Ernest Austin Stanislaus Cody
- 125Wallaby Number
Bill Cody was not unusual in that he played for Australia before he had represented his State, nor even for the fact that he never pulled on a New South Wales jersey in his career, but most players who emulated those feats played little part in their tour’s main matches and certainly they would be second-stringers in a country like New Zealand. Not so Cody, who was one of the hardest-worked members of the 1913 Wallabies across the Tasman. After missing the tour opener Cody became one of the integral members of the side that improved as the tour went on, finally defeating the All Blacks in the third Test after suffering heavy reverses in the first two.
The Wallabies had an exceptionally difficult start to the tour, as they began against Auckland, who had just lost the Ranfurly Shield after eight years, and then played Taranaki, the new holders. A narrow loss was sustained in the first match and a narrow win recorded in the second, while an unexpected if small defeat was the tourists’ lot at Wanganui. It did not bode well for the first Test, especially as the heavy grounds encountered had not been to the visitors’ liking and there was sure to be another in the international. It was actually far worse; the match was played in a southerly storm with torrential rain and not even the dreadful weather could keep the All Blacks from running up a 30-5 margin before the main team left for California. To this stage of the tour Cody, along with the other forwards in the team, had been required to ‘dig it in’, but often when going backwards.
Unless that problem could be countered, the tour promised to be a long and not very distinguished one. Australia’s forwards did improve and the loose trio – normally Cody, Fred Thompson and Paddy Murphy – became more prominent. Although the next two matches were also lost, to traditional tough nut Southland and the second Test against a completely new All Black side, Australia made a success of the last fortnight and won the final three matches, including the third Test in a match where the Wallaby loose forwards were particularly prominent. Cody returned home as one of the success stories of a team that fared rather better than many expected, so his eclipse the following season was hard to fathom.
He made no appearances against the 1914 All Blacks, although the visitors returned home unbeaten and enjoyed an advantage in the loose in almost every match, and soon afterwards enlisted in the army, as most of the leading rugby players did. He survived the war and was a member of the AIF team that contested the King’s Cup afterwards, as well as making the tour of Australia in 1919. He played the first four matches of that tour but injured his leg against Queensland and, with no chance of recovery, took his demob and left the tour. As he was then 30 years of age and with a rugged war behind him, it was no surprise that Cody played no more big rugby after 1919.
Born in 1892 in Melbourne, Ernest Cody was always called ‘Bill’ Cody after the famed Wild West hero ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody of the ‘Pony Express’. The young Cody was educated at St Joseph’s College, Sydney, where he represented the First XV in 1911. He was a big, strong lad and found a place in the forwards in the back row. After School, Cody played for Eastern Suburbs, an immensely powerful club, which rampaged through the Sydney club competition in 1913 to win the premiership. The club was rich in talented forwards such as Harold George, Harold Baker, Ted Fahey, Fred Thompson, Jack Duffy and ‘Doss’ Wallach, all of whom were representative forwards.
Playing on the side of the scrum, Cody had to contend with the brilliant loose forward trio of Duffy, Baker and Thompson for a spot in first grade. Just winning a spot in the top grade was an immediate priority for the youthful Cody. However, with his big raw-boned frame and scavenging in the loose, Cody came to the attention of the selectors who chose him in the New South Wales Second XV to meet the touring Queenslanders in the midweek match between the two interstate matches. Cody and teammate, Fred Thompson, showed up in their team’s second half revival when they defeated Queensland 24-12. However, the selectors retained the loose forward trio of Jack Duffy, Rob Massie and Gus Walters for the return interstate clash on which the fate of the series depended. The match was a seesawing affair that ended with Jimmy Flynn landing a last gasp goal to give Queensland victory by 22 points to 21.
Following this match, the Australian team to tour New Zealand was selected. Owing to the large number of players who were unavailable, there was a vacancy for another flanker and Cody won the selectors’ nod, along with Ralph Hill and Fred Thompson from the Second XV. It meant that Cody would represent Australia without playing for his State. Cody was one of five Easts forwards in the touring team of thirteen forwards and eleven backs. Given the large number of players who were unavailable for the tour, the selectors took a risk with Ralph Hill and Roy Roberts, who were both injured. Unfortunately, the punt did not come off and neither played on tour.
With only eleven fit forwards for the nine tour matches, Cody was given plenty of football. Omitted from the opening game with the powerful Auckland side, Cody then played every match thereafter, including all three Test matches. It was a hard learning curve for the youngster who had to adjust to the hard New Zealand play. Although hard hit by injuries, the Wallabies did have some good fortune. After the All Blacks won the first Test 30-5, the party of 23 All Blacks left for a tour of America, including the team that won the first Test. Still, the Wallabies lost the second Test 25-13 but hit back to win 16-5 at Lancaster Park. Meanwhile, the decision was made to admit Randwick to the first grade competition for the 1914 season. Cody and a number of Easts first graders, including Harold Baker and Ted Fahey, transferred to Randwick.
Playing for the new club, Cody found it hard to catch the eye of the selectors and he failed to make any representative teams during 1914. With the advent of War, rugby competitions in New South Wales were suspended from 1915, whereas they continued in Queensland through 1915. At the time, Cody was employed as a clerk. However, he decided to enlist in the AIF on 5th January 1916. After basic training, Gunner Cody, at the age of 24 years, embarked with 7 Field Artillery Brigade on HMAT Argyllshire as reinforcements on the Western Front. Progressing through the ranks, Cody was promoted to Lieutenant by the end of the War. Like thousands of allied troops in 1919, Cody found himself in England awaiting repatriation to Australia. In order to keep the troops occupied and interested, the tournament for the King’s Cup was arranged. It was to be contested by teams, comprising servicemen from the Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, the Mother Country and the RAF.
Cody was a member of the AIF team that included Bill Watson and Dudley Suttor from the 1913 Wallabies, as well as ‘Bluey’ Thompson , the 1914 Wallaby flanker and other fine footballers. The AIF played in the sky blue jerseys similar to those worn by New South Wales save that, instead of the Waratah emblem, the jerseys displayed the army badge. During the competition, the AIF was the only team to defeat the eventual winners – the Military All Blacks. However, the AIF lost to the Mother Country and dropped out of the competition. While the Military All Blacks made a full scale tour of South Africa before returning home, Cody and the AIF team enjoyed a long sea trip home that was broken by a hastily arranged match against Natal.
On their arrival in Australia, the AIF side began a triumphant tour around Australia and played three ‘Test’ matches against Australian teams. Cody figured in a couple of ‘Tests’, forming a strong loose forward trio with Thompson and big Viv Dunn. Many old timers reckoned that the AIF forwards comprised the best Australian pack produced in Australia to that time. However, he suffered an injury and missed the rest of the tour. Following the end of the tour, the AIF team broke up and many figured in the usual interstate matches between New South Wales and Queensland. Unfortunately, Cody was injured and unable to play for New South Wales in these games. He returned to his family home at Yarra bend, Clifton, Melbourne, and retired from the game. Although ‘Bill’ Cody did not ever represent his State through the advent of the First World War and injury, he had a great deal of representative experience with the Wallabies and the AIF and showed in 1919 what a polished footballer he had become.
While at St Joseph’s College Cody captained the 1911 side, which included his brother Charles, and stroked the victorious Eight in the Head of the River. James Gray, in The Tradition: 100 years of Rugby at St Joseph’s College wrote:”Ernest Cody, who was nicknamed ‘Bill’ after the popular cowboy figure of the time, Buffalo Bill Cody, joined his coach, Ernest Booth, at Eastern Suburbs after leaving school and was a member of their premiership side in 1913. Along with Old Boy Ted Fahey, also of Easts, he toured New Zealand with the 1913 Australian team and played in the three Tests. In 1914 both he and Fahey transferred to Randwick after it was promoted to first grade. During the War, Cody served as a lieutenant with the AIF and, along with Arthur ‘Tiger’ Lyons (SJC First XV 1913), played in the highly successful AIF team that in 1919 was too strong for any side that New South Wales, Queensland or Australia could put up against it.”