Derby Briton Loudon
- 174Wallaby Number
Derby Loudon, if here were alive today, would be very surprised at where he stands in the history of Australian Rugby Union. First, he would be taken aback that all the games he played for NSW against international teams are now regarded as Tests. This decision was made, and rightly so, by the ARU 23 years after he had passed away. After all, Queensland had discontinued rugby and the NSW players were the best in Australia at that time. Second, he would be delighted to know that he captained Australia (NSW) in one Test, against the NZ Maori on June 26 1922. Third, he would be disappointed that one of rugby’s most authoritative tomes, by Rod Chester, Ron Palinski and Chester McMillan, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand Rugby, has not recognised this feat.
Even allowing for the fact that NZ does not condone Maori or NSW games as Tests despite Australia’s decisions with regard to this, he does at the very least deserve a mention. Another New Zealand-born player, Derby was born in Leeston. There is no surety exactly when he arrived in Australia, but he did attend Sydney Grammar School for a time. Then he went to Sydney University to do medicine, which he completed there. The NSWRU commenced competitions again after the First World War in 1919, and Sydney University immediately came to the fore. The University won the competition easily, losing only one game to Glebe-Balmain 17-18. This fine record occurred despite the fact that the University was closed until 5 May 1919 because of the raging influenza epidemic. The captain of that first post-war University team was Derby Loudon.
There were some fine players on the team, such as ‘Pup’ Raymond, who became a Rhodes Scholar in 1922, Fred Gwynne, A.E. Gregg, Otto Nothling (who played once for Australia when Bradman was dropped) and E.M. Sheppard. The official team photo shows a motley-looking lot, with football jerseys of variegated colours, and a complete lack of consistency with respect to sox. The team reversed the earlier result against Glebe-Balmain in the final round, beating them in a high-scoring game 39-25. The Sydney Morning Herald noted: “University by defeating Glebe-Balmain, increased its lead in the competition by six points.
The rules state that a final should be played, but with such a margin University is in an unassailable position, and a further game would be unnecessary and uninteresting.” Thus it remained. Derby Loudon was awarded a University Blue that year. They were hard to come by, only Otto Nothling, Raymond, Satterthwaite, Shephard and Slegar getting Blues in 1919. The AIF team played throughout Australia in 1919 and did much to re-vitalise the Union code. Sydney University was represented in the team by Dr Bruce Beith and Manager Captain Wally Mathews, pre-war University players. Loudon’s first big-game experience was against the AIF team, playing for NSW against them in their first match in Australia.
In 1920 Loudon did not play against the visiting New Zealand team, perhaps due to his medical work, but he must have been very honoured when he was selected in the 1921 NSW tour to the land of his birth. There were 27 players on the team. The captain was ‘Wakka’ Walker, and the manager the outstanding referee T.H. Bosward. In The Encyclopedia of New Zealand Rugby the spelling of Loudon’s first name is given as Derby, and one other source has it that way. Jack Pollard has it as Darby. It was Derby for certain. Some of the other outstanding players on the team were Johnny Wallace, ‘Slip’ Carr, Otto Nothling, Charlie Fox, ‘Chook’ Fowles, ‘Pup’ Raymond and the veteran Larry Wogan.
There were 10 games, and NSW won nine of them. This was the best record of any Australian touring team up to this time. In fairness it must be stated that the Springboks were on tour at this time and NSW played most of their games against weaker Unions. It might also be noted that the 1908 aboriginal war-cry was given by the visitors prior to games. Derby Loudon was one of the successes of the tour. He played in nine of the 10 games and was second highest scorer, with two tries, nine conversions and four penalty goals. His appointment with history came when the Maori team of 1922 came to Australia. He played in the three NSW games against them, and in the second, on 26 June 1922, he was the captain.
As these are now Tests, Dr Derby Loudon was an Australian captain. Only for one Test, but who would not have desired to do the same? A backrower, Derby Loudon was an intelligent player, solid in attack and defence. He was also a fine kicker. His brother Bob would also become an Australian captain. They are the only brother combination to achieve this feat in Australia’s long history. Many brothers played for their country, these are the only two to emerge as captains.