Charles Leigh "Charlie" Fox
- 153Wallaby Number
Charlie Fox, a burly 29-year-old second rower and outstanding lineout exponent, was one of the senior citizens of the 1927-28 Waratah tour of the British Isles, France and North America. Only Ted Thorn, at 30, was older. His representative career was longer than anyone else on the tour of tours. He had started in 1919, and retired after the 1928 tour. Peter Fenton wrote this about him in For The Sake Of the Game. “Charles Leigh Fox, Vice-Captain, Sydney Grammar, Northern Suburbs, aged 29, height 6 feet 1, weight 13 stone 7, suffered a severe leg injury against Oxford University that dramatically curtailed his career. Up to that point he had played 10 of the first 13 games.
His long absence was a real blow to the side as he was one of the most experienced players, having represented New South Wales several times since 1919 against the All Blacks, the Maoris and the Springboks. He was a tremendous lineout forward and his injury placed a heavy burden on Finlay and Storey. Charlie Fox recovered in time to play the last four games of the tour, including the French international when he replaced Jack Ford. He retired after the tour.” Fox's representative career started in 1919 with the visit of the AIF team, which did much to revive interest in rugby union in Australia after World War I. On 2 August 1919 he was selected in an Australian XV to play against the AIF and acquitted himself well. In 1920 he played in three matches for NSW against the All Blacks, and one for the Metropolitan Union. All matches NSW played against international teams are now declared Tests, but Fox died without knowing this.
No rugby was being played in Queensland from 1919 to 1929, when the so-called ‘Revivalists’ brought the game back in the northern state. The NSW team for the first match, on 24 July 1920 at the Sydney Sports Ground, was: Jackie Beith, Larry Wogan, Pup Raymond, Roy Chambers, Arthur Mayne, Tom Lawton snr, Arthur Walker, Bob Marrott, Viv Dunn, Irv Ormiston, Charlie Fox, Ray Elliott, Willie Watson (capt.), John Bond and Tom Davis. Fox had a busy year in 1921, going up against the visiting Springboks once for NSW and once for Metropolitan, and was that same year called upon to tour New Zealand.
He played seven games on tour, including the 17-0 defeat of the All Blacks in the single Test. This tour was the most successful in Australia’s history, but it should be noted parenthetically that the Springbok team was touring New Zealand at the same time and the opposition included several minor unions. Nonetheless, New South Wales returned home with only one defeat in ten matches. In 1922 he played against the visiting Maori in two Tests, and one against the full All Black team. He disappeared from the representative scene in 1923, but was back in 1924 (three Tests against New Zealand) and 1925. In the latter year he played against the All Blacks five times, three for NSW, once for a NSW XV and once for E.J. Thorn’s XV.
In the third Test he was appointed captain, so he lines up in history as one of the nation’s one-Test captains. In 1926 he played two Tests against New Zealand, and on the basis of his continual solid performances was selected, and as vice-captain, of the touring 1927-28 team. As noted, Fox was a stalwart on the team, playing in 10 of the first 13 games. It was against Oxford University that the main goals of his tour were smashed, as he had to retire from the field in the first half with what appeared to be a badly sprained ankle. It turned out to be so serious that he was only able to play the last four tour games. Fortunately one of these games was against France, so he played in one international.
In all, he played 13 of the 31 games. It was not the end of his career that he would have wished. Fox had captained of the Waratahs in the Oxford match, as he had been against Glasgow in Johnnie Wallace’s absence. Without Fox on the field in the second half - there were no substitutions in those days - the Waratahs lost their first tour game by 3-0. France lost to the Waratahs 8-11, so this is one example how his formidable presence was missed.