Halfback, Billy Smith was awarded the Harry Sunderland Memorial Medal as Australia’s player of the series against Great Britain. The medal perpetuates the memory of Queenslander, Harry Sunderland, who died in England, early in 1964.
Sunderland was a dynamic secretary of the Queensland Rugby League for a number of years and was co-manager of the 1929 Kangaroos in Britain, and the 1933 and 1937 tourists in Britain and France. He returned to England in 1938 to manage Wigan, and stayed there when the war broke out.
Although he lived out his life in England, apart from trips to Australia with touring sides, he was a staunch Australian at all times. But he was a great admirer of British footballers and was instrumental in organising the Lions’ reunions, similar to Kangaroo tour reunions.
When the 1963 Kangaroos were in England, he left his sick bed to go in his pyjamas and dressing gown to the Lions’ reunion, where he made a vigorous address, stressing the need for Rugby League to keep forging ahead.
In 1966, the award of the Sunderland Medal was judged by ARL president, Bill Buckley and journalists, Jack Reardon (The Courier-Mail) and Tom Goodman (Sydney Morning Herald). The only previous winner of the Medal was lock, Johnny Raper for his efforts against France in the 1964 home series. Raper and Smith were St George club mates.
In August 1966, the British side was undertaking the New Zealand leg of its Southern Hemisphere tour, winning both Tests and the provincial matches in Wellington, Hamilton, Greymouth, Christchurch, New Plymouth and Auckland.
After the Australian leg, the BBC’s Eddie Waring expressed his concern for the image of the game, given the violence displayed in the Test series.
“Rugby league is rougher, nastier and more vicious than it has been for a long time,” he wrote. “I also firmly believe that Sydney people nowadays prefer club football to internationals.”
The BBC showed extended highlights of all three Tests in the UK. Former British Test lock, Vince Karalius watched the matches on television, and thought Britain should have sealed the Ashes with a win in the Second Test in Brisbane.
“The lads did extremely well. They did a lot better than anyone had hoped for,” he said, in reference to the number of established stars overlooked for the trip.
The Daily Sketch’s league writer, Alan Smith said English fans were angry that the Lions had men sent off in the Second and Third Tests – Bill Ramsay and Cliff Watson respectively.
“The claims made by (halfback) Tommy Bishop and other English players about the refereeing, have sunk in over here,” Smith wrote.
In August, 1966 the league community was rocked by the sudden death of Jack Lynch, joint-manager of the 1963-64 Kangaroos in Britain and France. Lynch, 56, collapsed and died at a meeting of the NSWRL. An employee of the Rural Bank, Lynch was a brilliant five eighth and centre for Easts in Sydney, from the late 1920s to mid-1930s.
In Brisbane club football, Wests officials lauded veterans, Don Oxenham and Warren Chambers for putting on the boots for the injury hit club, to help out in the lower grades.
“They proved there is life in the old dogs yet,’ Wests’ scribe wrote in the official program. “Don outsprinted the opposition to score a 40 yard try and his line kicking was a joy to behold.”
Brothers’ officials defended their selectors’ decision to rest several key players in the run home to the finals. One journalist had written that Brothers were “contemptuous of the paying public.”
“We are sure the paying public would like to see our team at full strength, when and if we meet Norths in the semis,” Brothers’ club notes stated. (Brothers were beaten by Norths in the major semi and then a fortnight later in the grand final).
The Brothers’ team to play Wynnum-Manly at Davies Park that coming weekend included the likes of John Gleeson, Dennis Manteit, Noel Cavanagh and Peter Gallagher (all current or future internationals); State lock, Wayne Abdy and future State five eighth, Barry Dowling.