Charles Seymour Ellis
- 5Wallaby Number
Born in the steel city of Newcastle, Charles ‘Chip’ Ellis went to The King’s School, an exclusive private school at Parramatta, which was a rugby nursery that produced many internationals over the years, including Wallaby captains, Peter Fenwicke and Stirling Mortlock. After school, Ellis began work as a clerk and joined the powerful Pirates club in Sydney and there, he forged a great combination with New Zealand born James ‘Jum’ Carson, a fireman who was the finest forward in Australia at the time.
Physically strong, Ellis was a “young, heavy and powerful tight forward” according to Jack Davis in The Referee.He was blessed with fair pace for a big man and played in the second row on the side of the scrum in the old diamond 2-3-2 formation with two wing forwards. He made his representative debut for New South Wales in 1897 against Queensland and then became a regular in the NSW team from 1897 to 1899 when he proved a menace to the Queenslanders. In 1899, he played in the opening two intercolonial matches against Queensland in Sydney before being chosen in the NSW side to meet the Reverend Mullineaux’s visiting British team at the SCG. Four days later, Ellis played for the Metropolitan team against the tourists. Both tour matches were played in wet, heavy conditions that hampered the locals ,who lost the matches by 4-3 and 8-5, respectively. However, Ellis was selected for the first Test team ever fielded by Australia to be played at the SCG also. In this first Test match, Ellis was named in the three-man second row with Hyam Marks and Paddy Carew. The Australians won an historic victory by 11 points to 3 with the home forwards outstanding. After a number of the NSW players made themselves unavailable for the return matches against Queensland in Brisbane, they were omitted from the second Test match, although Ellis retained his place. Then two first Test forwards, ‘Ginger’ Colton and ‘Jum’ Carson ,withdrew to further weaken the team. Meanwhile the tourists had been touring the Queensland country towns in warm, sunny weather and built up to peak condition which enabled them to easily beat Australia 11-0.
In Sydney, Ellis played in the NSW match against the tourists which the home side would have won but for losing their scrumhalf, Billy Galloway ,through injury. Three days later, Ellis was in the Sydney Metropolitan team that beat the British team 8-5. He played in the remaining two internationals, both of which were lost 11-10 and 13-0. Ellis was selected in all four internationals, a feat emulated only by Lonnie Spragg, Peter Ward and Paddy Carew. Curiously, Ellis played eight times against the tourists but for that solitary victory in the first Test. They must have been heartily sick of seeing the husky figure of Ellis appearing from the dressing room. Following the British tour, Ellis moved back to Newcastle and turned out for the Wickham-Albion club in the local club competition. By now, Australian teams had adopted the British scrum formation of 3-2-3 and Ellis moved into the second row as a lock. Content with club football, he dropped out of big-time rugby for a time but was included as a lock with Peter Moir in the NSW Country team that met the touring New Zealanders on 19 August 1903 at the Sydney University Oval. Other notable players in the NSW Country side included Billy Dix, ‘George’ Anlezark, Chris McKivat, Bill Hirschberg and ‘Nimmo’ Walsh. The rampaging tourists won 32-0.
When ‘Darkie’ Bedell-Sivright’s British team toured in the following season, Ellis missed the early Sydney matches against the visitors but captained Combined Northern Districts in the tour match at the Newcastle Rugby Football Ground. A feature of the game proved to be Referee Dolan’s sending the British forward, Denys Dobson, from the field for dissent which caused Bedell-Sivright to lead his team from the field. Although playing two men short with winger Fred Jowett injured, the tourists managed to win by 17 points to 3. After the British team had won the Test series convincingly and moved to fulfil the New Zealand section of their tour, Ellis was recalled to captain the NSW team on its northern visit to Brisbane for the return interstate matches. His team won both matches - 10-6 and 8-0. Meanwhile the British team limped back into Sydney after a disastrous time in New Zealand where the only Test match was lost and injuries and illness hampered the tourists.
This was in stark contrast to the Australian section where they won the three Tests convincingly and were undefeated. The British team still had one fixture to complete their Australian tour – against New South Wales at the SCG. Ellis led the home side in a dour game in which the tourists lacked the sparkle of their earlier performances in Australia. The lone try in the game came in the first half which allowed the visitors to limp home by five points to nil. For ‘Chip’ Ellis, this match proved to be the veteran’s last match for NSW. In all, he had played 12 times for NSW – nine versus Queensland and three against British teams - and scored two tries. Over a long period, Ellis established himself as one of Australia’s finest forwards. After his successful debut against Mullineaux’s team in 1899, it was another four years until Australia’s next international match. Had there been more opportunities in his prime, no doubt Ellis would have added to his number of caps and forged a greater reputation.