FLASHBACK: May 1946

With a crowd of 51,634 on hand, Great Britain gave notice they would be formidable opponents in the first post-war Ashes series, as they accounted for New South Wales 14-10 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Dual Welsh international lock forward, Ike Owens (Leeds) scored the match winning try for Britain, a controversial incident, with NSW players claiming he had knocked on before crossing. Referee, Tom McMahon thought otherwise and the tourists maintained their unbeaten record.

They had already accounted for Southern Districts 36-4 at Junee and Southern Tablelands 45-12 in Canberra. Southern Districts were coached by legendary former Australian five eighth, Eric Weissel, after whom the main rugby league ground in Wagga Wagga was named.

NSW suffered a major blow when former Brisbane Souths’ forward, Harry Bath (then with Balmain) badly twisted his knee, the injury ruling him out of contention for the Test series. Bath would go on to play most of his career in England, and like fellow Queenslander, Des Morris, will go down as one of the best forwards never to represent Australia.

NSW’s best forward was Arthur Clues, who like Bath, would spend most of his career in England. (Author’s note: I visited Arthur Clues’ sports store in Leeds in 1978, and I can report that he had not lost his Aussie accent).

The NSW players were paid 17 pounds 10 shillings each for the match, two pounds more than for inter-state football.

That was a lot of money in those days. I remember my father telling me he only earned six pounds a week as a storeman/driver in 1949.

The Australian Board of Control declared that payments for Test matches in 1946 would be 25 pounds, plus seven pounds for loss of time for a week of training before each of the three Tests.

Besides Owen, the other try scorer for Britain against NSW was winger, Eric Batten from Bradford Northern, whose father, Billy, from the Hunslet club, had toured Australia with the 1910 British league side.

Arthur Clues playing for Leeds

Arthur Clues playing for Leeds

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