Edward Neville "Bluey" Greatorex

  • 8Caps
  • 196Wallaby Number
PositionNo. 8/ Flanker
Date Of Birth30 July 1901
Place Of BirthSydney
SchoolNorth Sydney Boys' High School
Other ClubsEastern Suburbs (Sydney)
ProvinceNSW
Died15 July 1964
Service NumberNX26315
Debut Test Match1923 Wallabies v New Zealand Maori, 3rd Test Sydney
Final Test Match1928 Wallabies v France, Paris

Biography

A lightweight flanker, who stood 6ft (1.83m) and weighed no more than 12st 6lb (79kg), Greatorex was a regular try-scorer in both grade and first-class rugby. In 94 first-grade matches (78 for YMCA and the balance for Easts) he scored 80 tries, a strike rate that would impress many a good winger, and led the competition in 1925 (13 tries), 1926 (14) and 1929 (14) – a remarkable effort for a forward. On the bigger stage his speed, anticipation and work-rate resulted in another healthy crop of tries, including several vital scores. Little more than a boy when he made his debut, Greatorex made an impression before he ran onto the field, as the New South Wales union sprint championship was held as one of the pre-match activities before the third match of the 1923 Maori series kicked off. Greatorex finished third, behind North Sydney flier James McManamey and fellow Waratah Owen Crossman, an indication of his top-end speed.

He then took the field for his State and, as both Crossman and Allen Bowers had done in the previous matches, marked his debut with two tries; New South Wales won 16-14 to complete a series sweep ,although all three matches had been close. The 19-year-old played against the touring team for Metropolitan Union, scoring a bizarre try that allowed the home team to force a 16-16 draw. Manly Oval, which was used for this match, was extremely heavy after days of rain and parts of the ground had been covered in sand to aid the drying process. One kick into the Maori team’s in-goal stuck in one of these minor sandcastles and the defence, which should have covered the threat easily, lost interest in the mistaken belief that the ball was dead. Greatorex, following through in good style, dived on the gift and was, correctly, awarded the try.

Given that he had made such a good start to his career and the New South Wales selectors were faced with a raft of unavailable players for the New Zealand tour later in the year, there was no surprise when Greatorex was named in the touring party. That tour was something akin to a train wreck, as the understrength State team was heavily beaten in match after match and the All Black selectors, confident that their team could handle the visitors, used a remarkable 37 players in the three matches as they looked at candidates for the 1924-25 British tour. Greatorex missed the first match but made an immediate impression – not just for his flaming red hair – in the South Canterbury fixture.

He was in dynamic form, showing out in the loose with his strong running and making many telling tackles on defence. Despite this excellent effort he missed the Test team; AR Armstrong, a lock, was converted into a flanker for the first two internationals, but the move was not a success. Greatorex next played against Southland, the midweeker between Tests, but few players enhanced Test claims in this match. The visitors were overwhelmed in the tight exchanges, which severely limited the impact an out-and-out loose forward could have, while the backs also bumbled and fumbled. The Waratahs showed only two changes for the second Test – the All Blacks made eight – and the one omission that raised New Zealand eyebrows was Greatorex.

The All Blacks, who were more fluent than in the first match, ran away with this game by 34-6 and, once again, few of the visitors shone. Greatorex sat out the next match but the selectors belatedly realised they were wasting a good man and put him into the lineup for the Auckland-North Auckland match. He responded by being the best Waratah forward on show and scoring two tries as well, one after breaking quickly from a scrum and the other after a lineout.

In both cases his speed off the mark and ability to read play saw him in the right place at the right time, something the touring team needed more of than they were getting. He backed this up with another strong game on a muddy Hamilton pitch and was a shoo-in for the third Test, although the experience was not a pleasant one. Conceding more than a stone (6kg) a man up front and thoroughly beaten in the loose, New South Wales gave up eight tries to two in a 38-11 drubbing. Greatorex was one New South Wales forward to come through this ordeal with credit and he also played the last match, against Wairarapa-Bush, but had his quietest day of the tour.

Back home in the Jubilee Year (1924), Greatorex was a sure selection for the three-match series with New Zealand. The home side caught the All Blacks on the hop in the first match - their crossing had been a rough one and perhaps memories of 1923 still lingered in All Black minds although this was a full-strength State team – and the home side was value for its 20-16 victory. Greatorex scored the fifth and final try that pushed the lead out to uncatchable proportions and had his usual strong game. He repeated both feats in the second match, except that this time his try was a consolation job as the home side was cleaned out, and in the third match New South Wales hardly got a look in as the visitors took them apart, winning 38-8. Despite his excellent form in the two previous years and his position atop the try list in grade rugby, Greatorex was on the selection outer in 1925.

He only played one match against the touring All Blacks, the first, which New South Wales lost badly. Greatorex had a reasonable match and was one of the better players in the home side as well as scoring the only try, but following a surprise win by the State Second XV midweek, 13 changes were made to the Test lineup and Greatorex was one who lost his spot. He made the New Zealand tour but was not used often, playing only three matches. The first, against Canterbury-South Canterbury, saw the tourists defeated for the first time and marked his cards, while his other two matches were minor affairs later in the tour.

He did not make the Test team which was subsequently cleaned out by a superb All Black outfit that included 13 of the Invincibles and only two players who had been in Sydney earlier in the year. Greatorex was even more neglected in 1926, failing to make even the State Second XV for its match against New Zealand despite having another fine season in grade rugby. He was chosen for the 1927-28 British tour and his form probably reddened a few faces in the boardrooms at home, as he quickly became one of the team’s most reliable forwards, even if Arnold Tancred and Wylie Breckenridge were the first-choice pairing. Greatorex, playing a tighter game on the heavy grounds, was not on the scoresheet as often as in the past but his workrate and experience were vital to his team.

As many touring teams have found out in the past, the performance of the midweek XV can have a telling impact on the tour and the Waratahs had a strong squad of backup players; only one of Greatorex’s first ten matches saw the team defeated and that was only by 0-3 to a very good Oxford University side. Although he sat out many more games than he played, Greatorex remained fit and when Tancred dropped out with injury he was able to step straight into the Test side.

The highlight of the England match – the dropping of home skipper Wavell Wakefield – tended to obscure the on-field action as the tourists took a loss and the form displayed on the French portion of the tour was patchy. Greatorex was not the dynamo he had been a couple of years earlier but still played a solid game and did not let anyone down. Preferring to concentrate on his business career when he returned home – he was a journalist by profession – Greatorex represented his State against Victoria in 1928 and then confined his activities to club football.

E. Neville ‘Bluey’ Greatorex, Manly High School, YMCA, age 23, height 6 feet, weight 12 stone 6, he was a backrower with great pace and anticipation who scored five tries in just 14 tour games. He replaced the injured Arnold Tancred in the Test matches against England and France and was most impressive. He returned to represent New South Wales in 1928 then retired from representative rugby, but continued to play club football until 1931. He had been the season’s leading try scorer in 1925 and 1926, and repeated the effort in 1929. Overall Greatorex scored 80 first grade tries. In 1931, he joined fellow Waratahs Alec Ross, Ben Egan and ‘Doc’ Tarleton to help Eastern Suburbs win the first grade premiership. Bluey Greatorex, like Sid King , resumed his career as a journalist with the Daily Telegraph. He married fellow journalist and author Elizabeth Riddell, and later worked for many years in public relations. Many of his latter working years were spent with the Australian Wine Board.

Edward Neville "Bluey" Greatorex