Edward William Richards

  • 4Caps
  • 49Wallaby Number
PositionLock
Date Of Birth19 November 1880
Place Of BirthVegetable Creek, NSW
SchoolCharters Towers Central State School, QLD
ProvinceQLD
Died13 June 1928
Debut Test Match1904 Wallabies v Great Britain, 1st Test Sydney
Final Test Match1907 Wallabies v New Zealand, 2nd Test Brisbane

Biography

Bill Richards was born in 1878 at Vegetable Creek (Emmaville). His father, John Richards, a Cornish-born miner, moved his wife and six children to Charters Towers in 1883 in search of gold. After attending the local Central School, Bill worked in the mines along with his younger brother, Tom. When a New South Wales team visited the Towers in 1897, Bill and Tom were inspired to take up rugby. Bill and Tom played rugby in 1898 in the minor junior grade and Bill won a premiership with Rovers in 1899. Being a powerful and natural player, Bill Richards quickly came to the fore and from 1900 to 1905 he continuously represented Charters Towers in inter-city matches and was a member of the 1902 Federals team that won the premiership. Tall and aggressive, Richards was a hard rucking forward who excelled in the lineout and tight exchanges and got around the field at speed.

Although he was played as a lock in the second row because of his height, he would probably have been played as a blindside flanker today. In 1903, Richards was selected in the Country A team that met City A in Brisbane and he made such an impression, that he was chosen in the Queensland team that travelled to Sydney for two matches that year with New South Wales. Richards played well in the second row and was tried as a loose forward in the return clash. Later in the year, he figured in Queensland’s two matches against the touring All Blacks. When Bedell-Sivwright’s British team toured Australasia the following year, Richards made his debut as a lock forward in the first Test in Sydney. The early loss of winger Charlie White disrupted Australia but critics considered that the Australian forwards held their own against the British pack. Thus it was a surprise that Richards was not included in the Australian team for the second Test match in Brisbane.

After yet another Test defeat, Richards was restored to the Australian team for the third Test in Sydney. Curiously, the selectors did not publish the forwards in scrum formation but they listed them with the Queensland forwards named first, followed by the New South Wales forwards. This led to various authors asserting that Richards packed in the front row whereas he assumed his usual lock position with Dinny Lutge. Next season, rugby followers observed a new look Richards because he had grown a bushy moustache. Once again, Richards impressed and was a first choice for the Australian tour of New Zealand. There he figured in three of the first four matches but was injured in the only Test match and missed the remaining three matches.

In 1906, the Richards family joined the father in Johannesburg where Bill and Rusty found work in the gold mines and played for the powerful Mines club which was captained by James “Maffer”, a miner from Cornwall who toured Australasia with the Anglo-Welsh team in 1908. While Rusty went on to play for Transvaal and had ambitions to play in the Springbok trials, Bill fell ill and soon decided to return to Australia. After returning to Australia in June 1907, Richards missed the early interstate matches in Sydney but was soon chosen as a reserve for Australia in the first Test against the All Blacks in Sydney. He managed to run on late in the game as a replacement for the injured Jack Barnett. Playing for Queensland against the All Blacks, Richards received a huge cheer as he led out the home side. After two sterling games for Queensland as a loose forward in which Richards renewed his lineout duels with Bolla Francis, he was chosen in the back row for Australia in the second Test along with a number of lightweight Queensland forwards.

After Australia was soundly defeated, Jimmy McMahon exercised his veto and selected the New South Wales team en masse for the third Test match. And so Bill Richards’ international career ended before Rusty’s began. He won five caps which was a large number at that time. However, Bill’s representative career was not over yet. In 1912, he made a surprise appearance in Brisbane and turned out for Valleys. He won selection as a loose forward in ‘Butcher’ Oxlade’s Queensland team that defeated New South Wales in both matches in Brisbane. With high hopes, Richards went to Sydney with the Queensland team for the interstate matches that served as tour trials for the tour of America. Unfortunately for the northern State, New South Wales proved superior and Bill’s hopes of joining his brother on the tour of America foundered on the muddy fields in Sydney. Next season, Bill played the odd game for Valleys but then dropped out of the game. Bill suffered greatly from hard work in the mines, breathing in the dust and fumes over many years and he died at an early age. His brother Rusty Richards recorded in his diary that brother Bill died in 1928 of Miner’s Disease. “Long Bill” Richards should be remembered as an outstanding Australian tight forward who represented Queensland from 1903 to 1912 and played five Tests for Australia between 1903 and 1907.

Edward William (‘Long-Bill’) Richards (1880-1928), was born in 1880 at Rose Valley, Vegetable Creek (Emmaville), New South Wales, one of six children of John Richards, a Cornish-born miner, and his wife Mary Ann, née Davis, from Victoria. The family moved to Charters Towers, Queensland, in 1883 . Bill Richards died in 1928, ‘of a miner’s disease’, and is buried alongside his brother Thomas in the Manly Cemetery, in Sydney. Long-Bill Richards played for the Charters Towers club in Queensland. Rugby Union was established in Charters Towers in 1890, earlier than most of Australia, but games were played here as early as 1885.

An Englishman, Harry Speakman, introduced the game to the many miners in the town. Interest steadily grew and various teams were formed. The first Charters Towers representative team was selected in the year of its establishment, 1890. Rugby Union continued to grow in the city until it became known as one of the premier Rugby areas in the State. Many players gained representative honours between 1890 and 1915. In this time, Charters Towers produced nine Queensland representative players and two Australian representatives, the brothers 'Long-Bill' Richards and TJ 'Rusty' Richards. Rusty was inducted into the North Queensland Sporting Hall of Fame on July 16, 1996. Edward Richards was the elder of a legendary pair of forwards from Charters Towers; he was described as a tall, rugged second-rower who excelled in line-outs and rucks.

He represented Queensland from 1903 to 1907 and captained his State against the New Zealand All Blacks at the ‘Gabba in 1907. He was described as a courageous, balding man with a bushy black handlebar moustache, who led by example. Both brothers played for the gold mining town Charters Towers in Sunday matches, despite strong opposition from their father. This dispute would eventually cause divisions among the town’s folk. During the week he worked in the goldmines, where the heat was almost unbearable, and sweat oozed from the lace-holes in his boots. After shifts in the mines, he ran with his ‘brothers’, getting fit for football. ‘Long-Bill’ had played well enough during the 1903 season to earn himself a position in the Queensland team. In 1904 he played in two of the four tour matches played against Queensland by the touring Great Britain side. He played 17 matches for Queensland, 11 of which were against NSW, two against Great Britain and four against New Zealand. He played in the Australian team which toured New Zealand in 1905, playing just one game, and played in one of the two Tests against the New Zealanders in 1907. His Australian Wallaby number was 49.

Edward William Richards