Edgar Thomas Stapleton
- 382Wallaby Number
Eddie Stapleton, Australia’s premier winger of the 1950s, has the distinction of being one of just three non-resident All Blacks. Big, bustling and powerful, Stapleton was surprisingly more highly regarded by New Zealand and South Africa than he was by his own nation's selectors.
Born in Sydney and educated at St. Bernard's De La Salle College in Katoomba, Stapleton burst onto the representative scene in 1951 firstly with selection for New South Wales and then for Australia, against the All Blacks in Sydney.
A year later he went on the first of his four Wallaby tours, the successful 1-1 drawn series away to New Zealand. Stapleton went to South Africa in 1953 and after he playing a major part in the tour was named as one of the South African Rugby Annual's Five Players of the Year. He toured New Zealand again in 1955, bagged 12 tries (one short of Doug McLean's 1936 Australian record) in just 11 matches. As a consequence he was chosen as one of the New Zealand Rugby Almanack's Five Players of the Year, to complete what was then a unique double for touring players by being named as one of the year's best in two different countries. Stapleton then fell out of favour for the next two seasons and missed a spot on the Fifth Wallabies tour, before he made a surprise return in 1958.
Although overlooked for the home series against the Maori he toured to New Zealand for a third time and in the uncapped match against Ranfurly Shield holder Taranaki scored his 22nd try on Kiwi soil which remains the record by any touring player. When the 1960 All Blacks stopped off in Australia on their way to South Africa, Stapleton made history. The tourists were scheduled to play two double-headers as part of a five-match programme and, with two players unfit, Maurice Graham and Stapleton were invited to play against Queensland. Stapleton scored the first try of the tour and promptly declared himself "available for South Africa". While he did not go to the Republic with the All Blacks he is and always will be All Black #613. Eddie Stapleton played 16 tests for Australia in an eight year international career.
Stapleton won his first Test cap on the right wing with Clarrie Davis on the left in the 1st Test, 0-8 loss to New Zealand at the S.C.G. Both Stapleton and Davis held their spots for the final two Tests of the series.
He started in all four Tests of the season - Fiji (2) and New Zealand (2). Stapleton scored his first Test try in the opening match against Fiji in Sydney.
Stapleton and Garth Jones were paired on the wings in each of the four away Tests against South Africa.
Stapleton and Jones were reunited for the 1st Test 22-19 victory however the big right winger suffered badly bruised ribs when crunched in a tackle and was forced from the field after 25 minutes. Stapleton was then sensationally dropped for the return match, and what also would have been his 13th consecutive international since debut, because he missed the team's first training run due to work commitments.
In a statement the Australian selectors said Stapleton had not played for three weeks (since the 1st Test injury) and with no replacements allowed they had omitted him so as not to take any risks. As a result a motion was made at the next NSW Rugby Union meeting to have training times for representative teams changed from afternoon to night. Rugby Union official Don Rodgers called the whole situation an outrage: "I think it is an outrage to drop Eddie Stapleton from the Test side when he could not get away from work to train. Working men who are not paid for loss of time should not be told to train in the afternoon," he said.
Jones and Stapleton started both away Tests on the tour of New Zealand.
Almost three years after his most recent international Stapleton won his 16th and final cap on the right wing in the 1st Test, 3-25 loss to New Zealand at Athletic Park. Unfortunately his tour came to an abrupt end four days later after he badly aggravated a thigh injury in the uncapped match against Southland.