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1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain

Tour match photo taken at Barrow.

The 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain was the third ever Kangaroo tour. Again an Australasian side rather than an Australian team alone (although the 28-man squad featured only one New Zealander) travelled to Great Britain to contest the Ashes.[1] Coached by Arthur Hennessy and captained by Les Cubitt, the Kangaroos travelled on the RMS Tahiti to England for best-of-three series of Test matches against Great Britain for the Ashes. The tour took place during the 1921–22 Northern Rugby Football Union season and also featured matches against several of the clubs in that competition as well as other representative teams. The tour also involved some degree of player misbehaviour, with one young footballer almost sent home from San Francisco because of all the broken glasses following a drinking session on board the team's ship.[2]


Touring squadEdit

During 1921 the New Zealand side toured Australia, playing matches against New South Wales and Queensland, which served as selection trials for the upcoming 'Australasian' team's tour, for which only one New Zealander, Bert Laing, selected.[3] The team wore the sky blue jersey of New South Wales and the only non-New South Welsh player to appear in a test was Queenslander Billy Richards in the third.[4]

Billy Cann was co-manager of the Australasian touring squad along with Souths' secretary, George Ball. Secretary of the Queensland Rugby League, and football journalist Harry Sunderland also accompanied the team.[5]

On this tour Sandy Pearce at 38 years of age became the oldest Australian international player.[6]

New South WalesEdit

Early in the 1921 NSWRFL season, players who were selected had to leave their clubs for the tour. All but one of the League's nine teams (University) were represented in the touring squad:


New ZealandEdit

The sole New Zealand player that accompanied the Australians on tour has been listed in the Australian Rugby League's Kangaroos players register.[8]


Before sailing for England the team stopped in New Zealand for an exhibition match at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.[9] Also during the tour, the Northern Rugby Football Union tried to arrange a match in Paris, but opposition from the RFU-aligned French Rugby Federation made it impossible.[10]

After arriving in England, the Kangaroos played four matches against local clubs before the first Ashes test, winning all of them with dominant margins:

First Ashes testEdit

1 October 1921
Great Britain   6 – 5   Australia
Squire Stockwell
Billy Stone
[11] Tries:
Cec Blinkhorn

Jim Craig (1)
Headingley, Leeds
Attendance: 31,700
Referee: Frank Renton  
Great Britain Position Australia
Gwyn Thomas FB Charles Fraser (c)
Billy Stone WG Harold Horder
Harold Wagstaff (c) CE Dick Vest
Jim Bacon CE Jim Craig
Squire Stockwell WG Cec Blinkhorn
Jonty Parkin SO Albert Johnston
Johnny Rogers SH Duncan Thompson
Arthur Skelhorne PR Clarrie Prentice
Joe Cartwright HK Sandy Pearce
Billy Cunliffe PR Felix Ryan
Jack Beames SR Frank Burge
Edgar Morgan SR Albert Gray
Jack Price LF Jack Watkins

The Kangaroos' winning streak came to an end when they played against England. Australasia led 5-3 at the break and the match seemed to be theirs when Frank Burge scored a late try, but it was disallowed by referee Frank Renton. Thus, a sole second-half try from the British close to full-time was enough for them to win it.

At halftime York led 4 - 3 in a game that "was characterised by rough and scrambling play, minor injuries being numerous."[15]

Second Ashes testEdit

5 November 1921
Great Britain   2 – 16   Australia
Johnny Rogers

[16] Tries:
Cec Blinkhorn (2)
Harold Horder
Dick Vest
Duncan Thompson (2)
The Boulevard, Hull
Attendance: 21,504
Referee: R. Robinson
Great Britain Position Australia
Gwyn Thomas FB Charles Fraser (c)
Billy Stone WG Harold Horder
Billy Batten CE Dick Vest
Jim Bacon CE George Carstairs
Squire Stockwell WG Cec Blinkhorn
Jonty Parkin (c) SO Harry Caples
Johnny Rogers SH Duncan Thompson
Arthur Skelhorne PR Bill Schultz
Joe Cartwright HK Sandy Pearce
Billy Cunliffe PR Clarrie Prentice
Jack Beames SR Reg Latta
Edgar Morgan SR Jack Watkins
Jack Price LF Frank Burge

In the second Test the scores were 2-all at half-time, but after that the Australian backline of Horder, Carstairs, Vest and Blinkhorn cut loose. The Kangaroos scored 4 tries to nil, the win setting up the third and final Test as the Ashes decider. This was also the last Test in the international career of Sandy Pearce and made him the oldest ever Kangaroo.

The Kangaroos played sixteen more tour matches between the second and third Tests:

Up to and including the final Kangaroo Tour which included matches against English club sides in 1994, this would be the highest ever score by the Kangaroos. The closest The Kangaroos ever came to this score was an 80–2 win over the Sheffield Eagles in 1994.

Among those present for this match was the UK's Speaker of the House of Commons, J. H. Whitley. The half-time score was 18 - 3 in favour of the visitors, who were without Dick Vest due to ill health. [18]

Third Ashes testEdit

14 January 1922
Great Britain   6 – 0   Australia
Herman Hilton
F Gallagher
[19] Tries:

The Willows, Salford
Attendance: 22,000
Referee: R. Jones
Great Britain Position Australia
Gwyn Thomas FB Charles Fraser (c)
Danny Hurcombe WG Cec Blinkhorn
Jim Bacon CE Dick Vest
Harold Wagstaff (c) CE George Carstairs
Jim Owen WG Harold Horder
John Greenall SO Harry Caples
Johnny Rogers SH Duncan Thompson
Arthur Skelhorne PR Bill Schultz
Joe Cartwright HK Clarrie Prentice
Billy Cunliffe PR Felix Ryan
Herman Hilton SR Reg Latta
Bob Taylor SR Bill Richards
Frank Gallagher LF Frank Burge

The decider was played on a heavy, snow-bound field, much to the dismay of the fleet-footed Kangaroos. Early in the match the Australians were reduced to twelve men when Chook Fraser suffered a broken leg.[20] In what was described as "a bruising encounter", Herman Hilton took a pass from his captain, the "prince of centres", Harold Wagstaff to dive over, taking two defenders over the try-line with him.[21] The final score was 6 - 0 in favour of the home side.[22] By winning this third and deciding test of the series, Britain claimed the Ashes.

By the end of the tour, Australian three-quarter, Cec Blinkhorn, had scored 39 tries in 29 matches, which still stands as the record for most tries scored on a Kangaroo tour and will most likely never be beaten.[23] Other winger, Harold Horder scored 35, and forward Frank Burge was not far behind with 33 tries from 23 games.[24]

The team travelled back to Australia on the Orvieto, arriving in Fremantle in February 1922.[25] Upon their return to Sydney a large dinner was held for the tourists by the New South Wales Rugby Football League, which was attended by the likes of Sir Joynton Smith, to celebrate the players' courageous effort and the fact that this was the first team to return to Sydney with a profit.[26]


  1. ^ Fagan, Sean (2006). Kangaroo Tour: 1921–1922. Australia: Archived from the original on 2 January 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  2. ^ Tatnell, Paul (16 September 2010). "Code of conduct: are players in a different league?". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  3. ^ John Coffey & Bernie Wood (2008). 100 Years: Maori Rugby League, 1908–2008. New Zealand: Huia Publishers. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-86969-331-2. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  4. ^ Sean Fagan (2009) "Tommy Gorman's Maroon Giants". Archived 10 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Edmond Scott (2006) 'Sunderland, Harry (1889 - 1964)'. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition ISSN 1833-7538, published by Australian National University
  6. ^ (4 March 2010). "#10 Sid 'Sandy' Pearce". Tricolours 50 to 1. Australia: Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  7. ^ (2010). Queensland Representative Players. Australia: Queensland Rugby League. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  8. ^ ARL. "Australian Kangaroos players register". Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  9. ^ Fagan, Sean (2009). "New Zealand 'Kangaroos'". Australia. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  10. ^ Collins, Tony (2006). Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain: A social and cultural History. UK: Taylor & Francis. pp. 70–71. ISBN 978-0-415-39614-1. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  11. ^ 1st Ashes Test
  12. ^ England vs Australia at Highbury
  13. ^ "1921 Tour Match: Wigan 6 Australia 14". RLFANS.COM. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  14. ^ Wigan RL History - 1921–22 Season at
  15. ^ "The Kangaroos. Beaten by York". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. 4 November 1921. p. 9. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  16. ^ 2nd Ashes Test
  17. ^ Wales vs Australia
  18. ^ "A Runaway Win". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. 2 January 1922. p. 7. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  19. ^ 3rd Ashes Test
  20. ^ Balmain Leagues Club (2009) "1920s". Archived 25 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Hall of Fame - Herman Hilton. UK: Oldham Rugby League Heritage Trust. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  22. ^ "British Football Results" (PDF). The New York Times. United States: The New York Times Company. 15 January 1922. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  23. ^ Shepherd, Jim (1980). Encyclopedia of Australian sport. Australia: Rigby. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-7270-1119-0. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  24. ^ Corcoran, Kristine (2006). "Burge, Frank (1894 - 1958)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition. ISSN 1833-7538: Australian National University. Archived from the original on 3 March 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  25. ^ "General Cables". Evening Post. CIII (46). New Zealand: National Library of New Zealand. United Press Association. 24 February 1922. p. 7. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  26. ^ "Dinner to Australasian Team". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. 7 March 1922. p. 12. Retrieved 27 February 2011.

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