Alfred Stanley Billingsley Walker
- 122Wallaby Number
‘Wakka’ Walker is one of the few who played for his country before his State, being the second youngest at 19- years-of-age to tour California and British Columbia with the Australian team. Despite his age he would play in nine of the games, two as a substitute. Eddie Kann had this to say of ‘Wakka’ Walker in Easts Rugby Story:Toughest of tough half backs, A.S.B. Walker was known as ‘Wakka’ by all and sundry in Rugby in which he ranks as one of Easts most Homeric footballers. No one at Easts, not even his contemporaries, could tell the author ‘Wakka’s’ Christian names which he himself probably wanted to forget, as A.S.B. stood for Arthur Stanley Billingsgate. “’Arthur’ might have been acceptable because characteristics of his play were speed, quick thinking and a bewildering side-step. ‘He could zig-zag through a loose ruck like forked lightning! Arthur Murray’s dancers no doubt would have been amazed by ‘Wakka’s’ footwork. “Walker also was noted for his ‘dummy’. One young half, promoted to first grade, was told ‘to watch Walker’s hands.’
Reports of Easts matches continually told the story how Walker darted round the scrum or ruck, feinted and dodged through the bewildered defence for a try. “Walker also was a smashing tackler. In games in which the opposition hammered Easts goal line the former would always be to the fore in keeping them out. ‘Wakka’ was foremost a master of dazzling attacking rugby and a master tactician. He was classed as a half back in the same bracket as the famous Chris McKivat and other illustrious predecessors as scrum workers. “Walker was good company as well as a most unselfish footballer.” “Wakka ‘was a great practical joker’, said Larry Wogan who toured both America and New Zealand with him. Later NSW players, when Walker was made a State selector and their manager while housed at a Coogee Hotel to undergo training to meet the All Blacks, also enjoyed their association with ‘Wakka’... and his ‘nieces’.
Walker was a Sydney Grammar School Old Boy who played representative rugby from 1912 to 1924. The war took a big slice out of his career.” In 1912, when he first played for Australia on the North American tour, he was not only a mere 19- years-of-age, but a diminutive 5 foot 6 inches and 11 stone 6 pounds. Though he was not selected in either the Metropolitan or NSW squads against the visiting Maori team in 1913, he was also not picked on the 1913 tour of New Zealand, ‘Twit’ Tasker, who also played five-eighth, and the experienced Fred Wood getting the nod. These selections also held up on the 1914 ‘Declaration of War’ tour by New Zealand.
So Walker had not represented his country since the 1912 tour. During the war ‘Wakka’ was with the Light Horse and after the armistice played in the Empire Expeditionary Forces Rugby competition at Cairo. He did not have an opportunity to make the AIF team for the King’s Cup and tour with Australia because of his Egyptian posting. After the war, and following his return to Australia, Walker captained Easts, and then played for Australia against the AIF team that toured Australia. This tour was a considerable fillip for the Union code after the war. He played in the first and third Australian XV games against the AIF team.
These games have never been considered as Tests, and there certainly is a strong argument to consider them as such. In 1920 New Zealand toured, and ‘Wakka’ played in two of the three NSW teams against them. These are now considered as Tests, as Queensland had disbanded, not coming back into the national scene until 1929. When the 1921 season came around, Willie Watson had departed for the USA and he took over the captaincy of NSW from him. His main competition, as Fred Wood had retired, was Manly’s Norman Mingay. It was South Africa’s first visit to Australia in 1921, led by Theo Pienaar, though in actuality the captain in the Tests was ‘Boy’ Morkel.
Incredibly, there were five members of the Morkel family in the team. In the first match against NSW (now a Test), Walker was captain, the home team losing to the mighty ‘Boks by 10 to 25. He captained the second and third matches as well, NSW losing by 11 to 16 and 9-28. In the final clash, The Sydney Morning Herald reporter noted: “Among the NSW players, A.S.Walker at halfback, showed sterling form... But his forwards let him down badly.” That same year, 1921, NSW toured NZ, playing 10 games. ‘Wakka’ Walker was the captain, and he played in eight games, which included one Test (won 17-0). Though NSW played against many of the minor Unions, it was the best tour any team from Australia had ever had, NSW winning nine and losing only one game against Wellington. Some of the NSW players who would leave an indelible record in Australian rugby were Johnny Wallace, ‘Pup’ Raymond, ‘Slip’ Carr, Otto Nothling (who played cricket for Australia when Don Bradman was dropped for the only time in his career), and Charlie Fox.
The tour was a triumph for Walker. In 1922 Walker was 28 -years-of-age and yet he continued to captain NSW in the first and third matches versus the Maori, and then fronted up against the All Blacks in the three NSW matches against them, two of which NSW won. Against the Maori in the first match he received a large gash on his head early in the game but he showed his courage by playing on. He was still at it in 1923, now 29- years-of-age, playing two games against the Maori, but he had been superseded as captain by ‘Watty’ Friend. He did not go on the 1923 tour to NZ, the halfback positions going to Norm Mingay, Wally Meagher and Jack Duncan. Incredibly, at 31- years-of-age, he was back at it in 1924, captaining NSW twice against the All Blacks. He was also in the third game, but Ted Thorn was the new captain. It was some career at the top level, lasting from 1912 to 1924.
In all Walker captained NSW 18 times in his 24 State appearances (one against Queensland in 1913) and he played 77 times for his beloved Easts. On his retirement he became a State selector for a number of years. He died at Forster in September 1958, aged 65. He had been in poor health for some time. Arthur Walker captained NSW in what is now regarded as Tests in Australia some eight times. This was a record at the time. A fun-loving man, he was a sturdy player with lots of heart. He was lightning fast on attack and tireless on defence. He was tough, and his opponents knew it. He was a veritable legend in his day.