FLASHBACK: October 1959


Kangaroos’ rugby league coach, Clive Churchill was threatened with arrest after small boys pelted Australians sitting along the sideline at Oldham in England, with orange peel.

Churchill threw water from a sponge, back over his shoulder into the crowd.

A policeman spoke to Churchill and then the superintendent in charge spoke to Kangaroo tour manager, Jack Argent and warned that Churchill could be arrested for inciting the crowd if he threw any more water.

There were 17,630 fans crowded in the famous Watersheddings ground and they were baying for blood as their highly rated local heroes went down 25-14 to the tourists.

The match was described by a Sunday newspaper as a “fist swinging duel in the sun.”

The match was widely condemned in the media as a hot tempered rough house exhibition of the 13 man code.

“Rugby (league) took a back seat as the crowd roared, jeered and stomped at scenes that looked like extracts from television wild west, bar room brawls,” reported the Sunday Express.

Referee, Charlie Appleton said it was the worst match he had controlled in 14 years.

Appleton sent off both halfbacks, Barry Muir (Australia) and Frank Pitchford (Oldham) after they brawled for a good 60 seconds.

Argent said the Australians were intent on playing football, but were not being allowed to do so, because of ‘savage provocation’ from English club and county sides.

Australian forward, Brian Hambly set the tone for the Australians against Oldham, with the pack determined not to turn the other cheek this time. Hambly’s tackles winded several opponents, and in one instance, left an Oldham rival unconscious on the ground.

What little space was devoted to football, in the Sunday papers, was reserved for athletic Australian centre, Reg Gasnier, who had made his Test debut at home, against the Kiwis, earlier in the year.

Gasnier had scored three tries against Widnes on October 1, his first match on tour. The Kangaroos beat the Cheshire outfit 45-15 with winger, Eddie Lumsden also scoring three tries.

Against Oldham, Gasnier scored another three tries; Winger, Brian Carlson finished with 13 points from a try and five goals.

<pic>Clive Churchill.

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