Albert Hotston Stone
- 311Wallaby Number
Alby Stone was a stumpy, thickset hooker of exceptional ability whose international career was cut down in its prime by the onset of World War II.
A product of Sydney Grammar School, Stone’s play and inspiration had much to do with the 1st XV’s success in 1929 and he was one of the first chosen for All Schools. He also twice captained the school’s 1st XI from wicketkeeper, was a handy boxer and an active member of the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club.
Stone made his first grade debut with Randwick in 1931 but after just seven games switched his allegiances to Eastern Suburbs where he went on to have a long and storied career. As is often the case with front-row forwards, Stone had to serve an apprenticeship before the he graduated to representative levels. Even when that opportunity presented itself in 1936 it only came about after University rake and Wallaby tourist to South Africa in 1933 Mark Morton fractured two ribs in a club match against Randwick and Stone was called in for his state debut against Queensland. The Waratahs won both matches and Stone, who held his own against incumbent Australian hooker Eddie Bonis, was retained for the trials ahead of the tour to New Zealand later that season.
Stone went away as Bonis’ understudy and while each played five matches the Queenslander started all three internationals. In 1937 the mighty Springboks arrived for a two match series and after Waratah great Johnnie Wallace devised an open rugby game plan that saw New South Wales upset the tourists 17-6 there were calls for the entire run-on XV to be named for the first Test. Nonetheless four Queenslanders, including Bonis, played in the narrow 5-9 loss. Incredibly, after 20 consecutive Tests over eight seasons, the Australian selectors then dropped Bonis for the 2nd Test and Stone came in for his debut.
A year later the tables were turned as Bonis won back his spot after the touring All Blacks ran roughshod over an injury-stricken New South Wales (28-8). However, Australia were similarly overwhelmed in the opening Test (9-24) and the Australian selectors made seven changes for Brisbane where Stone returned at Bonis’ expense. As the incumbent national hooker Stone looked forward to the 1939 season and the Second Wallaby tour to Great Britain with great optimism. When the team was announced Bonis missed out and Stone was included with Victorian Andy Barr as his deputy.
Unfortunately the tour was abandoned the day after the team arrived when England declared war with Germany. While many of his team mates enlisted Stone remained in a reserved occupation for an essential industry at Bradford Kendall Engineering Company. He continued to play club rugby for Easts, winning two premierships (1941 and 1944), and in 1945 became just the fourth player to make his 200th first grade appearance. When the war ended, the QRU staged an interstate match in which Stone was selected for New South Wales and Bonis for the home side. That match proved to be each hooker’s representative rugby swansong. Stone played two more years with Easts before he retired in 1947.
Stone won his first Test cap at hooker, propped by Bill Cerutti and John Malone, in the 2nd Test, 17-26 defeat to South Africa at the S.C.G..
Stone started at hooker alongside Vay Wilson and Cliff Lang in both the second and third Tests of the home series against New Zealand.