Alexander Roy Armstrong
- 197Wallaby Number
Like many a player, Alexander Armstrong had his one year of rugby glory. His year was 1923. A Western Suburbs backrower, his first entry into big-time rugby was against the NZ Maori team touring Australia in 1923. He represented the Metropolitan Union against them, and it was a 16-all draw, and he must have created a fine impression. Luck came into the equation to some extent, as when the 1923 NSW team to tour New Zealand was being considered, some ten players declared themselves unavailable for the tour. This included Walter Friend, ‘Wakka’ Walker, ‘Pup’ Raymond, John Pym, Charlie Fox, Larry Wogan and Johnny Wallace.
There were, however, a number of experienced players available like Otto Nothling, ‘Bot’ Stanley, Norm Mingay, Tom Davis, Charlie Thompson, Duncan Fowles and Ray Elliott. The captain was Billy Sheehan. Alex Armstrong, now 25 years-of-age, was the smallest in the pack at 5 foot 9 inches, but he was one of the heaviest, though a mere 13 stone. Armstrong would play in five of the 10 scheduled matches, two as a lock and three as a flanker. He played in the first match at Wellington-Manawatu (lost 16-29), the second versus South Canterbury and the third match against New Zealand (since 1986 counted as a Test). There were six players who joined the team just prior to this match and five of them were immediately selected for this Test.
They had University examinations and were Otto Nothling, ‘Bot’ Stanley, Arthur Erby, Bill Marrott, Hugh Taylor and Billy Sheehan. They did not help, as NSW lost by 9-19. He also played in the second Test lost 6 to 34. Armstrong would play in only one other match, against Auckland in North Auckland. This was to be the end of his representative career. He had played five times for Australia, two of them Tests, all in 1923, on tour. The tour itself was unsuccessful, Australia winning only two of the ten matches, against South Canterbury and Waikato-Thames Valley-Bay of Plenty. There was controversy on the tour, as described by Chester and McMillan in The Visitors: “At the dinner after the game manager Bosward commented on the marvellous hospitality his team had received, suggesting that this could be a contributing factor to the lack of success by the visitors.
He hoped that New Zealand would abolish the wing forward, particularly deploring the tactics of Belliss, Jim Donald and Porter. He believed the rover as employed by New Zealand teams was ruining the game by making open back play almost impossible.” Armstrong died, like so many of his peers, without knowing he had represented his country, rather than just NSW. The team on his debut on 25 August 1923 at Carisbrook, Dunedin, was Otto Nothling, Norm Smith (replaced by Murray Buntine), Billy Sheehan (capt), Ronald Stanley, Danie Erasmus (replaced by Bob Loudon), Bill George, Norman Mingay, Ted Thorn, Ray Elliott, Alexander Armstrong, Bill Marrott, Lisle Taylor, Charles Thompson, ‘Jock’ Blackwood and Tom Davis. It was a 9-19 loss.