Desmond Joseph Carrick
Des Carrick was one of the potentially great rugby three-quarters whose talents were lost because of the outbreak of the Second World War. Born on 2 September 1919 at Stanmore, NSW, Carrick, whose brother Vince was also a talented footballer, represented St Joseph’s College, Sydney, over five successive years in rugby, cricket and athletics.
In 1938, his final year, ‘Joeys’ went through the season undefeated. In the school holidays that year, Carrick played club rugby for Drummoyne. After leaving school, Carrick found employment as a bank clerk and linked with the Gordon club. After one appearance for Gordon in 1939, he was selected to tour Queensland with the New South Wales team.
In the first interstate clash in Brisbane, he played outside centre, partnering Vic Richards. The 19-years- old Carrick had a hard time from Alan Eason and ‘Blow’ Ide, suffering an injury in Queensland’s 32-15 win, which caused him to miss the return encounter.
At the selection trials for the big Wallaby tour of the British Isles at the end of the season, Carrick played against Queensland and Victoria, improving all of the time but he was not chosen for the final trial match - Australia v The Rest. The preferred centres were Len Smith and ‘Blow’ Ide for Australia and TG Hills and Bill McLaughlin for the Rest. However, Carrick was named in the New South Wales team against a Combined XV in a curtain raiser to the main trial. He partnered Cyril Towers who had been overlooked by the selectors throughout the season. In a vintage display, Towers made openings for Carrick, who was outstanding.
When the touring team was announced, Carrick was the bolter in the side and Towers and McLaughlin missed out. Obviously, the selectors recalled their error in not selecting the brilliant schoolboy, Jack Beaton, for the 1933 tour of South Africa. Beaton went on to become a rugby league star.
At 19-years-of age, Carrick was the baby of the team. Tall, handsome and well-built, Carrick had speed and an elusive quality that led experts to predict a big future for him. Unfortunately, war broke out just as the team arrived in England and Carrick had little to do except visit Twickenham, fill some sand bags and enjoy the hospitality of the British Sportsman’s Club at a farewell cocktail party on 13 September 1939 at the Savoy. On the return journey, Carrick managed to don the green Australian jersey when the players who had not previously played for Australia were given a run against a local team in Bombay.
Back home, Carrick enlisted in the Australian Army on 12 September 1942 and was discharged in 1945 as a Lance Sergeant. He died on 30 May 1999 in his eightieth year.
St Joseph’s College in Sydney was well represented in the ill-fated 1939 Wallaby tour to the British Isles, with Bill Monti, Jack Malone, Basil Porter, Jack Kelaher and Des Carrick. At Joey’s, Des Carrick captained the firsts in 1938, in rugby and cricket, and produced a prodigious leap at the GPS Athletics to win a fiercely contested Long Jump. He played in three Championship rugby teams at Joeys, though not consecutively (1935, 1937-8).
Des Carrick was a brilliant schoolboy athlete from St Joseph’s College. For four years he represented the school in rugby, athletics and cricket. When he became captain in 1938 the Joey’s team won the GPS Premiership, and did not lose a match. His brother Vince was also an outstanding footballer. In 1938 he played one first grade game for Drummoyne while on school holidays, but when he left school he immediately transferred to Gordon.
Phil Wilkins in The Highlanders; The first 50 Years of the Gordon Rugby Football Club described Gordon in those days: “From the first days there was a healthy camaraderie within Gordon club. There was no clubhouse, no licensed premises, only the stark dressing-rooms of the Victor Trumper Stand. Gordon would not have been a Rugby club in the true sense without a vigorous social involvement in the area and hospitality to visiting clubs. Docker’s Hotel opposite Chatswood Railway Station was a favourite rendezvous with six o’clock closing the accepted way of Australian licensed life.
After a game, the players showered and changed as swiftly as possible and headed up the hill to the bar. Eventually, a rapport was struck with the licensee of the Great Northern Hotel at Artarmon, Pat O’Neill, who became an early patron of the fledgling club by offering a five-gallon keg for each Gordon win. When it was proposed to mine host of Docker’s that he might offer a similar incentive he bellowed: ’I don’t care what Pat does with his money. You’re not getting a free keg from me’”
His rise was a rapid one, as he was chosen from reserve grade to play for a NSW XV to play a Combined XV. He was also only 19-years-of-age at the time. He would play four games for NSW that year, 1939. The State team that year was captained by five-eighth Vic Richards from the Randwick Club, and also in the centres was Len Smith, who would later captain-coach Australia in rugby league. Basil Porter was a real flyer on the wing, and there were outstanding forwards such as Aub Hodgson, Keith Windon, ‘Steak’ Malone and ‘Mac ‘ Ramsay. Of the four games against Queensland that year, three were lost. The Queensland team was captained by Vay Wilson, and had some fine players in Bill Monti, Eddie Bonis, Graham Cooke, ‘Cracker’ McDonald, Boyd Oxlade, ‘Blow’ Ide, Wally Lewis and Chappie Schulte.
The crucial game that year was the Australia versus The Rest match, which would serve as a selection trial for the 10-month long tour of Great Britain, France, Canada and the USA. He scored three tries in the match, being set up by arguably the best centre in the world, Cyril Towers. Towers was not selected, neither was Graham Cooke, who would be good enough to star for Australia from 1946 to 1948.
Unfortunately war broke out one day after their arrival in England, and after filling sandbags and meeting the King and Queen they were on their way home. Because a number, like Carrick, had never played for their country, a game was arranged at Bombay against a Gymkhana XV. It would be his only game for Australia. An incisive player, he was regarded as one of the keys to future Wallaby teams. The war robbed him, and so many others, of the opportunity to mature in the game in which he had demonstrated potentiality of the highest order. He made a comeback after the war, but he had lost the ‘edge’, and retired in 1946 to teach school and coach. During that comeback, he was paired with Trevor Allan, just out of high school. The author played against this combination.