Charles Sydney Graham
- 19Wallaby Number
Born on 26th August 1868, Charles Graham entered the Brisbane Grammar School in 1881 when Melbourne Rules (later Victorian then Australian Rules) was the only football played in the School. His brother AD (Doug) Graham followed him to the School a year later. In 1886, Doug led the push with Fred O’Rourke to change Grammar’s code to rugby on the basis that this was the game that the Old Boys played, as did the major clubs in Brisbane. BGS changed to rugby the following year and Toowoomba Grammar did likewise, although Ipswich Grammar persisted with Rules for two more years.
Charles Graham was a short, stocky tight forward who made his debut for Queensland against New South Wales in 1888 in Sydney when he was on the losing side in both matches. During the same year, a British rugby team organised by the English professional cricketers Shrewsbury, Shaw and Lillywhite toured Australasia and played a number of matches of Australian Rules in South Australia and Victoria. Whilst in Melbourne, the tourists played a scratch Victorian rugby team in which Doug Graham (at University in Melbourne) participated. When the British team arrived in Brisbane, Charles Graham missed Queensland’s first match against them but received a lucky call up for the return encounter when two of the selected forwards, ‘Paddy’ Real and Jack Scott, failed to arrive in time from Ipswich and the emergencies could not be located. So Graham and Jack Johnston made a hurried change and took the field.
Five years passed before Graham received another invitation to play for Queensland. In 1893, he played both interstate games at Brisbane when Queensland lost the first match 14-6 in wet, greasy conditions at the Exhibition Ground, but triumphed 11-6 over an injury-ravaged New South Wales side in gloriously fine conditions. This was the first occasion that Graham had been on the winning team for Queensland. Later that year, Graham was in Queensland’s inaugural match against New Zealand. The tourists won 14-3 and it was to take another 87 years before Queensland, under the great Paul McLean, was able to record a victory over New Zealand. Graham lost his place to Sid Robertson for the return encounter. Two years later, Graham returned to the Queensland team captained by the former New Zealand forward Sam Cockcroft. Queensland won 26-16 in what was the highest scoring game to date between the two teams. Interestingly, W H ‘Doeey’ Tanner was one of several changes to the New South Wales team that reversed the result for a narrow 11-8 win. Tanner moved to Queensland the following year and was to combine with Graham in the front row for Queensland in 1899.
After a gap of four years, Graham, in his 31st year, made a return to the State side to pack down as left hooker in the two-man front row with ‘Doey’ Tanner. The loss of Bob McCowan, Bluey Dixon and Harold Scarr marred Queensland’s chances in the Sydney matches, which served as trials for Australia’s first Test match against the touring British team led by the Reverend Matthew Mullineux, both matches were lost. However, when Mullineux’s men arrived in Brisbane, Graham enjoyed Queensland’s 11-3 triumph over the tourists. Graham and Sine Boland missed Queensland’s 11-5 loss to New South Wales the following Saturday but both were in the team that defeated the disrupted Blues’ team 12-3 a week later. When the Australian selectors - Fred Lea, Jimmy Anderson and Jim Henderson - chose the Australian team for the second Test match at the Exhibition Ground, Graham was not initially included. However, when the Sydney fireman ‘Jum’ Carson withdrew, Graham was selected to hook with Tanner. Although the British team reversed the first Test result to win 11-0, Graham did have the satisfaction of being one of only two Australian Test players to participate in matches against both British touring teams.
Graham’s 1899 season was not over yet. There was still the Dewar Shield final to be played against Mildura - colloquially called ‘the Micks’ - who featured the three Colton brothers - ‘Yunker’, ‘Ginger’ and Tom also known as ‘Pudden’. Graham played for Past Grammars who named the internationals Bob McCowan, Sine Boland and Arthur Corfe in their ranks. When Grammars were leading 12-0, Tom Colton flattened McCowan without the ball. The latter appealed to the referee W H Beattie, who ordered Colton from the field. He refused to go and then Yunker Colton incited Milduras to walk off the field, whereupon the referee abandoned the game. Beattie then calmly moved across the pitch and hurdled the fence just in time to avoid the mob that invaded the arena. The QRU disqualified Tom and Yunker Colton for 12 months and booted Milduras out of the competition. Thus Graham ended his long rugby career after 12 matches for Queensland with an unexpected Australian Test cap, a win over New South Wales and a club premiership.