Ken Catchpole

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Ken Catchpole
Full name Ken William Catchpole
Nickname Catchy
Date of birth (1939-06-21) 21 June 1939 (age 77)
Place of birth Paddington
School The Scots College
University Sydney University
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Scrum-half
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team    
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1959–68 NSW 26
National team(s)
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1961–1968  Australia 27

Ken Catchpole OAM, (born 1939) is a former Australian rugby union footballer. A state and national representative half-back, he played twenty-seven matches for Australia, thirteen as captain. Catchpole rose through the ranks at the Randwick club as a young man, before making his debut for New South Wales at only 19 years of age, then captaining Australia at age 21. He is considered one of Australia's greatest rugby scrumhalves.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Paddington, New South Wales Catchpole was schooled initially at Randwick Primary School before moving the Coogee Preparatory School. He excelled at sports and participated in rugby, swimming, tennis and boxing. From Coogee Prep he won an academic scholarship to The Scots College for his high school years. His rugby prowess saw him play in the Scots First XV for three of his senior years. He won selection for the GPS 3rds in his first senior year, then in the GPS 1sts in his two remaining years. He gained entrance to Sydney University to study science.[2]

Rugby career[edit]

He was lured to his local Randwick DRUFC ahead of the Sydney Uni Rugby Club and debuted in 1958, aged eighteen in the under 21s. The following season he cemented a first grade spot and after just a few games he made his state representative debut for New South Wales against the touring British Lions. He played alongside Arthur Summons in the halves, scored a try to help New South Wales to an upset 18–14 win over the tourists to mark his state debut. The following year at age twenty he captained New South Wales in matches against the visiting All Blacks.[2]

In 1961 Catchpole made his Test debut as captain, leading the Wallabies to victory over Fiji in a three-game series. That same year, he captained Australia, on a tour to South Africa including two Tests and then in a Test at home against France. In 1963 he again toured to South Africa playing in all three Tests under John Thornett as captain.

Playing at scrum-half, partnered with Phil Hawthorne at fly-half, the pair became one of rugby's most famous duos. Catchpole played South Africa in Australia in 1965, where the Wallabies won both tests in a two-game series over the Springboks. He also toured the United Kingdom in 1966 and 1967, captaining Australia to victory in Tests against England and Wales. He was also captain for the Tests against Scotland and Ireland and in a number of other tour matches. After the win against England the President of the English Rugby Union, Duggie Harrison described him as "the greatest halfback of all time".[2]

Following his return from the tour he captained Australia, New South Wales and Sydney in matches against a touring Irish side in 1967. He was honoured with the Australian captaincy later that year in the 75th Jubilee Test played to mark the anniversary of the New Zealand Rugby Union. The following year he was selected as captain again for a two test series against the All Blacks. In the first of those Tests in 1968 he suffered a career-ending injury when Colin "Pinetree" Meads grabbed and wrenched Catchpole's leg while he was pinned under other players in a ruck, tearing his hamstring off the bone, and severely rupturing his groin muscles. He was aged twenty-eight and his rugby career was finished.[3]


In 2004 he was inducted onto the Museum of Rugby Wall of Fame.[4] A plaque in the Walk of Honour at the Sydney Cricket Ground commemorates his career. He is a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia. In 2005 he was honoured as one of the inaugural five inductees into the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame.[5] Upon his induction Australian Rugby Union President Paul McLean referred to Catchpole as: "exuding grace and majesty".[5] He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985[6] and the IRB Hall of Fame in 2013.[7]

Published references[edit]

  • Howell, Max (2005) Born to Lead – Wallaby Test Captains, Celebrity Books, Auckland NZ
  • Zavos, Spiro (2000) The Golden Wallabies, Penguin, Victoria


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Howell p171
  3. ^ Colin Meads profile
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b "Catchpole, Ken ARU Hall of Fame". Retrieved 18 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "Ken Catchpole OAM". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  7. ^ "Legends inducted into IRB Hall of Fame" (Press release). International Rugby Board. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Peter Fenwicke
Australian national rugby union captain
Succeeded by
Peter Johnson