Christopher Eric Latham
- 749Wallaby Number
Chris Latham was a mercurial, instinctive and powerful fullback who enjoyed a distinguished Wallaby career.
Born and bred in the north west New South Wales town of Narrabri, Latham’s sport of choice was soccer and he did not play a game of rugby until he was 18 years of age. To think that he would then make his Test debut not long after his 23rd birthday said much about his obvious natural and latent talent.
He moved to Sydney looking for work and a friend dragged him along to the famous Randwick rugby union club. Latham joined the NSW Waratahs in 1997, played 11 games on the wing, but found his path to fullback blocked by Wallaby custodian Matthew Burke.
Queensland coach John Connelly had seen enough of Latham at club level to know a star in the making and he was snapped up by the Reds for the 1998 season. Latham was named in that year’s Wallaby Spring Tour squad and made his Test debut against France in Paris. He went on to win an unprecedented four Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year awards (2000, ‘03, ‘04 & ‘05) and played in three Rugby World Cups (1999, 2003 & 2007).
In May, 2008 Latham effectively retired from Australian rugby after scans confirmed he had torn his pectoral muscle from the bone playing for the Reds against the Crusaders.
Chris Latham played 78 Tests for Australia and scored 40 Test tries, second only to the great David Campese, over his 10 year international career.
Represented Australian U21s.
Latham won his first Test cap as the starting fullback in the 32-21 victory over France in Paris. A week later he held his position in the 12-11 win against England at Twickenham.
Latham started the first three Tests of the year before Matthew Burke was reinstated as fullback. He scored his first Test try in the 32-26, 2nd Test win over Ireland in Perth. Latham was selected to his first Rugby World Cup and won one additional cap, against Namibia in Adelaide, where he scored an Australian record five tries.
Latham played all ten Wallaby Tests as the run-on No.15. He finished the season as the Wallabies’ leading try scorer with eight.
He won a further 10 caps over the course of the season however just one came as the starting fullback, five at right wing and the remaining four from the bench.
Latham played the opening six Tests at No.15 but missed the end-of-season Spring Tour after being injured in a freak accident. He damaged the lateral ligaments in his right ankle while playing with his daughter.
Represented Australia in the IRB Sevens World Series
Latham played in six of the opening seven Tests. He won selection to a second Rugby World Cup but only made one appearance, against Namibia in Adelaide.
Latham played in all 12 Wallaby Tests. He was a replacement in the opening four internationals and started at fullback in the final eight matches. Latham played his 50th Test in the 31-17 victory over Scotland in Glasgow.
He earned a further eight caps over the course of the season. Australia used three fullbacks, Latham, Mat Rogers and Drew Mitchell in the first nine Test before Latham started the final four in succession and finished the year as the incumbent No.15.
Latham started at fullback in all 13 Tests. He was selected in the Australian Men’s Sevens team for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and won the John Eales Medal as Australian Player of the Year.
Latham missed the first six Tests of the domestic season after he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a Queensland Reds training session. He returned for the 2nd Test against New Zealand and was selected to his third Rugby World Cup. Latham was the run-on XV No.15 in all five Australian matches of the tournament.