1908 Australia: The First Wallabies

2008 was the centenary of the first visiting Wallabies. Hot on the heels of the previous New Zealand and South African teams. The team played 38 games in Australia, Great Britain, Canada and the USA, playing 38, Wining 32, Drawing 1 and losing 5.

The 1908 tour coincided with the London Olympic Games in which rugby union was a sport. Invited to play, the Australian team won the gold medal by defeating Cornwall, the Champion English team representing England. When the team returned home, eleven members of its members were enticed to join the newly formed Rugby League.



Matches in Britain, Australia, Canada and the USA:-

Victoria (Pre tour game)

Monday 10th August 1908
Melbourne Cricket Ground

won 24- 6


The first Wallaby shirt was a light shade of blue, rather than the golden yellow currently used by the Australian team. The motif is the crimson waratah.

-1908 Tour Shirt



Western Australia (pre tour game)

Monday 17th August 1908
Fremantle Oval

won 58 - 6


The team left Australia on the SS Omrah, on the 8th August 1908. The ship contained 116 passengers, 1579 bales of wool, 2729 carcases of mutton, 4650 carcases of lamb, 2000 quarters of beef, 4800 crates of frozen rabbits.... and 200 tones of lead and copper.

-1908 team departing on the SS Omrah




26th September 1908

won 24- 3

The game ticket for the first UK game at Devonport, Plymouth

-A lineout during the Devon game



Thursday 1st October 1908

won 16- 0


A goal kick from the game played at Kingholm infront of a 8000 crowd. Russell scoring two tries for Australia.


Carmichael kicks for goal


Saturday 3rd October 1908

won 18- 5

Cornwall were the county champions, and a close encounter was expected. McKivat scored twice for Australia and Lawry for Cornwall.

Flanagan the Queensland flanker was touch judge, however he broke his leg after player was tackled into touch. Australia would meet Cornwall again later in the tour .....

Programme from the game, played in Cambourne


Glamorgan County

Wed 7th October 1908

won 16- 3


The Glamorgan team were made from the best players from Cardiff and Swansea. In what was described as a "fast and fierce game" - Russell scores 3 tries for the visitors.

The crowd of over 20,000 gave the visitors a standing ovation as they left the field of play.

Arms aloft Australia score !


Saturday 10 th October 1908

won 11- 3


The game played in the heart of the Rhondda - described in the Express "Towering above the high ground, where the Tonypandy enclousure is situated, are grim, dark hills - 'clean shaven' of all natural herbs and growth. In their thousands the keen Welsh miners hurried to the ground to welcome the first amatuer foreign team which has ever 'braved' Tonypandy".

5,000 watched the visitors outscore the home team 2 -1 in tries, the game was reffed by A.J " Monkey" Gould


The Penygraig programme

Neath and Aberavon

Thursday 15th October 1908

won 15- 0


In another tough encounter ..8000 saw the tourists win again, with the Neath captain D.H Davies leaving the field. In 1931 Tom Richards wrote " the game was an unpleasant one ... this crowd was an extraordinary cantankerous one ..." ....Neath ? ...and Llanelly was next ..

-The Neath and Aberavon programme


Saturday 17th October 1908

Lost 8- 3


Again the visitors had nothing pleasant to say about the latest town on the tour - Moran describing it as a "dingy tin mining town" ...so today its just dingy ....

In a brutal encounter the crowd of 12,000 sang Sospan Fach and saw the home team beat the visitors for the first time.

-The Llanelly "pirate" programme


19 October 1908

No game


The game that never was, due to be played on Monday at Pontypool park but called off due to a waterlogged pitch. The rearranged game for the 31st at Newport was also called off due to frost and ice.

-The Monmouth programme


Saturday 24th October 1908

won 3 - 0


Australia captain HM "Paddy" Moran, played in the London game (Richmond). Born of Irish immigrant parents. Initially a tight head prop, he later moved to play as breakaway. After an outstanding display against the visiting Ango Welsh team to Australia he was given the tour captaincy. He later pioneered the use of radiotherapy for cancer treatment in Australia. He sadly died of cancer in 1945.

His autobiography "Viewless Minds" tells of the the teams great dislike of the "War Cry" and dance that the team performed prior to each game ...


HM Moran 1908 tour captain

Cornwall -1908 Olympic Final

Monday 26th October 1908

won 32 - 3


The 1908 Olympics were held in London, Australia, England (i.e Cornwall as county Champions) and France competed for gold.

The French mysteriously withdrew which led to a straight final. Australia won the game at Shepherds Bush in front of a crowd of 5,000.


Cornish 1908 Olympic cap

Combined Army and Navy

28th October 1908

won 8- 6


This game was played at Postsmouth at the United Service Officer's Reccreation Ground. The home team had not lost on their ground for 3 years. despite scoring a try, and missing the conversion the home team lost the game.


Programme from Army Navy game


31st October 1908

won 29 - 7


6,000 spectators watched this game played at Friarage Ground, Hartlepool. Prolific Russell scoring 3 tries in the victory.


Durham v Australia match action


Northumerland and Cumberland

4th November 1908

won 18- 6


8,000 spectators watched this game played at the home of Newcastle football, St James Park

The Australians were captained by McKivat


McKivat postcard


7th November 1908

won 37- 3


Australia were convincing winners at Birkenhead Park, in fact the highest scoring game on the tour. Australia scoring 8 tries to one. again the prolific Russell was on the score sheet, as was two try Dan Carroll.


Carroll postcard


11th November 1908

won 24- 3


At this point in the tour Australia had only lost one game, and had scored an impressive 230 to a mere 47.

In this game played at Blackheath, they were again clear winners yet again. Russell the star wing of the tour scored again, his tally for the tour being 24 tries.

- Russelll postcard
Cambridge University

14th November 1908

won 11- 9


With Moran back from injury, Australia won yet again .....



Match action photograpgh

Oxford University

18th November 1908

won 19- 3


Oxford were at this point in the season unbeaten, and 8,000 turned up to see the game at Iffley Rd. Australia went on to win 19-3 despite having Middleton being sent off for punching Oxford prob Roberts in the face ....its reported that Roberts had made remarks regarding the validity of his parentage ...



1908 squad postcard


21st November 1908

won 24 - 0


This game played at the Belle Vue ground Wakefield. Another impressive victory for the men in blue .... Burge scoring one of the 5 tries


P Burge postcard


25th November 1908

won 12- 6


Played at Fallowfield, a fantastic sea-saw match was wintnessed by the crowd of 6'000. Australia ending as victors 12-6


Lancashire programme


28th November 1908

won 8- 0


Played at Taunton, the Australians won an exciting match 8-0. After tha game the team was driven by horse drawn coach to the Castle hotel where they enjoyed a dinner with the Somerset team.


Somerset programme

Midlands and East Midands Counties

2nd December 1908

lost 5- 16

In only the second defeat of the tour, the East Midlands team outscored the Australians 3 tries to 1. E.R Mobbs played a significant role in the victory.

Mobbs would later raise the "Sportsman" 250 for the Northhampton regiment in WW1. He was killed in Ypres in July 1917. The Annual Mobbs memorial game is still played today

ER Mobbs

Anglo Welsh

5th December 1908

won 24 - 0


The game was played at Richmond and the Anglo team contained three internationals "Boxer" Harding, J.P. Jones and J.F Williams. Australia smarting from the pervious defeat won easily with Russell scoring 4 tries.


Ticket for the Anglo Welsh game


12th December 1908

lost 6- 9


The first international game of the tour, saw Wales at full strength apart from Percey Bush who stood down at the last minute.

As the match approached, excitement was at fever pitch. 40,000 saw Wales defeat Australia, with Travers scroing a disputed try ... in a fast a furious game


Match action from the Wales game

Glamorgan League

17th December 1908

won 11- 3


In heavy rain, Australia won 11-3. With tries from Mandible, Dix and Row


Glamorgan League programme


19th December 1908

won 5 - 3


Again the weather was poor, thick fog covered the ground. The start was delayed by 15 mins. Great cover defence held Australia to 5-0 at half time. In the last 20 mins Australia threw everything at the home team, however they narrowly defeated Newport 5-3.

- -

Newport programme


23rd December 1908

draw 3- 3


There was great excitement in the Western Valleys for this game, with the collieries finishing work early. The constant rain provided the worse playing surface of the tour.

The game kicked off late and it was agreed that two 35 min halves would be played - pre floodlights. An estimated 10,000 saw a 3-3 draw

- -

1908 Tour Christmas card


26th December 1908

lost 0- 6


In a relentless shedule over the Christmas period, the Austalians arrived at St Helens. An amazing 46,000 squeezed into the ground. A furious game, where Australian Griffin was sent off, Swansea ended victors 6-0


In loving memory .... Postcard from the Swansea game


28th December 1908

won 24- 8


With Percy Bush leading Cardiff, a stern test was expected. The game was delayed due to snow, the first many of the tourists had ever seen. In the second half Burge was sent off for the visitors. Cardiff ended 24-8 victors. After the game both team visited a local theatre to see a performance of "Cinderella"

The Australians had planned to play France, in Paris on the 1st January. However severe ice storms prevented the game being played.


Famous Cardiff in the snow postcard


9th January 1909

Won 9- 3




With Moran getting injured prior to the game, Australia had to again shuffle their team. Australia ended up wining the game 9-3, with two tries from Russell. Mobbs scored a try for England.

Tom Richards played for Australia, and later for the British Lions is South Africa, Richards also played for Bristol, Toulouse and the Transvaal. During WW1 he took part in the landing at Gallipoli. The Tom Richards trophy is today played between the British Lions and Australia.




Tom Richards postcard

Bristol and Clifton
13 January 1909

won 11- 3



The Australian team arrived on the 11th January, and were provided with a wide ranging entertainment programme - Music Hall, Fry's chocolate factory, Wills tobacco factory and an Aladin panto.

The game was officiated by no other than Gwyn Nicholls, captain of Wales against the 1905 All Blacks.

In front of a crowd of 5000, Australii won 11-3


1908 group with Gwyn Nicholls (frontt rhs) postcard


16th January 1909

won 15- 6



And onto the final game of the tour, togther with Bristol these games were arranged during the tour. Its was said as a reward for the good treatment Flanagan and Burge had recived while injured in hospital. McCabe scored 3 tries in a convincing victory.

- -------

-Injured Burge and Flanigan postcard

University of California/Stanford University/All California/Vancouver/Victoria

6 Febuary1909

U of C : won 27- 0

Stanford Uni : won 13-3

All California : won 17-0

Vancouver : won 23-0

Victoria : won 26-3




Tour items from USA/Canada leg of tour - Burge


Acknowledgements : Many thanks to RMS members : Ellis Morgan Thornton, Chris Price, Phil Atkinson, Michael Fahey and Neil O Brien : Please contact myself at paul.northey@ieee.org with any updates or additional images. (c) Rugby Memorabilia Society






The 1908 Australia tour Squad.