Bryan Desmond Hughes
- 135Wallaby Number
Bryan Hughes had a short career in representative rugby but made the most of it and played a part in one of Australia’s most notable wins in the pre-World War I era, when they beat New Zealand in New Zealand for the first time. He was already 26 -years -of -age when he was first called into the New South Wales team, playing both matches against the 1913 New Zealand Maori team. New South Wales won both these games and Hughes made a sound impression, so his name was always going to be one of those under consideration for the New Zealand tour. Hughes was probably intended to be the fourth loose forward in the party – Paddy Murphy, Bill Cody and Fred Thompson were the others – and he only played two matches in the first five, although one was against Auckland, which was then, as now, one of the strongest unions in the country. Only ten forwards were used in the first five matches as the main pack was almost played into the ground, but an injury to Doss Wallach gave Hughes his chance in the second Test of the series.
The first had been lost heavily in Wellington to a high-class All Black side, but that team had sailed to California to begin a tour in the interim and so an entirely new team had to be chosen. The All Blacks still won the match but by no means as decisively as the first, and the Australian forwards were more prominent although still shaded by the home side. Hughes was singled out for mention in the press for a strong game and, even though Wallach recovered from his injury before the next match, the North Sydney man had done enough with his chance to retain his place. He was chosen for the third Test and a hitherto unrevealed skill (not shown in New Zealand, that is) was put on display for the first time.
The team’s main kicker, Larry Dwyer, was battling an injury that prevented him taking the goal kicks, so Hughes was given a chance. His first two attempts, both wide-angled conversions, sailed straight and true, giving Australia the points necessary to first draw level just before half-time and then establish a clear margin just afterwards. Australia never looked back and secured their historic victory with some ease. Hughes also played against Marlborough, adding one conversion to his points tally, and returned home a much more highly regarded player than he was when he sailed. Since Hughes had done so well in New Zealand it was a surprise that he made no appearances in major matches in 1914. He, like most prominent rugby players, joined up on the outbreak of war later that year and he was killed in action in France in 1918.