bluey,[1] Captain Blood
Born (1927-05-30)30 May 1927
Blakehurst, New South Wales, Australia
Died 25 March 1993(1993-03-25) (aged 65)
Gympie, Queensland, Australia
Playing information
Position Prop
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1948–49 St. George Dragons 14 2 0 0 6
1950 Picton
1951 Baridine
1952–56 St. George Dragons 67 6 1 1 20
1957 Wagga
1958–62 St. George Dragons 90 9 0 0 27
1963–67 North Sydney 65 3 0 0 9
Total 236 20 1 1 62
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1960–63 New South Wales 3 2 0 0 6
1959–63 Australia 12 0 0 0 0
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1967 North Sydney Bears 22

Billy Wilson (30 May 1927—25 March 1993) was an Australian professional rugby league footballer of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. An Australia national and New South Wales state representative front-row forward, he captained the national team in two Tests against New Zealand in 1963 and who captained-coached a number of his club sides during a record length career played at the top-grade for twenty seasons from 1948 to 1967. Much of his New South Wales Rugby League premiership career was spent with Sydney's St. George club where he was a pivotal member of that club in the first half of their 11-year consecutive premiership run from 1956 to 1966. Billy Wilson won six premierships with the Dragons.

Early career[edit]

Wilson was a St. George junior, growing up in Blakehurst in Sydney. He was graded for the St. George club in 1948 as a centre/lock. Regularly during his early career Wilson would take up the financial opportunities offered to lead (as captain/coach) Country first division sides. In 1950 he and his wife Norma moved to Picton for that purpose from where he represented for Southern Division against the touring 1950 Great Britain side. In 1951 he was captain-coach at Baradine's club in northern New South Wales.

Playing career[edit]

St. George Dragons

He returned to St George in 1952 cementing a regular first grade position from 1953 and he soon earned a reputation as a rugged enforcer and fierce protector of his teammates. In the final decider of 1953 against South Sydney he was sent-off by referee Darcy Lawler for fighting with South's Martin Gallagher. In 1954 he featured in the Dragon's semi-final win against North Sydney playing out the match with a broken arm, gashed eye and three broken ribs.

He was instrumental in the 1956 Grand final where the Dragons victorious, commenced their long run. St George centre Merv Lees cracked his collar bone early in that match and Wilson moved out from the pack to play in the centres in spite of being constrained himself with a knee injury. Wilson tormented his Balmain Tigers opposition three-quarters in both attack and defence and set up both his own wingers for a number of long dashes. He was later selected by his teammates as Man of the Match.

He captain-coached Wagga in the Riverina competition in 1957 then returned to the St. George Dragons for five more premiership victories from 1958 to 1962.

Wilson made his state debut for New South Wales in 1959 aged 32 against a touring New Zealand side and then debuted for Australia in the first Test against that same side, going on to play in all three Tests. He was then selected on the 1959 Kangaroo tour and played in 5 Tests and 14 minor tour matches. Billy Wislon is listed on the Australian Players Register as Kangaroo No. 345.[2]

The 1962 NSWRFL season's Grand final was Wilson's last for St. George, his sixth Grand Final victory and his role was infamous. Dragons captain Norm Provan was knocked out by Wests Jim Cody five minutes before half time. Cody escaped any official punishment but Provan was carried from the field and didn't return again until well into the second half. Wilson came out as captain after the break and after having told his players to keep things calm he apparently squared things up in the first seconds after kick-off before the first tackle was even made. The order of proceedings was unclear, but Cody went down and referee Jack Bradley sent Wilson off. With no replacements allowed in those days, St George were reduced to 11 men until Provan returned to the field 15 minutes later.[3] From an interview with Wilson's wife Norma conducted in 1994, Larry Writer [4] reports that Wilson felt enormously guilty about putting the team in this position and promptly retired after the match. Larry Writer himself suggests that the send-off may have soured Wilson's relationship with club officials in spite of the victory. These views aside, at 35 years of age, the end of Wilson's playing career was looming from the club's perspective and his contract was not renewed.[5] As of the 2007 NRL season no forward since Wilson has been sent off in a Grand Final and in that game Wilson became the only man to have been sent off in two grand finals following his dismissal in 1953.

North Sydney Bears

In the twilight of his career aged 36 in 1963, with his new club, North Sydney Bears showing sparkling early-season form, Wilson was selected as captain for New South Wales in the interstate series against Queensland and then was honoured with the national captaincy for the domestic Test series of 1963 against New Zealand following injury to Arthur Summons. He set the record for being the oldest Australian Test captain (36 years and 23 days). After five seasons with the North Sydney Bears, Bluey Wilson retired in 1967, age 40, having set the record for longest Australian first grade career of any player (20 seasons).

Personal life[edit]

An electrician by trade Wilson contracted at the Kurnell Oil Refinery while it was being built from 1952-65[6] and was later promoted to electrical supervisor. He later contracted as an electrician housing construction in the St George district before joining St George Appliances as a sales representative of ovens and ranges. From 1978 he and his family were in hotels, owning pubs at Oberon, Nambucca Heads and then Gympie.

He was the publican and licensee at the Freemason's Hotel in Gympie, Queensland at the time of his death in 1993 of a cerebral haemorrhage following a stroke. On his death they'd been married 43 years to the day. They had two sons, Steve (who played Third Grade for St. George) and Brad and a daughter, Yvonne who followed him into the hotel business.[7]


  1. ^ Coady, Ben (2009-09-28). "Grand final dramas". WA Today. Australia: Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  2. ^ ARL Annual Report, 2005. page 54
  3. ^ Coady, Ben (2009-09-28). "Grand final dramas". WA Today. Australia: Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  4. ^ Larry Writer: Never Before, Never Again. 1995. (ISBN 9780732908164)
  5. ^ Writer p298
  6. ^ Writer p298
  7. ^ Writer p302


  • Whiticker, Alan (2004) Captaining the Kangaroos, New Holland, Sydney
  • Writer, Larry (1995) Never Before, Never Again, Pan MacMillan, Sydney (ISBN 9780732908164)
  • Whiticker, Alan & Hudson, Glen (1995) The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players, Gavin Allen Publishing, Sydney (ISBN 1875169571)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Arthur Summons
Australian national rugby league captain
Succeeded by
Ian Walsh