Charles Roy "Chilla" Wilson
- 424Wallaby Number
‘Chilla’ Wilson was a fearless breakaway who overcame the disappointment of missing the Fourth Wallabies tour to not only reclaim his spot but to captain his country. Wilson was a fit, copy book tackler with a good turn of speed and a team man who put his body on the line in every game he played. He also successfully balanced the demands of a medical degree and an international rugby career.
Born in Brisbane, Wilson attended Brisbane Grammar School and from there enrolled at the University of Queensland. In 1952 he debuted at halfback for Queensland against New South Wales and in his very next match for the Maroons was selected at blindside flanker against Fiji. Wilson then waited five years for an opportunity at national level due to the presence of Keith Cross, Mac Hughes and John Thornett.
In 1957, Hughes pulled a thigh muscle in the interstate match and Thornett was not selected for New South Wales against the touring All Blacks. As a consequence, Wilson was called up to make his Test debut in Sydney. The Wallabies lost 11-25 and the selectors reacted by making five changes, four in the forwards - one of which was Wilson, in an effort to bolster the pack for Brisbane. Wilson captained Queensland against New Zealand ahead of the 2nd Test however later in the year he was not included in the final trial match for the Fourth Wallabies and missed the tour alongside incumbent Wallaby captain Dick Tooth, Cross and Cyril Burke.
In 1958, Wilson missed the Maori series but captained the Maroons to just their second win over New South Wales since the war. That performance saw him chosen, and made captain, for the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. The team was written off before departure but surprised the pundits with their performances. In the 2nd Test at Lancaster Park the All Blacks struggled against a fired-up Wallabies who had been humbled 3-25 at Athletic Park. A stunned Christchurch crowd witnessed one of the biggest shocks in Test rugby of that time. The forwards, led by the impressive tight five, outplayed their more highly rated opponents as they disabled the All Blacks’ key attacking weapon, a sound set piece. The Wallaby defence was a vast improvement than it had been at Wellington and All Black over-confidence was gradually replaced with something akin to panic. Australia grew throughout the match and thoroughly deserved their 6-3 victory.
After the tour, Wilson left Australia for five years of post-graduate medical studies in Scotland and England. He allied himself with the Edinburgh Wanderers but was also selected for the London Counties team which played against the All Blacks in 1963 and 1964. On his return to Brisbane, he became captain-coach at Wests, and moved into management, firstly with Queensland and then with the Wallabies.
He managed the Australian tour to NZ in 1982, to Italy and France in 1983, and the famous ‘Grand Slam’ tour of 1984.
‘Chilla’ Wilson played four Tests for Australia in a two-year international career and made an enormous contribution to Australian rugby, as player, captain and manager.
Wilson won his first Test cap at flanker alongside Keith Cross and fellow debutant Peter Fenwicke in the 1st Test, 11-25 loss to New Zealand at the S.C.G.
Wilson became the 44th Wallaby to captain his country and started all three Tests on the side of the scrum against New Zealand.