Daniel Brendan Carroll
- 93Wallaby Number
Danny Carroll has the unique distinction of winning Olympic Gold Medals for two different countries – Australia in 1908 at London and the United States of America in 1920 at Antwerp. In addition, he coached the successful American team four years later in the Paris Olympics. Born in February 1892 in Melbourne, the young Danny Carroll moved to Sydney with his parents and attended St Aloysius College where he played for the School at Rugby from 1903 to 1904. A renowned runner, Carroll was prominent in athletics, representing the St George Harriers Amateur Athletic Club over all distances from 75 yards to 880 yards.
In 1908, the 18- year- old Carroll was playing for the St George Rugby Club as a winger and showing up as a real speedster, when he came to the notice of the veteran Australian forward, Harold Judd. After breaking his leg against Queensland in 1907, Judd worked on his own rehabilitation with a view to making a comeback the following year and had time to observe the talented Carroll. Judd returned as captain of St George in 1908, took Carroll under his wing and recommended him to Iggy O’Donnell as a candidate for the tour of the British Isles being organised by the New South Wales Rugby Union.
O’Donnell and Judd had played together for New South Wales and O’Donnell was one of the three NSW selectors who would choose the touring team. With this recommendation, Carroll was named in the Metropolitan ‘B’ team to meet Combined Country ‘B’ in an early season trial to select the State side to meet Queensland. He also represented the Sydney Metropolis side that played the New Zealand Universities. After promising performances in these matches, Carroll played in the four interstate matches against Queensland and was regarded as a certain selection for the touring team after a particularly fine display in the third match of the series, when he was a real handful for the northerners, scoring a sizzling try and being just held up over the line on another occasion.
When Carroll’s selection in the touring team was confirmed, it was apparent that the 18-year- old St George star was the baby of the team. The St George club gave Carroll a send-off and presented him with a fitted trunk for the trip. On the same evening, the club presented Judd with a gold watch and chain in recognition of the great years of service he had given the club. JH Clayton, who made the presentation, said that it was a great pity that Judd was not making the tour, to which the veteran replied that business had to come before pleasure.
As the season drew to a close, and just a week before the team was due to depart Australia, the Anglo-Welsh team, captained by Arthur (‘Boxer’) Harding, arrived in Australia from New Zealand for a short tour of Australia. Normally, such a visit would have been the highlight of the year, but the timing was poor. The tourists were to play two matches against New South Wales on the 5th and 8th of August 1908, and, in a bizarre twist, the touring team was to leave for Britain immediately after the second match. Carroll was selected for both matches.
In the first game, the Sydney Cricket Ground was a muddy mess after non-stop rain. Fourteen of the tourists were in the home side – the exception being James Hughes, a medical student and the best forward in Australia. Like several other Sydney University students, he was unavailable for the tour. Given the unsuitable conditions, Carroll had little opportunity to impress. Harding’s men took scrums instead of lineouts and the game was a dour affair. The only score came from a kick and chase by Willie Morgan that brought him a try. ‘Darb’ Hickey had a late chance to equalise with a penalty kick in front but could not lift the leaden ball.
For the return match, Sydney University medical students, Wally Mathews and Howard Bullock, joined Hughes in the New South Wales team so that Carroll was one of 12 players who were to depart straight after the game for Britain. These dozen players must have been hoping to avoid serious injury in this game. By now, the churned up Sydney Cricket Ground was a complete mud heap. The British team cleared the ball well and scored two opportunist tries to win 8-0. Danny Carroll saw little of the ball and was relieved to survive the game. There followed a reception and speeches before the players departed in drags for the wharf to board the SS Omrah for the voyage to England.
Some 4,000 people crowded Circular Quay to farewell the team, while a band played ‘Auld Lang Syne’. The team arrived in Melbourne and defeated Victoria 26-6. After the ship docked at Fremantle, Carroll enjoyed an outing with the team and scored two tries against a Western Australian XV. On reaching England, Carroll was not chosen for the opening game against Devon where ‘Boxer’ Russell and ‘Darb’ Hickey were the wingers; however, Carroll got his opportunity in the second match against Gloucester, who had the famous fly half, Dai Gent, in the side.
Carroll was on the left wing with Russell on the right wing. Both wingers impressed the British press, Carroll with his blistering pace and Russell for his try-scoring ability. The tourists were now known as the ‘Wallabies’ instead of the ‘New South Wales Touring Team’ and the management had resolved to try to win every game so that a strong team was fielded in every match Thus, Carroll and Russell had become the first choice wings and Carroll played in every game up to the clash for the Olympic Gold Medal, for which he was also chosen. Owing to France’s withdrawal from the Olympic Rugby Tournament on the plea of want of training and playing, Australia played Cornwall on a Monday afternoon in the Olympic Stadium. Cornwall, as the county champions, won the right to represent the United Kingdom.
That afternoon, the players caught the Tube to Wood Lane, the Exhibition Ground’s new station and entered the stadium to find a paltry 3,000 spectators in the vast arena. The match was played beside the Olympic swimming pool that had a long lane of netting to keep the footballs out of the pool and long poles to fish them out if they did get into the pool. Carroll had an outstanding game, scoring two tries, the first of which was started by Chris McKivat near his own goal line with a backline passing movement that swept downfield, culminating in Carroll diving across for a try in the corner.
The Wallabies won 32-3 and were presented with an Olympic certificate. Later, after the game against London, the Reverend RS de Courcy Laffin presented Carroll and the other 14 players with their gold medals as guests of the London Rugby Football Union at a dinner at the Waldorf Hotel, Aldwych. By the time the Wallabies arrived to play the match against Lancashire, Carroll had played in 15 consecutive matches and he was given a rest, with Frank Daly receiving just his third match of the tour. Carroll played in two more games but rested for the game against the Anglo-Welsh. By the time the Wallabies were to meet Wales in Cardiff, Carroll had figured in 17 of the 20 games to date. The Test match against Wales was the ‘one that got away.’
The Wallabies could have won the game but things did not go their way and they were defeated 6-3. Carroll did have one glorious chance when he raced downfield with only the fullback Bert Winfield to beat. Inexplicably, Carroll muffed the chance and upset the captain, ‘Paddy’ Moran, who wrote in Viewless Winds: And then in the last moments one of our wings got clean away with only Winfield to beat. We all knew Winfield could not tackle. Our man could have dodged him easily or fended him off. Instead he ran right into him and they both rolled over on the ground together. The match was over, with the Welsh winners. Carroll paid dearly for this error. He was omitted from the next six matches and was replaced by Billy Dix, who also played in the international against England.
Carroll then returned for the penultimate match in Britain and played a fine game in attack and defence against Bristol and Clifton. When the touring caravan reached North America, Dix and Parkinson were preferred to Carroll in the first three matches. When Carroll did play against Vancouver, he ran in two tries in the 23-0 victory by the Wallabies and followed this effort with three tries against Victoria in the final match of the tour. During the long tour, Danny Carroll figured in 21 matches and scored 19 tries. He had played so well until the Welsh Test match, using his outstanding pace in attack and following up kicks that he appeared to be unjustly banished to the role of spectator for several weeks because of one costly error in the Test with Wales. After the team’s return to Australia, most of the Wallabies continued playing rugby and in June 1909, Carroll played for the Wallabies in a specially organised match against New South Wales.
Carroll scored two tries in the 22-16 win by the Wallabies. However, eight members of this Wallaby team defected to rugby league at the end of the season and were joined by a further six players, making a total of 14 Wallabies who defected at the end of 1909. Carroll was not one of them. During the 1909 season, Carroll missed the interstate matches in Sydney but travelled to Brisbane to take part in both games in Brisbane. In the following year, Carroll played both matches for New South Wales against Queensland in Sydney and scored a try in each game.
However, Carroll missed the rest of the season, which included the Tests against the All Blacks and New South Wales matches against the touring Maori team. In 1911, Carroll came up to Brisbane late, as a result of injuries, to play in the second interstate game after the Mt Morgan team had beaten New South Wales 9-6 in between the interstate games. His inspiring play helped New South Wales win 24-0. Later in the season, Carroll played for Sydney against Queensland but did not take part in the two fixtures against Queensland. However, Carroll became more serious about his rugby in 1912 with a tour of America looming.
The NSWRU decided to organise a tour of the United States and Canada and decreed that the team was to be named the Waratahs. Carroll played in the interstate series and was selected in the Waratahs team to tour North America. Along with the captain, Ward Prentice, Tom Richards and Tom Griffin, Carroll was one of only four survivors from the 1908 Wallabies to make the tour. His speed and acceleration on the left wing made Carroll one of the stars of the tour and he scored a try in the international against the United States of America to give the Waratahs a close 12-8 victory.
The freshness and vitality of the United States appealed to Carroll and he remained behind at the end of the tour and enrolled at Stanford University at Palo Alto in California to study geology. When the USA entered the War, Carroll enlisted in the US Army and served as a lieutenant. He was wounded in 1918 and found himself in Britain in 1919, awaiting repatriation. This proved convenient for the AIF and they recruited Carroll to play for them in the King’s Cup Tournament. The King’s Cup Tournament was organised to keep the allied troops occupied until they could be repatriated.
Carroll found old team-mates among the AIF team, including ‘Darb Hickey’ who was on the Wallaby tour in 1908 and Bill Watson, who toured North America with Carroll in 1912. The teams in the Tournament were the AIF, South African Force, RAF, The Mother Country, the New Zealand Army and the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The AIF defeated the eventual winners, the New Zealanders, but lost to the Mother Country and the RAF early in the tournament. The AIF returned home via South Africa and made a triumphant tour around Australia, but Carroll returned to the USA to complete his degree.
In the United States, Carroll became captain/coach of the United States rugby team that won the Gold Medal at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, making him the first rugby player to win two gold medals for rugby at the Olympics and do it for two different countries. Four years later, Carroll coached the successful United States team at the Paris Olympics. As an expatriate Australian, Carroll mixed with other ‘ex-pats’ and was particularly friendly with the famous all-round sportsman, ‘Snowy’ Baker, the 1904 Australian halfback and 1908 silver medallist in boxing at the London Olympics where Carroll won his first gold medal.
Carroll continued his interest in rugby and promoted the game in San Francisco. Carroll completed his degree in geology at Stanford and moved into the oil industry, eventually becoming a successful oil company executive and died in 1955 in San Francisco. Prior to his death, he forwarded his rugby mementos back to his Australian relatives and one of his gold medals was kept in a bank vault in Sydney.
Danny Carroll played in two Test matches at a time when Test matches were few and far between. From 1908 to 1912, he represented New South Wales in 12 matches and scored seven tries. His deeds for the Wallabies and Waratahs, as well as his American rugby experiences, labelled him a wonderful footballer who used his natural talents to excel at the game.