‘THOUGH just off the boat’, to quote the AAP report of the day, Australia’s Kangaroos defeated Lancashire side, Leigh 11-9 at Hilton Park, before a crowd of just over 5,000.
The Australians sailed to the UK (Southhampton), via New Zealand, aboard the Arawa, and, from reports of the time, were well regarded by fellow passengers, who staged a cocktail party to farewell the players.
Professor Arthur Sewell from Auckland University, a passenger bound for Queens College, Oxford, invited the players to visit Oxford in November, as his guests at a luncheon. (I wonder if an Oxford professor would invite the current players to lunch?)
Port Kembla’s Charlie Hazleton, who was celebrating his 20th birthday, scored the match winning try right on full time, while Ernie Norman (Sydney Easts) had the honor of scoring the first try of the 35 match tour – 25 matches in England and 10 in France.
At halftime, Leigh officials asked Australian team manager, Harry Sunderland if they could replace an injured player. Sunderland hesitated, but did not want to be interpreted as unsporting, at the start of a long campaign, and agreed to the request. In those days, you had to battle on regardless.
The Australians had been criticised, in some quarters, for not starting the tour earlier, when the weather was warmer and the grounds firmer. At the same stage in 1933, the Kangaroos, captained by Frank McMillan from Sydney Wests, had played six matches.
The Manchester Guardian’s league writer said he believed the 1937 side had the potential to be more dangerous than the ’33 tourists, who lost all three Ashes’ Tests, but beat Wales.
Back in Brisbane, the city side defeated Sydney premiership runners-up, Balmain 13-10 at the Gabba in an end-of-season match.