The Australian Rugby community is mourning the loss of Mike Jenkinson, who passed away last weekend, aged 81.
Jenkinson was a livewire hooker that starred in an age when NSW Country critics claimed the boys in the bush could not get a go from the Australian selectors. Unable to nail down a first-grade spot with Eastern Suburbs in Sydney, Jenkinson won a Wallaby trip to Africa after being moved by his employer to Newcastle.
This came after he joined Easts as a 17-year-old and played his initial season in fourth grade. He went on to make his first grade debut in 1960, playing in every game, and was chosen in a Sydney under-23 side. However, he alternated between the grades over the next two seasons before accepting a transfer in late 1962 to Newcastle as he followed his other passion - journalism - serving as the Sydney Sun's northern correspondent.
He joined the Wanderers club, which also had the services of a youthful Wallaby five-eighth, Phil Hawthorne. In an incredible rise, Jenkinson was welcomed into the Newcastle side and made the Country Seconds behind Andy Laurie, who had toured New Zealand the year before as number two hooker to Peter Johnson.
The Sydney versus Country matches were used as trials for the Wallaby tour of South Africa later in the year, with the light-framed Jenkinson would be pitted against the wily Johnson in the final trial and did more than enough to be selected.
Making his debut for Australia against North Eastern Districts at Krugersdorp, Jenkinson found it hard going in a seven-man pack when Peter Crittle injured his back early on and played out the match as an extra fullback. The Wallabies just scraped home 9-8. Jenkinson's second tour match came in Kitwe (in modern Zambia) where he took a tighthead from Springbok Ronnie Hill which led to a try at a critical time to give the Wallabies a 14-11 lead.
Jenkinson played in eight of the 24 tour matches, including a strong showing against the Junior Springbok hooker, Brian Harrison. He was hampered by a broken shin not diagnosed until years later, featuring in his last appearance against Orange Free State at Bloemfontein.
Jenkinson played for the Rest against Australia in 1964 but never made another Wallaby side. He was probably the only player of his era to feature in a winning NSW Country team against Sydney (1967) and a winning Sydney team against NSW Country (1973).
After retiring from rugby he ghost wrote Australia's first successful book on the sport, The Game They Play in Heaven for Steve Finnane in 1978.
He wrote Until the Final Whistle, a sporting biography of Phil Hawthorne in 1996 and A Dangerous Breed, The Excellent African Adventures of the 1963 Wallabies in 2018. Jenkinson also wrote several books on non-rugby topics.
He was inducted into Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame in 2014.
Mike is survived by wife Libby, children Daniel and Hanna and grandchildren Adam and Eva.