Alfred John Colton
- 3Wallaby Number
There were three Colton brothers who packed down in the Queensland scrum from 1897 to 1902. They were Thomas ‘Puddin’ Colton, Alfred ‘Ginger’ Colton ,who achieved Australian and Queensland representation, and Nicholas Colton, who played for Queensland. It was quite a remarkable football family. Alfred Colton, ‘Ginger’, went to St Patrick’s College, Fortitude Valley, the only two from that particular school to represent Australia. But there were other St Patrick’s Schools around Australia and New Zealand where Australian representatives got their grounding in the game. The three Tancred brothers , Charlie Redwood and Bob Westfield went to St Patrick’s, Wellington, NZ, Laurie Weatherstone to St Patrick’s, Bathurst, John Ballesty to St Patrick’s, Dundas, Michael Foley to St Patrick’s, Strathfield, as did Don McDeed and Drew Mitchell to St Patrick’s, Shorncliffe. Alfred was not the first of the brothers to go up against other countries, that was achieved by Tom in 1897. But Alf was certainly the first to make Test status. He did this in the first-ever Test in which Australia was involved. It was against Mathew Mullineaux’s Great Britain side, on 24 June 1899. The first Test team was Bob McCowan, Charlie White, Frank Row (capt.), Lonnie Spragg, ‘Poley’ Evans, Peter Ward, Austin Gralton, Alf Colton, Charlie Ellis, Alec Kelly, Walter Davis, Hyam Marks, Patrick Carew, James Carson and Bill Tanner.
Australia, influenced by New Zealand, played a 2-3-2 scrum formation this year, and would not turn to a 3-2-3 until 1900, thus being influenced by this British side. ‘Ginger’ would have been a flanker or wing forward. The very first try that Australia scored is under dispute. Howell, et al,, describe the dilemma in They Came to Conquer : “Early on Britain had the best of the running, the fullback Martelli missing his appointment with history as he failed with a penalty kick, which would have made him the first scorer in a Test in Australia. “The honour went to Alexander Kelly, in his sole Test. There is controversy over this try, as Pollard in Rugby Union claims the referee later awarded the try to one of a famous rugby playing family from Queensland, ‘Ginger’ Colton. The first score was described thus in the Sydney Morning Herald: ... in front of the goal Gralton secured and passed back to Evans, who took a flying shot for goal. The ball went high, failed to score, dropped in front of Martelli , who allowed it to bounce and Kelly and Colton came with a rush. The former jostled the English fullback, secured the ball, and scored a try. Several of the Englishmen appealed, for two reasons - for offside and for illegal interference - but the referee allowed the try.
From the press table, in the balcony of the members’ pavilion, the interference appeared to be simply a jostle, but it seemed hard to come to any other conclusion that Kelly and Colson were offside. Spragg took the kick, but failed to add the extra points. “It was Australia 3, Britain 0, and so it remained at halftime.” Australia won the first Test, 13 to 3. The Herald summed up the historic match. The general opinion of experts after the match on Saturday afternoon was that the better team on the day had won. The defeat of the Englishmen [sic] was attributed to want of condition, and it was stated that when they had struck form they would defeat Australia. There remains a controversy as to who scored first try for Australia and the only one for Britain. According to the Herald the first Australian try was scored by Kelly, and Bucher scored for the visitors. Other sources aver it was Colton and Nicholls, respectively. On 1 July 1899 Queensland played Britain, and also won by 11 to 3.
Both brothers, Tom and Alf, were in the Queensland team, as backrowers, or as wing forwards. Howell, et al, noted: “Forwards Ginger Colton, Tanner and Carew showed prominently with the ball at their feet, Colton firstly picking the ball up and when tackled passed to Tanner, to Evans, who scored between the posts. Gralton was successful with the goal, so it was Queensland 8, Britain 0.” And he was prominent throughout the match. When the second Test team was announced, Ginger Colton and Jim Carson withdrew from the match , presumably through injuries. However Ginger was back for the third Test at the SCG, a game that see- sawed throughout , Britain sweeping home by 11 to 10. He did not appear in the final Test. A farmer ,perhaps he had to work. From the Mildura Club, the brothers went to the Toombul-Nundah Club. Ginger represented Queensland in 1899 to 1902. Alf Colton will ever be remembered for being on Australia’s first-ever Test team in 1899. He would play two Tests for his country, both in 1899. Some sources have him scoring Australia’s first-ever try.