Part Three of the 1958 British Lions Rugby League Tour diary, through the eyes of team manager, Tom Mitchell.
Leeton is a long way from Sydney, but rugby league is very much a part of the fabric of life in this Riverina town given the reception we received for our sixth match on tour.
A crowd of 6,000 turned out for the match against Riverina and they would have been well pleased with the local boys, given they led 5-3 at halftime.
But 13 points in five minutes early in the second half put an end to the Riverina Challenge with halfback, David Bolton from Wigan starting our resurgence with a wonderful 50 metre individual try.
We finished 29-10 winners, and I rate it our best game against country opposition.
Riverina five eighth, Greg Hawick has been chosen to play for New South Wales in our last game before the First Test and his punishing defence was a feature of the Leeton encounter.
Back in Sydney we have only three days to freshen up for the match against NSW at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The final match before a Test is often viewed by the home side as a chance to soften up the tourists and that was certainly the case in a violent clash which saw four players dismissed by referee, Col Pearce – Vince Karalius (Great Britain); Hawick, Rex Mossop and Peter Dimond (NSW).
We were deserved 19-10 winners, scoring three tries to nil.
Mossop made an art form of late tackles and Mr Pearce had no choice but to march the former Wallaby for one such shot on Eric Ashton.
Dimond deliberately kneed one our lads, again leaving Mr Pearce with no alternative. I thought ‘Vinty’ (Karalius) also had to go, but there is little doubt his vigorous style has made him a marked man with referees and supporters.
The biggest cheer of the day from the crowd of 52,963 came when Hawick hit ‘Vinty’ with a rib rattler and dislodged the ball.
The incidents were regrettable, but if this game did little else than draw the attention of players to the fact that rough play will not be tolerated, than it served at least one useful purpose.
NSW fielded two rugged centres – Harry Wells and Geoff Hawkey – and they did their best to upset our speedy outside men.
Tests spots were wide open when we sat down to select the team, particularly as Karalius was banned for three matches for ‘deliberately kicking an opponent.’
We believe there are grounds for appeal, but we are resigned to being without Vinty for the SCG clash.
Hawick and Dimond also will miss the Test because of suspension, but Mossop is free to play.
This is the line-up we have chosen for the Test – Fraser; Southward, Jackson, Davies, Sullivan; Bolton, Murphy; Prescott, Harris, Terry, Martyn, Edgar, Whitely.
Eric Fraser is in doubt after gashing his right foot on a football boot nail in the match against NSW.
We have been listed as favourites, which surprises me a little given we have a relatively young pack.
Australia has appointed impressive Qld forward, Brian Davies as captain-coach and we expect the home side to play football and not to resort to fisticuffs under his guidance.
The Australian team is: Clifford; Kite, Wells, Carlson, Moir; Brown, Holman; Davies, Kearney, Marsh, Mossop, Provan, O’Shea.
Tony Brown from Newtown is the man get Hawick’s five eighth spot.
Next Week: The First Test and Britain arrive in Queensland.