Edwin William Carr
- 166Wallaby Number
Edwin ‘Slip’ Carr came from a noted sporting family, as his father Thomas had played for both New South Wales and Queensland and a brother, Ernest, was a high-scoring three-quarter in the immediate pre-World War I years. The brothers were blessed with extreme speed, which was also something of a family trait; Edwin ran at the 1924 Olympic Games and his son, also Edwin, ran at the Helsinki Olympics 28 years later. Edwin jnr also won Empire Games gold medals over the quarter-mile and as part of the four-man relay team, something Dad never had the chance to do, but they were the first father and son combo to run for Australia on the world’s biggest stage.
A young Edwin saw service time during World War I but was ready for big-time rugby when peace was declared in late 1918. He played for New South Wales seconds against the AIF reserves in 1919, with Ernest on the other wing, and made his first team debut in two matches against Queensland the same year. He scored one try in the first match, one in the second – which saw New South Wales take a surprise 24-25 defeat – and four in the match against Queensland B that the Blues won 42-12. He didn’t play any of the matches against the 1920 All Blacks but in 1921 he quickly became the talk of Sydney rugby.
After his club form there was no doubt he was going to be included in the State team for the Springbok matches. He had been the leading try-scorer in grade rugby that year, with a new season record of 21, and a few goals had lifted his overall tally to a table-topping 76 points. But more spectacular was the way he went about creating this new record. He began the season with a hat-trick against Newtown but topped that with a Sydney first grade record, five tries in the match against Wests in late May. A week later he equalled his own record with another five against GPS Old Boys; given any sort of room he was unstoppable and he was the first player to register 20 or more tries in a grade season. Since Ernest had also topped the try count in 1919, the Carr brothers were also the first siblings to each head the premiership scoring list.
Carr made 1921 a season to remember at first-class level, too. He was chosen for the first match against South Africa and watched from the other wing as Attie van Heerden, who had represented his country as a hurdler at the 1920 Olympics, made a meal of the unfortunate Reg Lane, racing past him for five tries. Finally New South Wales skipper Wakka Walker, almost at his wit’s end, swapped Lane and Carr so a man of equal pace was marking the flying Springbok. And that was the end of van Heerden’s try-scoring exploits for the series; Carr was quick enough to keep him on a tight rein for the remaining two and a bit matches. Carr had the satisfaction of scoring the only tries down his wing for the remainder of the series, getting one late in the first Test and another in the second. After a performance like that, Carr was a shoo-in for the New Zealand tour.
He was one of the star three-quarters in a party that was brimming with talent and showed his try-scoring ability from his first match. He opened with one try against North Auckland, picked up two against Waikato and three against Bay of Plenty before adding another in his fourth outing, against Poverty Bay. A couple of scoreless outings followed, although the team was still piling up points, and Carr was always going to be one of the first chosen for the sole Test. He played up to his normal 1921 form, which is to say he was outstanding, and scored one of the four tries New South Wales picked up on the way to a record 17-0 win; to this day no other New Zealand side has been beaten by such a wide margin at home. Carr played the tour finale, against Wellington, where he marked another very useful sprinter in George Aitken.
The two speedsters sat on each other throughout the day and neither was given any room to move, although Wellington did find a few gaps elsewhere and denied the visitors what would have been a unique unbeaten tour. Carr played no more big-time rugby after that memorable season and instead concentrated on athletics, if such a phrase could be used for a man who detested training and who would go to almost any lengths to avoid it. He could still cut out 100 yards in better than even time – he stopped the watches at 9.8 or 9.9 seconds on several occasions – and eventually took his place in the Australian team at Paris. It is a pity, from a rugby point of view, that Carr gave the game away while still a young man, because clashes between him and some of the great All Black wingers of the 1920s would have been worth the price of admission on their own. ‘Slip’ was such a good player that there is every chance he would have made his name far more well known today if he had pursued his football career.
A Sydney Grammar School product, ‘Slip’ Carr played for Eastern Suburbs (Sydney). Eddie Kann wrote in Easts Rugby Story: “E W Carr ‘slipped into top try getting gear right from the start [of the 1921 season]. This was to be his big season. ’Slip’ collected three of nine tries…“Carr bagged a record five tries for Easts v Wests...on May 28, 1921...There was no stopping the flying Eastern Suburbs winger. A week later Carr equalled his five –tries match record in the overthrow of GPS Old Boys...“Carr topped the season’s premiership try getters with 21- the first time the 20 mark had been reached in 21 years since the introduction of district Rugby. He also headed the season’s point scorers with 76. “Two season’s earlier “Slip’s’ brother Ernest Carr had been the first Easts player to head the Sydney premiership try getters with 14. The achievement of this feat by the two brothers is unique in Sydney club Rugby.”