Ernest William Currie
- 18Wallaby Number
‘Ernie’ Currie was an 11 stone halfback from the strong City Club (Brisbane) which won the premiership in 1895, 1896, 1897 and 1899. He also represented Queensland from 1895 to 1899. New South Wales had toured New Zealand in 1882, 1886 and 1894, so it was decided by the Queensland rugby union (then called the Northern Rugby Union) to tour New Zealand in 1896. The authorities felt that the time was ripe as Sam Cockroft, the 1893-94 New Zealand representative, had settled in Brisbane and was playing for the City Club. Cockroft was appointed captain of the team, and the manager was Fred Lea, ‘Mr Rugby’ in Queensland, and then an Australian selector. It is interesting to see the team and the clubs at this time: Fullback, Bob McCowan (Past Grammar), three-quarters,J. Coghlan (City), W.C. Hawkins ((Boomerang), J.J.O’Shea (Past Grammar), W. Rundle (Warwick), W.Scarr (Past Grammar), halfbacks,Ernie Currie (City), ‘Poley’ Evans (City), Austin Gralton (Boomerang), D.Nelson (Past Grammar), Forwards, J.Anderson (City), W.Austin (City), Sam Cockroft (City), A.Daddow (Charters Towers), T.Doyle (Toowoomba), J.Higginson (Past Grammar), D.Milne (Boomerang), H.Nelson (Past Grammar), F.Pollard (Warwick), Bill Tanner (City) and W.Treagear (Charters Towers). The team was farewelled in Brisbane and caught the Wallangarra mail train to Sydney. They played four games, two against NSW, one versus the NSW Colts and one against Newcastle. The team caught the Almedato Auckland, playing Auckland on the day after their arrival.
Currie played in three of the six games, against Auckland (lost 6-15), New Zealand (lost 0-9) and Canterbury (lost 14-16). It was a disappointing tour, Queensland losing all six games. Chester and McMillan wrote, in The Visitors: “Their lack of physique and fitness had been a major disadvantage, and they had taken some time to gain combination as a team. Strangely, no further visits from Queensland took place until 1963.” In 1899 Great Britain, came to Australia, captained by Mathew Mullineux, who was immortalised by ‘Banjo’ Paterson in his poem “The Reverend Mullineux.” For the first time, Tests would be played in Australia. When Queensland played Britain at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground, Austin Gralton of the Boomerangs was halfback and Ernie Currie of City, halfback. The Queensland team wore maroon and white jerseys, and the Queensland team gave Britain three cheers as they ran out. How times have changed. Queensland played an inspired match, and won 11 to 3. A press report stated: “For the Queensland team McCowan at fullback had not much to do, but what he did he did well. He tackled in fine style, and in this respect he saved his side on several occasions. He also kicked well , making good use of the touch-line. All three-quarters played well, Evans showing out most prominently: Kent and Graham, did not play quite up to their form. The same applies to Currie at five-eighths, and Gralton the scrum half. One player from Britain, George Nicholls, summed up Queensland football at the time when he was asked if he found the Queensland grounds hard. He replied: ‘Yes, but not half as those Queensland forwards’”.
When the second Australian team in history was announced, Currie was on it, at halfback. The team in that match was Bob McCowan (capt.), Tom Ward, Lonnie Spragg, Alex Henry, Peter Ward, Poley Evans, Ernie Currie, Arthur Corfe, Bob Challoner, Charlie Ellis, Paddy Carew, Hyam Marks, Norm Street, Bill Tanner and Charlie Graham. Doubtless as a cost-saving exercise, nine Queensland players took the field for the Test at the Exhibition Park in Brisbane. Players were invited to play in those days, and only Peter Ward, Lonnie Spragg, Robert Challoner, Norman Street, Charlie Ellis and Hyam Marks were asked to represent Australia from NSW. The captain for the Test was Queensland’s Bob McCowan, as Queenslanders had the majority vote. Britain won by 11 to 0. The Sydney Morning Herald reported: “For Australia, McCowan, Evans, Ward, Currie, Carew, Ellis, Challenor and Marks did excellent work.” Despite his excellent work, that would be his only Test. Currie was simply not invited to play in any of the other Tests, all held in Sydney. That one Test ended the international career of Ernest Currie.