Craig Anthony Morton
Craig Morton personified loyalty. Loyalty to club, loyalty to province and, deservedly, loyalty to country. Once described as ‘the best counter-attacker in Australia, if not world rugby’, Morton was part of the Wallaby squad which, in 1986, won the Bledisloe Cup on New Zealand soil for just the second time in the history of trans-Tasman rugby.
Born and raised in Canberra, Morton won much acclaim as a prolific try-scoring left winger however he also performed with aplomb at fullback, outside centre and later in his career at fly half. Aside from his ability to find the line, Morton was a more than handy goal-kicker who always went looking for the ball. He possessed attacking flair, had a great left foot step and was also said to be inventive, deceptive, pacy, intuitive and dynamic.
His first rugby was played at Bowral’s Chevalier College before a move back to the nation’s capital saw him educated at Daramalan College where he played in the 1978 1st XV as a Year 11 fly-half. Morton played aged rugby for the Daramalan club and in 1980 was a member of their U18s side which were beaten in the grand final. His talent was obvious and a year later it was no surprise when Morton made his senior grade debut followed by selection for ACT U21.
In 1982 Morton earned his first representative berth when selected to play for the ACT against Sydney before he went on to become a near permanent fixture within the side over the ensuing seven seasons. A 4-22 loss to the Scots in 1982 was followed by one of the Territory’s great wins -- the 1983, 35-9 victory over Argentina. In the wake of that match it was written that Morton “might well be an Australian prospect” and he showed as a “player of excitement, almost matching Campese”. In 1984 Morton played for NSW Country against Fiji (W 43-0) and for ACT against the All Blacks (L 16-40) before he was one of 10 ACTRU nominations as “potential Australian players” following a request from John Bain, the ARU Chairman of Selectors.
Morton’s big break came in 1986 when he was invited to join Australian team and play in an international Sports Aid [for Africa] 7s tournament in Wales. Later that same season the ACT drew 18-18 with France before Morton was called up to join the Wallaby squad in New Zealand after Ian Williams suffered cartilage damage in the opening match against Waikato. Frustratingly a strike at Auckland airport prevented Morton from arriving in time to play Manawatu however he did manage to join the team and make his Australian debut against Wairarapa Bush at Masterton (W 18-6). Morton started another three matches on the tour – vs. Wanganui (W 24-17), Buller (W 62-0 and where he bagged two tries) and South Canterbury (W 33-11, one try). Unfortunately, Morton injured his hamstring at Timaru and did not play again on tour.
In 1987 Morton was “inexplicably” left out of the World Cup squad however twelve months later he was named in a 45-man squad to prepare for the 1991 Rugby World Cup and then found himself on the reserve bench for Australia ‘B’ against New Zealand. Morton then chose to retire from representative football only to reverse that decision a year later and face the might of the British Lions (L 25-41) in his ACT swansong.
While Morton had stepped away from the representative limelight his experience was there for all to see as he guided his beloved Daramalan, from fly-half, to two further grand finals through to the end of the 1995 season.
Morton played four uncapped matches on the Australian tour to New Zealand -- vs. Wairarapa Bush, Wanganui, Buller and South Canterbury.