FLASHBACK: August 1939

AUGUST 1939
The 1939 New Zealand Rugby League side in the UK included a man who would play Test cricket in England 10 years later.
The 1939/40 Kiwi and Wallaby rugby union tours of the UK were both aborted, essentially before they started, because of the outbreak of World War II.
The Wallabies did not get to play a game in the UK, having to settle for a hastily arranged match against a British Army XV in Bombay, India.
The Kiwis, captained by Rex King from the Canterbury province, played two club games – against St Helens and Dewsbury – and won both.
The man who would go on to play cricket for New Zealand was Verdun Scott. He made his cricket Test debut against Australia in 1946, when he top scored with 14, as the Kiwis collapsed to be all out for 26. Three years later he toured England with the NZ cricket side.
The 1939-40 rugby league tour was the Kiwis’ first since 1926-27. That tour was made at the time of industrial depression in the north of England. The tour party was not a happy one, and at one stage, seven of the players refused to play and the program had to be continued with the remaining 19 players. The recalcitrant seven were later suspended by the NZRFL.
Fortunately the tours in the decades after World War II, were much happier, and took in France.
The 1939-40 Wallabies landed at Southampton docks after a long sea voyage, at almost the moment a state of war was declared between England and Germany. The tourists were recruited to lend a hand sand bagging their hotel at Torquay, in the south west.
A member of that touring party was Bill McLean, who would later become licensee of the Clarence Corner Hotel in Brisbane. I met Bill at Ian ‘Ripper’ Doyle’s South Brisbane pub, the Coronation, in the 1980s. ‘Ripper’ toured Britain and France with the 1956-57 rugby league Kangaroos, from the Toowoomba All Whites club.
The Yorkshire (Rugby) League (War Emergency) competition started on September 30, 1939 and provided a welcome relief for an anxious public. The Home Office restricted the Headingley crowds to a maximum of 8,000, as a precautionary measure, in case of air attack.
Photo 1: Ces Mountford (Wigan) shakes hands with his brother, Ken before a 1947 tour match against the Kiwis. The other New Zealander is Charlie McBride
Photo 2: Kiwi five eighth, George Menzies is tackled during the First Test of the 1955 tour, at Station Road, Swinton.

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