Alonzo Stephen "Lonnie" Spragg
- 12Wallaby Number
‘Lonnie’ Spragg was born in Redfern, Sydney, on 2 October 1878 and died at an early age, on 12 February 1904 in Brisbane. Ian Diehm said of him in Red! Red! Red!: The Story of Queensland Rugby “ that he burst onto the Australian Rugby scene in 1899 scoring 17 of 24 points registered by the Australians against the British. “Spragg was the greatest Rugby personality- beloved by all- handsome, with a tremendous physique enhanced by interstate rowing, a brilliant attacking centre or winger and an outstanding goal kicker.” Jack Davis summarised his abilities:” Strong, lithe physique, step-off either foot and pace.” It was said of him that “he is possess (ed) rare gifts, denoting a special aptitude for the game...He is as fast as, if not faster than Stan Wickham, dodges like the old Wallaroo wing, yet unlike him too, he dodges both ways.. Spragg is a splendid kick, either place or drop and is eager and capable on defence.” He played for Wallaroos (Sydney), City (Brisbane), North Brisbane, Queensland and Australia.
After representing NSW in 1899, he went to Brisbane in 1900, working in a bank. The QRU produced a 50-year commemorative publication in 1932, in which it was stated:”Apart from the success for the Queensland teams at the close of the 1890’s and in the early part of the 20th Century, the year 1900 was remarkable for the entry into the rugby life of the colony of one whose subsequent achievements stand today almost unrivalled among centres. Today we have the masterly Lawton, the ubiquitous Steggall, the dazzling McGhie and the overwhelming Cooke, the galloping Clarke and the reliable Bonis. Best of all the idols, the Queensland rugby crowd will ever remember the charming personality and cluttered playing, the finesse, of the late Lonnie Spragg. “Spragg was nothing if not versatile and his numerous appearances for the Maroons, at centre or wing, invariably presaged an exposition of the code, sometimes individual, sometimes in coordination, but always demonstrating rugby as it should be played. “Almost from the moment of his entry into the Queensland team, Spragg by sheer merit and brilliant endeavour was recognised as a goal-kicker and it would make an interesting comparison, were the figures readily available, of the number of goals he kicked in all matches, with those of the great Henry Messenger.
All too short were the years of this great master. He died after a brief illness, when his football was in the ascendant and his name on the lips of adults and schoolboys alike. When the 1899 Australian team to meet the British Isles side was being selected, Spragg’s name was the first decided upon”. Lonnie Spragg played for both NSW and Queensland. Playing for NSW in the centre or second five-eighth position, Australia following the New Zealand two five-eighths formation, Lonnie played against the visiting Great Britain side in 1899 and then became part of rugby history when he was selected for Australia’s first Test team on June 24,1899, at the SCG. His was a most auspicious debut, scoring a try and kicking two conversions in Australia’s 13 to 3 victory. Howell, et al, reported in They Came To Conquer:”: Australia regained the initiative, Lonnie Spragg almost scoring in one rush. Then Gralton secured, passed to Peter Ward, and it was on to Spragg again, who made certain this time after a dodging run and converted his own try.” The team in that historic first Test at the SCG on 24 June 1899 was Bob McCowan, Charlie White, Frank Row (capt.), Lonnie Spragg, Poley Evans, Peter Ward, Austin Gralton, Alf Colton, Charlie Ellis, Alexander Kelly, Walter Davis, Hyam Marks, Patrick Carew, James Carson and Bill Tanner.
He was ‘invited” for the second Test in Brisbane, which Great Britain won 11 to 0. Spragg was back again playing for NSW in the 29 July match, won by the visitors 11 to 5, Spragg converting the lone NSW try by Roger Barton. He was also selected in the third Test team against the visitors at the SCG and in a narrow 11 to 0 loss. Spragg scored two tries and two conversions. Despite slippery conditions, Spragg was outstanding. Howell, et al, noted in They Came To Conquer:” Australia did not give up though they were being outplayed. Arch Boyd secured the ball near halfway and sent it to Peter Ward, who ran towards the centre and then passed to Iggy O’Donnell, who then got in a clever pass to Spragg, who bolted for the line with Welshman Gwyn Nicholls in hard pursuit. It was a sensational race and victory rested with Lonnie Spragg, who grounded the ball close to the posts. He then kicked the conversion. It was Britain 8, Australia 5.” Also:”With about five minutes to go Lonnie Spragg started a fine passing movement and then sent the ball to Peter Ward. Ward returned the pass to Spragg as he got to fullback Thompson, many in the crowd believing the pass forward. Thompson could not catch Spragg as he ran for the line and scored. Again he kicked the conversion” In the fourth and final Test at the SCG, Spragg was automatically included and played a fine game in the 13 to 0 loss, in particular repelling many British attacks. A bank worker and then a hide merchant, Spragg moved to Queensland in 1900, playing for City, North Brisbane and Queensland, dying at 25 –years- of -age His death was widely mourned, as he was an outstanding person as well as an outstanding footballer. He scored 70 points in 12 matches for his adopted State, and would play in the first four Tests for Australia.