THE 1958 Great Britain Rugby League side’s hopes of keeping the Ashes series alive hinge on the Second Test against Australia in Brisbane. That great occasion and the completion of the Lions Queensland leg of the tour are detailed here through the imagined diary of team manager, Tom Mitchell, compiled from tour records and newspaper reports.
GREAT BRITAIN 25 AUSTRALIA 18 at the Exhibition Grounds.
This was our finest hour. Never before in the history of our great game, has there been such a courageous effort. Playing a man short for most of the game, and with our captain, Alan Prescott carrying a broken forearm, we avenged our First Test loss with a courageous 25-18 victory over Australia. We lost our five eighth, David Bolton after just 17 minutes with a broken collar bone and centres, Jim Challinor and Eric Ashton received injuries which in any other match, but a Test, would have put them off the field. Our lock, Vince Karalius was taken to hospital with his four teammates when it was found he was suffering from a bruised spine. But it was the effort of captain courageous, Prescott, which will go down in the annals of sport. Alan broke the arm in the third minute, but refused to leave the field because it meant the side would be a man short, under international rules which prevent a replacement. At halftime a doctor offered to give Alan a pain killing injection, but he refused. The doctor said to me: That man has more guts than most men I’ve met. Alan said to me: I just can’t got off, Tom. We would be two men short. We have got to win, so I had better help the boys. Not once did Alan complain about his pain, and he tried to make ground when the ball was passed his way. He was an inspiration when our team could have fallen apart. He led the lads like a true hero. Spectators arrived at the Exhibition Grounds as early as 5.30 a.m. and I’m sure that no-one in the crowd of 32,965 would have begrudged us our win. There has been no comparable effort by any rugby league team in Test football since Harold Wagstaff’s famous Rorke’s Drift win over Australia in 1914. Our 19-year-old halfback, Alex Murphy did most of the damage in attack with his bursts of blinding speed leaving defenders groping, while forward, Brian McTigue displayed ball skills which bamboozled the Aussies in the rucks. Debutant Australian winger, Peter Dimond showed plenty of dash and always went hard for the corner. But the Aussies showed a lack of imagination in attack which made things easy for our lads, with their ability to read play and force errors. I thought referee, Darcy Lawler kept firm control in what was the ninth Anglo-Australian Test in Brisbane. The Australian forwards deserve credit for not giving Alan Prescott that extra hard bump which could have done even more damage to the broken arm, and it was apparent from the way the arm was dangling from his side, that he was in trouble. It was a huge day in Brisbane with the running of the Doomben 10,000 also a magnet for sports lovers. The Brisbane public love a punt, a beer and a game of rugby league, not necessarily in that order. The Test was filmed by a crew from the Ampol Oil company and replayed on television in Sydney, where I am told it went down well with viewers. GREAT BRITAIN 36 TOOWOOMBA 19 at the Toowoomba Athletic Oval. AFTER the tough Second Test win our lads treated this match as a means of displaying what they are capable of with the ball in hand, and I think we showed how the pass will always beat the tackler. Our wingers, Frank Carlton and Ike Southward scored seven tries between them, four to Carlton who showed great speed and elusiveness. We scored 10 tries in all, but goal kicking let us down. Ian ‘Ripper’ Doyle was the attacking fulcrum for Toowoomba and also proved a fine cover defender, stopping Carlton from scoring a fifth try. Toowoomba’s five eighth, Brian Jones also played soundly and gave our man, Phil Jackson very little room. Toowoomba is a beautiful place, not unlike Harrogate in Yorkshire, and it was great to see a healthy attendance of 7,500 on a mid-week afternoon.
But the ideal surroundings and first class field conditions were not enough to lessen our plight in the injury department with Jackson (thigh) and centre, Bill Wookey (ankle) added to the injury list. Nine of our squad will fly to Sydney tomorrow to prepare for the Third Test. The rest will travel by coach to Lismore in northern New South Wales for a match against North Coast. We wish to spell as many Test players as possible and I will play myself at Lismore if means giving key men a break. Blind side second row would suit me fine.
NEXT WEEK The British return to New South Wales ahead of the Third and deciding Test. From there they were to embark on the New Zealand leg of their tour.