FLASHBACK: January, 1951


Renowned BBC commentator, Eddie Waring warned that France’s historic tour of Australia and New Zealand could be a huge success, or a colossal failure.
Waring said if the French players could control their tempers and accept decisions without running around like madmen, they would succeed, because of their fast open, style of football.
“The players are, in the main, individualists, with each player trying to express his own characteristics,” Waring said. “They are unreliable in defence. Recently they had England beaten, until two late blunders, one right on time – lost them the match. The French back-up well and run straighter down the field than either English or Australian players.
“The players are personalities in many ways. The fullback and captain, Puig Aubert from Carcassonne, is known as ‘Pipette’. Only 5ft 4in., he is a giant little fullback in attack, but not so hot on defence. He can kick with either foot, and can land goals from any part of the field. But he is the most temperamental of all the Frenchmen.
“When players lose their tempers for two minutes, it is a real Donnybrook. At Hull last season, the police had to go onto the field to stop the game, until numerous fisticuffs battles had ceased. Immediately the players have regained their composure and peace is restored, they are then likely to go round and shake hands with, and kiss, all their opponents. The team is likely to take gallons of French wine with them to Australia, because it is important to them.”
Big things were tipped for halfback, Jean Dop from Marseilles, with Waring rating Dop one of the most unpredictable players in an unpredictable team.
Waring said former Great Britain star, Alf Ellaby planned to emigrate to Australia to buy a pig farm, and, if so, would be an ideal liaison officer for the French team, given his knowledge of the country and the language. Ellaby, a prolific try scoring winger from St Helens, had played for Britain against the French in Paris in 1934, in the first league international played in France. In the end, Ellaby remained in England and became a director of the Castleford club.
France won the Test series against Australia 2-1, but lost the only Test in New Zealand, 16-15.
In other news from January, 1951:
.Australian winger, Pat ‘Cocky’ McMahon returned to Toowoomba from Babinda, in North Queensland, to play for South End, who also had signed halfback, Ken McCaffery (Sydney Easts) and Canterbury-Bankstown centre, Athol Halpin. Toowoomba Valleys signed winger, Alan Norris, who was living at Jandowae. In 1950, Norris beat Stawell Gift winner, Ken Trewick in a match race in Brisbane.
.Queensland centre, Vivian (Mick) Irwin from Brisbane Wests, was appointed player/coach at Blackall, on a deal which would see him earn 18 pounds a week, tax free, plus accommodation. He was to replace another State star, Hugh Melrose, who was to transfer to a similar position at Quilpie.
.In England, former Australian Rugby Union skipper, Trevor Allen played his first game of league – for Lancashire club, Leigh – and received a three pounds bonus, after the 8-3 win over Yorkshire club, Halifax. Allen created the winning try for his winger, when he ran 30 metres and side stepped two players, before giving the crucial pass.
The crowd of over 12,000 at Leigh’s ground, Hilton Park, cheered Allan off the field and the general opinion was that he was worth the 6,250 pounds paid for him.
Eddie Waring reported that Leigh’s other Australian, Jeff Burke, “won a special cheer for a 20 yards dribbling try”.
1 Puig Aubert leads France onto the field against Britain at Bradford in 1954
2 Puig Aubert clowns it up with a bottle of red, during a visit to Queensland in 1975. Others in the photograph include QRL boss, Ron McAuliffe (white suit); and Aubert’s opponents from the 1951 tour, Mick Crocker (standing beside McAuliffe); Duncan Hall and Denis Flannery, both seated with glasses of red
3 Former Great Britain winger, Alf Ellaby.

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