Alexander Murray Pope
- 521Wallaby Number
Alex Pope was a hard-running, elusive and eminently dependable centre whose debut Test match ended in one of rugby’s great controversies.
Born in Brisbane, Pope was educated at the Marist Brothers College, Ashgrove from where he joined the renowned Brothers Club.
He made his senior representative debut for Queensland against NSW in July 1967 and a year later found himself in the Wallaby squad for the series against New Zealand. Australia was on the verge of a great upset in the 2nd Test at Ballymore as they led 18-14 with two minutes on the clock against an All Black team that had won 11 consecutive internationals. New Zealand were on attack and centre Bill Davis looked for Grahame Thorne however the right winger had been impeded by Alan Cardy who did nothing more than hold his own line.
With Thorne momentarily out of the play Davis dropped the ball onto his foot and kicked toward the corner. Almost simultaneously Wallaby centre Barry Honan, who was very much committed to the tackle and literally in mid-air at the time, brought Davis to ground. The ball rolled into the in-goal area and stopped. Pope, who was fresh off the bench having just replaced the injured Phil Smith, sprinted crossfield to beat the advancing outside backs. Pope had a shorter distance to cover and comfortably dotted the ball down well in advance of any other players arriving. Nonetheless, referee Kevin Crowe showed little hesitation, “blew the whistle, ran to the sticks and gave a penalty try."
Huddled behind the posts Cardy asked Crowe why the try had been awarded. Crowe claimed it was “for the late tackle by Barry Honan on their centre” however, some years later, having seen the footage which clearly showed the Honan tackle not to be late, he changed his tune and stated that the penalty try was for Cardy’s interference on Thorne. All Black fullback Fergie McCormack knocked over the conversion from in front and the game was lost 18-19.
Pope toured with the Wallabies to Ireland and Scotland at the end of the year but did not play in either Test.
Pope won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Phil Smith at outside centre in the 18-19 loss to New Zealand in Brisbane.