Eric Ebsworth Hutchinson
- 304Wallaby Number
Eric Hutchinson was a big, solid lock forward who rose to national honours prior to World War II only to tragically lose his life in a non-combat, aircraft training accident. Born in Armidale but educated at North Sydney Boys’ High School, Hutchison was relatively inexperienced when he won the Sydney first grade premiership with Northern Suburbs in 1935. Critics of the time were excited about his enthusiastic and dedicated displays and he was rewarded with a New South Wales debut, against Victoria, before his 19th birthday.
The following year Hutchinson teamed up with his brother Frank at the University of Sydney where he went on to win four Blues (1936-39). In 1936 Eric was not selected for the state side in a sign that said more about the high quality of locks than it did about his own form. A year later Eric starred in the first of the interstate matches played in Sydney. It was written that the local forwards ‘stuck to their task manfully, and several enhanced their reputations. None did so more than Eric Hutchinson. Here was a forward of the right type for the Springboks.
He was the best forward on the ground.’ He started for New South Wales when they upset the tourists 17-6 and on the back of those two performances earned a Test debut at the S.C.G. At the beginning of the 1939 season, Eric spoke at the annual meeting of Sydney University Rugby Union Football Club. In his speech Hutchinson accused Australian international players of playing for themselves in Test matches and not for their team. ‘They go on the field for their own glory,' he said, 'not for their country's.
The result is that Australia has fielded teams in the immediate past that have not been as effective as they should have been. Individually our players were as good as those from South Africa and New Zealand, but as a team we were not in their class.' He expressed the hope that something would be done to change the outlook of players if Australia was to be most effectively represented. The comments were not well received by the rugby hierarchy. Although Hutchison continued to represent at state level, and was considered a strong chance of being selected for the Second Wallabies tour to Great Britain, he did not make the 29-man squad.
While never confirmed it is the believed Hutchinson’s non-selection, along with that of his brother Frank, were repercussions from his strong-worded speech. He overcame the disappointment to lead University to a 25-17 grand final win over Randwick. In 1940 he graduated with a Diploma in Public Administration and joined the RAAF. As a member of No. 452 squadron, and having reached the rank of Sergeant (pilot), he was killed in January of 1943 in a practice section attack, mid-air collision accident near Coomalie Creek in the Northern Territory.
Hutchison won his first test cap at lock, in partnership with fellow debutant Vay Wilson, in the 1st Test, 5-9 loss to South Africa at the S.C.G. That lock pairing was retained for the 2nd Test, 17-26 defeat, also at Sydney.