FLASHBACK: September 1950

WALLABIES’ Test captain, Trevor Allen was expelled from the New South Wales Rugby Union after signing professional papers to play rugby league with Leigh in England.

Allen, who was a Life Member of the NSWRU, received a record 6,250 pounds sign-on fee from Leigh, a club from what is now known as Greater Manchester. The previous highest fee paid for an Australian was 1,560 pounds for Pat Devery in 1947, but Devery came from Sydney Rugby League, not union.

A salesman for a Sydney hardware store, Allen said if he refused Leigh’s offer it would be like winning the lottery and handing it back.

The action by the rugby union ‘council’ was said to be unprecedented, the first case of its kind since the end of World War II in 1945, even though a number of union players had accepted cash to switch codes.

Other Wallabies who joined English league clubs in 1950 included Bevan Wilson and Bob Dawson, but they were not ‘named’ by the Rugby Union.

Obviously Allen’s status as skipper and arguably the best centre in the 15 man code, made his defection a bitter pill to swallow for the union hierarchy.

A few days after Allen signed with Leigh, the English press revealed the club, which boasted  a wealthy supporters’ group of 4,000 members, was willing to go even higher to sign the Aussie. Warrington, Leeds and Workington also made big money offers for Allen.

“Allen will be the uncrowned king of Leigh,” wrote one English journalist. “He will average 18 pounds a week, and receive many perquisites unknown to the ordinary supporter. He should be able to live on his football earnings and save his other income.

“Last season Leigh created a sensation by offering the players a 50 pounds bonus each if the team beat Wigan. They lost by one point.”

Meanwhile, at a dinner to welcome home Wigan members of Great Britain’s touring side to Australia and New Zealand, Brisbane fans copped a roasting.

Joe Egan, vice-captain of Britain, told the Mayor, League officials and supporters “the Brisbane sporting community are the worst sports in the world. Their treatment over the Second Test shattered the morale of the side, and we never recovered from it.”

After winning the First Test 6-4 in Sydney, Britain lost 15-3 at the Gabba in Brisbane in front of a crowd of 35,000.

Egan’s memories of Brisbane were no doubt soured by the fact referee, Frank Ballard sent off two British players and disallowed three tries.

On a happier note, former Brisbane star, Ted Verrenkamp announced from England, where he was playing with Leeds, that he would marry local lass, Mary Beeton at St Michael’s Church, Headingley on November 18.

They met in the Leeds Rugby League players’ cafe, where both went regularly for lunch.

Trevor Allen

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