Colin James "Breeze" Windon
- 337Wallaby Number
Col Windon was arguably Australian rugby’s greatest ever flanker and undoubtedly the Wallabies premier attacking flanker of all time. When one considers the likes of George Smith, David Pocock, David Wilson, Simon Poidevin, Greg Cornelsen and Greg Davis in that conversation those titles take on even greater meaning. Windon was known as ‘Breeze’ because he ran like the wind and his explosive speed won him national beach flag races. He was also a try-scoring machine, a superb cover defender and simply peerless in his support play. Windon’s mantra, inherited from his mentor Cyril Towers, was ‘Position, Possession, Pace,’ but when asked how he did it all, he simply said he had ‘no fear’.
Born in Randwick and raised in Coogee, Windon was educated at Sydney Grammar School where he enjoyed greater sporting success in cricket. It was not until Col saw his brother Keith (Wallaby #307) play against South Africa in 1937 that he developed the ambition to play rugby at the highest levels. Windon dropped out of school a year early and joined Keith at Randwick.
In 1940, his maiden year of first grade, he appeared predominantly on the wing and was equal-highest try-scorer in the competition with 11 from 13 games. The following year he was on patrol at Coogee Beach one day and the next, having enlisted, found himself training in Dubbo with a rifle and grenade. In 1942 he was to be sent to Singapore however in a stroke of luck missed the train, an event which may well have saved his life. Windon was then transferred to the 2/3 Infantry Battalion 6th Division and sent to the Owen Stanley Track in New Guinea. Recovered from a bout of malaria he returned to New Guinea in 1944 for the hard jungle encounters of the Aitape-to-Wewak campaign.
When rugby resumed after the war Windon quickly found his way into representative football when he scored a try on debut against Queensland and was then chosen for the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. Windon played nine of the 12 games, including his Test debut in Dunedin. Following the series Windon was named by the the New Zealand "Rugby Almanack" as one of the five players of the year.
He was one of the first chosen for the Third Wallabies 1947/48 tour to the U.K. and Europe where he starred, mostly notably in the Test against England. The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Tressider wrote, “I saw him single-handedly destroy England at Twickenham.” He scored scored two tries that day, one of them heralded as among the grandest ever seen at the ground. Hailed by the British media as ‘the prince of breakaways’, one commentator wrote that he ‘gave one of the finest displays ever seen at Twickenham.’
Among his many career highlights was his 1949 selection as vice-captain under Trevor Allan to New Zealand. Australia emerged victorious in both Tests and for the first time won the Bledisloe Cup on New Zealand soil. In a truly remarkable performance that year Windon scored tries in each of the three home Maori Tests and in both All Black Tests. Citing business commitments, Windon retired in 1950 and it was no coincidence that Australia were subsequently humbled by the British Lions. He returned to rugby a year later and after incumbent captain ‘Arch Winning’ broke his jaw, Windon was appointed as the 37th Wallaby to lead Australia in a Test match. In 1953, aged 32, Windon won a spot on the tour to South Africa however just before the team left he tore his hamstring training at Coogee but was then passed fit by the authorities. He missed the first seven games, rallied to play in six matches only for his leg to give out and sideline him for the rest of the tour. Windon retired as a player to coach his beloved Randwick from 1954-57.
In 1999 he was named in Australian rugby's team of the century and in 2005 he was honoured as one of the inaugural five inductees into the Wallaby Hall of Fame. Before he died in 2003 Windon said he was on the bench, waiting to join his brother and his mates who had gone before him. He was looking forward to resuming his career in the game they play in heaven, especially, he said, as there were some damn good players already there.
Col Windon played 20 Tests for Australia, two as captain, in a seven year international career. He scored 11 Test tries, a record that stood for 31 years until broken by Queensland winger Brendan Moon against Italy in 1983. Those 11 tries remained an Australian flanker record until 2016 when Michael Hooper scored his 12th, in what was his 54th Test, against England in Sydney. Windon’s try-scoring strike rate of 1.82 Tests per try (min. 10 tries) currently ranks fifth all-time for Australia behind ‘Pup’ Raymond (1.30), Randwick’s Matt Burke (1.53), David Campese (1.58) and Ian Williams (1.70).
Windon won his first Test cap at flanker alongside Allan Livermore and Arthur Buchan in the 1st Test 8-31 loss to New Zealand at Carisbrook. Captain Bill McLean joined Windon and Buchan for the 2nd Test 10-14 defeat at Eden Park.
Windon started the 1st Test, 5-13 home loss to New Zealand in a bacrow that included Buchan and Roger Cornforth however he was left out for the 2nd Test, a match that what was surprisingly treated as a trial for the Third Wallabies tour.
Buchan, Windon and Doug Keller formed the back row in all five Tests on the tour to the U.K. and Europe. Windon scored his first Test try in the 16-3 victory over Ireland at Lansdowne Road. He then picked up a double in the 11-0 win against England, the second of which firmly put the result beyond doubt. A local reported described it as follows: “Windon, seizing upon a knock-on by [five-eighth] Kemp [10 metres inside his own half], tore through their defence like a red-hot rocket. He had 50 yards to go, and three men after him, but this prince of breakaway forwards had the speed and stamina to get there”.
He played flanker in all five Tests of the season against the Maori (3) at home and away to New Zealand (2).
Windon started all three Tests of the home series against New Zealand, the final two as captain.
He won his final four caps in the split series at home against Fiji and in the two away internationals against the All Blacks. In his final Test in Wellington Windon scored his 11th try break the record the all-time Australian record of 10 co-held by ‘Pup’ Raymond (1920-23) and Cyril Towers (1926-37).