Edward Rennix Larkin
- 38Wallaby Number
In the sporting world, Ted Larkin is best remembered as the highly organised first secretary of the NSW Rugby Football League, whereas his short rugby career is often overlooked. Larkin was born on 3 January 1880 at North Lambton, Newcastle, the son of a quarryman and miner. He was educated at St Benedict’s School, Chippendale, Sydney and later at St Joseph’s College, Hunter’s Hill, where he commenced his rugby career in 1896 under the coaching of Fred Henlen, one of the early greats of NSW rugby.
He was also an able cricketer, swimmer and boxer. After leaving school with his senior certificate, Larkin became a journalist on the Year Book of Australia and played as a halfback with the Endeavour club until late in 1899 when, as a member of the Sydney FC, he was in at the death of club football. In that season, he was chosen as halfback for the Combined Juniors. The Sydney club disbanded when district football was introduced in 1900 and he joined the newly- formed Newtown club.
Larkin continued playing halfback for Newtown and in 1903, he was elected captain of the club for the 1903 season. At the time, Harold Judd, the best forward in Australia, was a member of the Newtown club. As captain of Newtown, Larkin announced that the club would concentrate on a core of 18 players to build up combination. In that year, Larkin made a switch into the forwards as hooker when the NSW selectors were searching for a hooker following the retirement of Tom Costello. Tall at over 5ft 10ins (179cms) and hefty at 13 stone (83 kgs), Larkin certainly had the physique to play in the forwards. In the early interstate games in Sydney, the selectors placed Bathurst lock, Peter Moir, in the hooking position but selected Larkin for the return matches in Brisbane. Using his dash in the open, Larkin scored a try in his team’s 11-3 victory in the first match. It was his only try in representative rugby.
When the touring New Zealand team arrived, Larkin was selected for New South Wales against the touring All Blacks for the return match in place of William Barton. The match was played the day after he married May Josephine Yates in St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Newtown. The match was played after heavy rain and was only decided on a penalty goal kicked by Billy Wallace for the visitors. Blessed with a loving and understanding wife, Larkin backed up just four days later for the Metropolitan Union at the Sydney University Oval where conditions were poor and the tourists won easily by 33-3.
After the New Zealanders returned from their visit to Brisbane, the first international between Australia and New Zealand was scheduled for 15 August 1903 at the SCG. Larkin was a certain selection and he was chosen as hooker with Frank Nicholson and ‘Bluey’ Burdon as his props in the 3-2-3 scrum formation that opposed New Zealand’s 2-3-2 formation with a rover. The Australians proved no match for the men in black and lost 22-3. Newly married, Larkin decided on a career change and he forsook journalism, retired from rugby and, in October 1903, he joined the Police Force as a foot-constable in the Metropolitan Police District.
A man with political ambitions, Larkin was to find the political restrictions of the Force irksome and he leapt at the opportunity to become the first secretary of the newly formed NSW Rugby Football League in 1909. He was a prominent advocate for the new code and promoted ‘honest professionalism as against quasi -amateur football.’ Under Larkin’s stewardship, rugby league flourished, particularly after 14 Wallabies signed up for large sums of money at the end of the 1909 season. Shortly after, he was able to send a second Kangaroos team to Britain. However, his political ambitions were growing. He was a keen student of social problems and was a wide reader of socialist material. After being persuaded to stay on for a time, Larkin finally resigned as secretary in 1913 to concentrate on politics.
With blue eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion, Larkin appealed to voters. He was an eloquent and passionate speaker and on 13 December 1913, Larkin won the seat of Willoughby in the Legislative Assembly for the Labor Party. Although he was appointed government representative on the board of Royal North Shore Hospital, his parliamentary career was limited. When War broke out, Larkin immediately volunteered. On 21 August 1914, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was a sergeant in the 1st Infantry Battalion when he embarked on 18 October 1914 on the HMAT Afric for overseas service. He was killed in action on 25 April 1915 at Pine Ridge, Gallipoli when taking part in the allied landing. His death shocked the NSWRL and that body decided to turn the City Cup Final into a testimonial match to raise funds to aid Larkin’s family. Takings for the match realised over 170 pounds. Ted Larkin’s career mirrored that of another Wallaby forward in Jack Fihelly in that both were Roman Catholic public servants and former Wallabies who turned to rugby league and then entered their State Parliament as Labor politicians. The one difference was that, whereas Fihelly was fiercely anti-war, Larkin immediately enlisted and made the ultimate sacrifice.
James Gray has this to say about Larkin in The Tradition: 100 Years of Rugby at St Joseph’s College:” One of its favourite sons, E.R.Larkin, the College’s first Australian Rugby representative (v. New Zealand in 1903), was Rugby League’s first full-time Secretary from 1909 to 1914. A tireless worker and thorough organiser, he consolidated the League’s position of strength gained in September, 1909, when the Wallabies switched codes, a move he helped negotiate. No doubt through his connection with the Brothers at St Joseph’s, he was also able to persuade the Marist Brothers’ schools in Sydney to adopt Rugby League as their official code. An eloquent speaker, he publicly took on another St Joseph’s Old Boy, W.S.Howe, on one notable occasion. Howe, a State player in 1907 and former Secretary of the Metropolitan rugby Union, at a meeting at Glebe referred to the Rugby League as “Bung Rules’. The next night Larkin entertained an Annandale crowd with a description of Rugby Union as ‘Gone Bung Rules’”