Clarence 'Doss' Wallach
- 132Wallaby Number
'Doss' Wallach came to the fore at a particularly trying time for rugby union, as his career coincided with the often bitter battle between the amateur game and the newly- formed, but massively popular, professional rugby league code. The amateurs were getting all the worst of it in the years just before the war, as they had been chased off the Sydney Cricket Ground and had lost many excellent players to the pay-for-play ranks. Therefore a man like Wallach, who was regarded as a fine Australian, was an ideal pin-up boy for the code. He made his debut for New South Wales in 1913, appearing against Queensland and in both matches against the touring New Zealand Maori team.
His form was sufficient to earn a place in the team that toured New Zealand – in truth, any New South Wales’ first-choice player was always likely to get the nod, as only six Queenslanders made the 24-man party – but he and Ted Fahey were quickly established as the Test locks. New Zealanders were quickly impressed by the big man – Wallach, at 6ft 2in (1.88m) and 14st 7lb (92kg) was both the tallest and heaviest player in the party – and his formidable strength, which also earned him prominence in the rugged sport of surf-lifesaving, was seen to advantage in both tight work and mauls. He scored the tour’s opening try against Auckland after good lead-up work by Fahey and Harold George, and was part of an Australian team that surprised the perennially-strong home side with its strength and ability.
The tourists then beat Taranaki – a good effort, as Taranaki had just ended Auckland’s eight-year reign as Ranfurly Shield holders – with Wallach again playing a prominent part in a hard-working pack. Wanganui caused a surprise by downing the tourists midweek before the first Test, which was played in terrible conditions at Wellington. The match, played in quarters rather than halves and contested throughout in pouring rain and a bitter southerly, was won easily (30-5) by the All Blacks, who were just preparing to leave for their American tour. This All Black side was exceptionally strong and completed its 16-match tour with an amazing record; not only was every match won by a wide margin but 156 tries were scored and only one conceded! No doubt the Australians wished them all the best after the Test and were secretly pleased to be doing so. Wallach played against Southland but picked up an injury that kept him out of the next two matches, including the second Test.
He returned for the third, by which time the Australians had developed into a useful combination and were by no means as overmatched as in the first match. Australia scored its first win on New Zealand soil and the margin, 16-5, left no room for argument. Wallach, as he had been in the first match, was the leading Wallaby forward and all agreed his presence was a key to the Australian victory. He also turned out against Marlborough in the tour finale and had earned all the glowing reports his play received as the team sailed for home. Wallach was always going to be chosen for Australia in the three-match series against the 1914 All Blacks after a strong showing for New South Wales in the tour opener and he eventually faced the tourists six times – three Tests, twice for New South Wales and once for Metropolitan Union. In every match he gave his usual strong performance but this was no ordinary All Black side; comprised of many of the players who had laid waste to American teams a year before, the All Blacks were undefeated and rarely threatened on this trip.
But for the war, which was declared midway through the tour, this team would have a far more prominent place in New Zealand rugby than it does. For all that, Wallach was agreed by friend and foe alike to have been one of the outstanding Australian players of the year. One of his State team-mates, Harold Williams, was a noted baritone singer and his duets with Wallach were often highlights of after-match functions; while Williams may not have played rugby as well as he sang, Wallach had mastered both talents to a high level. In common with most of the rugby players of the time, Wallach was quick to sign up and he was sent overseas with an early contingent. He served at Gallipoli and survived that, but later was severely wounded in France after winning the Military Cross. Those wounds resulted in the loss of both legs but even the double amputation was insufficient to save Wallach’s life, and this splendid specimen of Australian manhood died in 1918, aged 28.