Charles Vincent Morrissey
- 216Wallaby Number
‘Tug’ Morrissey was one of the finest schoolboy athletes to ever play Test rugby for Australia. A rugged, strong running centre three-quarter, Morrissey built a near incomparable record of sporting achievement during his days at Saint Ignatius College, Riverview. He played six seasons in the 1st XI (1917-22), two years of GPS 1st XI and in his final year was captain of cricket. Morrissey played five years in the 1st XV (1918-22), captained the 1st XV and was a triple GPS 1st XV representative. He also rowed in the 1st VIII for four years (1919-1922) and with the award of multiple school colours in athletics Morrissey became one of the very few Ignatians to win a gold pocket for representation in four sports.
In his final year he was Head Prefect and Champion Athlete. Ginty Veech, a contemporary of Morrissey wrote about him in the school’s 1969 Alma Mater: ‘He was one of the greatest Union centres in Australia in his prime…powerfully built, along the lines of a Greek god, as active as a big cat, whether on the football field or in the slips where he fielded for NSW.” A very powerful batsman and a good fast-medium bowler, Morrissey played three first class matches for New South Wales (1924-25) however it was through his rugby that he gained national honours. Morrissey commenced his senior career with the Singleton club before he joined the Wanderers in Newcastle for the 1924 season. His performances earned him a spot for the Next XV v. New South Wales in the trials ahead of the inbound tour by New Zealand where he was 'most conspicuous in defence’. The press of the day opined that Morrissey 'should be a tower of strength to the representative team’ for the coming series. He was chosen in the 28-man squad for the opening Test and then bracketed as one of five three-quarters however he did not make the run-on team. As a consequence of having started an early season game for GPS Old Boys Morrissey qualified for the Metropolitan XV. That proved to be both a blessing and a curse given he was selected for the Metro XV tour match against New Zealand only to injure his left shoulder and miss the rest of the series.
The following year the All Blacks were back again however this time luck was on Morrissey’s side. Firstly he was overlooked for opening Test in which New South Wales were humbled 3-26. Secondly, just four days later, the NSW 2nd XV with Morrissey at inside centre stunned the visitors with an 18-16 victory where it was said that 'the big chap from Singleton put the Blacks down hard'. The combination of the poor first Test result and the surprising 2nd XV victory triggered a selector axe swing like few seen before or since. Eleven of the starting 2nd XV, including Morrissey, were named in the run-on side for the next Test, just three days hence. Although he did not know it at the time that match was Morrissey’s official Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986). Morrissey started two more matches against the All Blacks that season, the third international of the home series and the one-off Test on the return tour to New Zealand. The great Cyril Towers later wrote of that 1925 tour and claimed that Morrissey and Ernie Reid were "one of the best centre combinations ever to leave this country. Both big, powerful men, they ran and handled extremely well and were solid defenders. The former, in condition about 15 stone, used his weight to better effect than most players we have seen in our game”.
Two years later, and with a grand tour to the northern hemisphere in the offing, Morrissey suffered a bad attack of influenza. Ill and unfit it was nigh impossible for Morrissey to prove himself. Considered a ‘certainty for the trip if in condition’ a single half game for Randwick proved insufficient for him to earn a spot in any of the trials which ultimately cost Morrissey a spot on the tour itself. For reasons that remain unexplained Morrissey did not play first grade rugby in Sydney after the 1927 season and returned to a life in the country. A decade on, and aged just 34, Morrissey died in Quirindi following a seizure. Tragically three of the four Morrissey brothers passed away within twelve months of each other and Tug passed just two months before his famed 1925 centre partner Reid. ‘Tug’ Morrissey played five Tests for Australia in a two-year international career.
Morrissey won his first Test cap at inside centre, alongside fellow debutante Ernie Reid, in the 2nd Test, 0-4 loss to New Zealand at the Sydney Showground. That centre pairing also started in the 3rd Test, 3-11 defeat - again at the Showground - and the 10-36 thumping at Eden Park to an All Black side which contained 14 of their 1924/25 ‘Invincibles’.
Morrissey was selected to start the first Test of the home series against the All Blacks but withdrew when he was recalled to Blandford in the Hunter Valley following the death of his father. His replacement, Syd King, was one of three fill ins who performed so ‘magnificently’ in the 'staggering defeat of the generally considered invincible All Blacks’ that it was considered difficult to displace him when Morrissey became available for the rest of the series. Cyril Towers was the unfortunate casualty as Morrissey returned in the unfamiliar outside centre position for the final two Test of the series.