FLASHBACK: February 1958


The Great Britain rugby league team to tour Australia was sparing no expense to retain the Ashes, and to restore pride after the Lions lost 2-1 in the 1954 series ‘down under’, and also relinquished the World Cup to Australia in 1957. (Britain held the Ashes because the 1956-57 Kangaroos lost the series 2-1 in England. Britain also won the inaugural World Cup in France in 1954).

As well as two managers – Tom Mitchell (Workington Town), Bennett Manson (Swinton) – for the first time the British were to send a coach! On previous tours, the captain, in association with the manager or managers, would run the side.

The touring party was to be chosen after trial matches in Leeds and at Swinton, one in late February, the other in mid-March.

Candidates for the coaching job were two former tour captains, Welshmen, Gus Risman and Jim Sullivan and a former tour vice-captain, Joe Egan.

The first match in Australia was scheduled to be played in Wollongong on May 18.

Meanwhile, former State back, Ted Verrenkamp, who had been playing in England, accepted a job as Cairns District coach, beating 13 other applicants for the job. He was due to sail from Southhampton on February 26.

– Brisbane and Valleys’ halfback, Ray Edwards accepted a job as coach of Souths in Townsville. Edwards, the son of former Test star, ‘Fatty’ Edwards.

-Former Test fullback, Norm Pope was appointed coach of the Brisbane representative side, after 1957 coach, Duncan Hall did not seek re-election.

– The Queensland Rugby League refused to ratify the coaching contract of Test five eighth, Bobby Banks at Cunnamulla, because it did not specify that he must be available for all representative football. The QRL introduced the ratification rule following a dispute between Australian World Cup player, Brian Carlson and the Blackall League in Central Qld.

– Brothers, under captain-coach, Brian Davies, reported a full attendance at pre-season training at Ballymore, with one of the newcomers Queensland soccer goal keeper, Don Bullock, who indicated he wanted to try out as hooker, a position he filled playing in the metropolitan Catholic schools league. His great mate, Brothers’ captain-coach, Brian Davies urged him to try ‘a man’s game’. (Bullock went on to captain-coach my old Murwillumbah club, Brothers in 1960).

Meanwhile, the Paris Celtic club was making headlines in France, because a number of American airman had signed up, after a crash course in league. (Not after they crashed).

A match between Celtic and Nantes was watched by American officers, who were so impressed by the code, they indicated they would introduce it to various bases in France. There already was a French Army team playing in the French Rugby League Federation.

The Courier-Mail’s Jack Reardon said it was wrong that league could be played by American and French servicemen, but the code was banned in the British and Australian Armed Services.

“Our champions of democracy in Britain and Australia order ‘No League’,” Reardon said. “One wonders why”.

.For a comprehensive cover of the 1958 Great Britain tour of Australia, access ‘Tour Diary’ on this website.

Photo 2 Norm Pope (flashback Feb 1958).

Photo: Norm Pope


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