Alan Keith Walker
- 348Wallaby Number
Australia has produced many outstanding multi-sport athletes however just three men have represented in both rugby and cricket at international level - John Morris Taylor, Otto Nothling, and Alan Walker. Taylor and Nothling knew nothing of their rare feat as the rugby matches they played for New South Wales in the 1920s were not given Test status until 1994.
Primarily an outside centre and winger, although he could also play inside centre, Walker’s obvious versatility made him the ideal tourist. His best position was on the wing, largely due to his speed, his outside swerve and the fact that he had more room to move. That was when his true genius was revealed.
Born and bred in Manly, Walker finished his education at Sydney Grammar School where he played three years of 1st XV (1941-43) and three years in the 1st XI.
Walker then served in the R.A.A.F before his big rugby breakthrough came in 1947 when Trevor Allan dropped out of the City 1 v Country match. Although not selected in either of the other two City teams, Walker was called up from the reserves to replace Allan so as not to disrupt the minor sides’ preparations. Walker then gave a truly remarkable performance in which he scored two tries and figured prominently in four others. As luck would have it another injury just a few weeks later, this time to Queensland centre Kev Bourke, opened the door for Walker to make his Test debut, against New Zealand in Brisbane. Walker duly won a spot on the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. and France where he scored a try that former Welsh and British international fullback Vivian Jenkins described as “one of the greatest individual efforts ever seen at Twickenham” in the 11-0 defeat of England.
A dominant performance in his maiden Sheffield Shield season (1948/49) when he topped the season with 38 wickets at an average of 13.34, ahead of the great Ray Lindwall (35 wickets at 19.51), saw him chosen in Lindsay Hassett’s Australian team for the tour of South Africa. As a consequence Walker chose to step away from rugby in 1949 as it was “not worth risking a broken arm or a broken leg”. Unfortunately Walker did not win a Test cap as Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall and Bill Johnston led Australia’s attack.
He returned to rugby in 1950 and won his final caps against the Lions after a groin injury to Allan, who was now Australia’s captain-coach, forced him to withdraw from both Tests in the series. The following year Walker retired from rugby to concentrate on cricket however he then missed selection on Australia’s 1953 Ashes tour to England. As a result Walker left Australia for the Lancashire League after he received a fee of £1500, the highest figure paid to an Australian to play professional cricket in England. While in the U.K. Walker signed to play rugby league with Leigh.
Alan Walker played five rugby Tests for Australia in a four-year international career.
Walker won his first Test cap on the right wing in the 1st Test, 5-13 loss to New Zealand at the Exhibition Ground.
Walker won two caps, both at inside centre, on the Third Wallabies’ tour, against England and France. In the England match the home side monopolised the second half were well in the game until Walker scored his first Test try eight minutes from the end. It was described as a ‘brilliant individual effort’. Walker received the ball mid-field, ten yards out from Australia’s defending quarter-line. Confronted with four defenders and only one support player on his outside Walker dropped the ball onto his left foot and chipped ahead. He regathered at the first bounce near half-way, swerved around English fullback Syd Newman and then with a magnificent burst outpaced the defence to score five yards from the cornerflag.
He won his final two caps at outside centre, in partnership with John Blomley, during the two home losses to the British Lions.