Sydney Middleton

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Sydney Middleton
Sydney Middleton 1919.jpg
Full name Sydney Albert Middleton[1]
Date of birth (1884-02-24)24 February 1884[1]
Place of birth Glebe, New South Wales [1]
Date of death 2 September 1945(1945-09-02) (aged 61)
Place of death Kensington, London [1]
Rugby union career
Position(s) number eight[1]
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
1908-11 New South Wales 12 ()
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1908-10[1] Australia 4[1] (0)[1]
Olympic medal record
Men's Rugby union
Gold medal – first place 1908 London Team competition

Sydney Albert 'Syd' Middleton DSO, OBE (24 February 1884 – 2 September 1945) was an Australian Army officer and national representative rugby union player and rower. He won a gold medal in rugby at the 1908 Summer Olympics and competed in rowing at the 1912 Summer Olympics. He had a distinguished career in World War I being awarded the DSO and later an OBE. He captained the Wallabies in a Test series in 1910.

Sporting career[edit]


Middleton commenced his rugby career with the Glebe Rugby Club—the Sydney suburb of his birth. His first representative appearance was for New South Wales in the interstate series against Queensland in 1908 which performance saw him selected for New South Wales against the touring Anglo-Welsh side of 1908. He was in the right place at the right time and was selected in Australia's inaugural national rugby team to tour the northern hemisphere - Dr Paddy Moran's First Wallabies. The tour was a long one—36 matches and Middleton would prove to be a reliable member of the party appearing in 31 of the Wallabies matches. He was the second tallest player in the squad which meant he featured in the Australian line-out. But he was also a robust defender at his physical peak and he was selected in every one of the tour's first eighteen games.[2]

At the time the rugby tournament for the London Olympics game may not have appeared to be of great significance. Australia had already beaten Cornwall, the British county champions early in the tour and Scotland, Ireland and France had all turned down the Rugby Football Union's invitation to participate in the Olympic bouts. Neither the tour captain Moran, nor the vice-captain Fred Wood played, so Middleton's club captain Chris McKivat led the Wallabies to an easy 32-3 victory and to Olympic glory, with each Wallaby in that match thereafter an Olympic gold medallist.

Detail from 1908 Wallaby squad photo, Middleton (3rd row, three from left) standing behind his captain Moran and coach McMahon.

Syd Middleton made his Test debut on that tour at Rectory Field, Blackheath in the Test against England in January 1909. At the tour's end McKivat would lead fourteen of the Wallabies into the professional ranks with the fledgling rugby league code in Sydney, but Middleton was not interested. He stayed loyal to the amateur game and was rewarded in 1910 when he captained New South Wales in matches against the All Blacks and the New Zealand Māori. That year he captained the Australian national side in three Tests against the All Blacks, one of which was won. All told he made 33 national appearances for Australia including four Tests, three as captain.[3]

1908 Olympic Gold Final Wallabies v Cornwall.


Middleton retired from rugby in 1911 and concentrated on rowing. He had been a member of the Sydney Rowing Club for some time and regularly appeared in the New South Wales state selection VIII between 1906 and 1911.[4] He contested the 1912 Summer Olympics in the six seat of the Australian eight. The crew won its heat but lost in a quarter-final to the Leander Club from England which went on to win the gold medal in the eight competition.

War service[edit]

He enlisted in the AIF in 1915 as a 2nd-Lieutenant with B Company, 19th Battalion and embarked from Sydney on board HMAT Ceramic on 25 June 1915. He served at Gallipoli and in France.[5] He was promoted to Major, 17th Battalion in May 1917. He was mentioned in despatches in 1918, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1919 for bravery in action and in 1920 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire.

His recommendation for the DSO recorded: "The battalion owes much of its success to the splendid example set by this very fine type of officer. He was in command of the 17th Bttn. on the 14th May 1918 east of Heilly, near Amiens when the enemy made a very determined attack on the front held by the 17th Bttn and the manner in which he handled the situation and quickly restored the line showed great initiative and leadership."[citation needed]

After the armistice Middleton was integrally involved in arranging sporting events for the allied troops prior to their demobilisation. Middleton was a member of the victorious AIF crew at Royal Peace Regatta who won the cup for eight-oared boats which was presented by King George V. In time, the King's Cup, became the trophy presented to the winning men's eight at the annual Australian Rowing Championships.

Middleton (backrow 3rd from right) with the 1912 Aust Olympic VIII, incl reserves & selectors
Middleton (to right of officer) with the AIF #1 VIII 1919 Henley Peace Regatta

Middleton wrote from Gallipoli to the sporting journal The Referee:

Honours and awards[edit]


Order of the British Empire (Civil).jpg 1914-15 Star ribbon.jpg BWMRibbon.png Victory medal (UK) ribbon.png

Preceded by
Chris McKivat
Australian national rugby union captain
Succeeded by
Ward Prentice



  • Collection (1995) Gordon Bray presents The Spirit of Rugby, Harper Collins Publishers Sydney
  • Howell, Max (2005) Born to Lead - Wallaby Test Captains, Celebrity Books, Auckland NZ


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h " player profile of Syd Middleton". Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Howell p 46
  3. ^ Howell p 47
  4. ^ Guerin-Foster King's Cup History
  5. ^ Coe, Bruce (2014). "Australasia's 1912 Olympians and the Great War". International Journal for the History of Sport. 31 (18): 2313–2325. 

External links[edit]