Francis Ebsworth Hutchinson
- 294Wallaby Number
Frank Hutchison and his older brother Eric lived very parallel lives. Both were born in Armidale, educated in Sydney, played club rugby with the University of Sydney and Northern Suburbs, represented New South Wales, won Test caps for Australia, joined the RAAF, and were killed - separately but just 23 days apart - during World War II.
An imposing physical specimen at just 18-years of age, Frank graduated from Shore, enrolled in Arts at the University of Sydney and went on to enjoy one of the most meteoric rises to rugby fame of all-time. In April he made his first grade in the opening match of the season against Gordon. In early July Hutchinson started for New South Wales against Queensland (23-11) where he played a ‘magnificent game’. ‘Improving with every match’ he was touted, even at that early stage, as ‘the best second-ranker in the game’. Within two weeks Hutchinson was named in the Wallaby team to tour New Zealand and in September he ran onto Athletic Park for his Test debut.
The following year a nasty ankle sprain robbed him of the chance to face the Springboks at home however he returned to start two of the three Tests against New Zealand in 1938. A year later the sole focus for all elite Australian rugby players was the Second Wallaby tour to Great Britain. Although widely touted as a near-certainty for the squad, Hutchinson missed a spot in the key Australia v The Rest trial, and was not selected on the ultimately ill-fated tour.
While never confirmed it is the believed Hutchinson’s non-selection, along with that of his brother Eric, were repercussions from Eric’s strong-worded speech to the annual meeting of the Sydney University Rugby Union Football Club held earlier that season. In his speech Eric 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. Unsurprisingly, the comments were not well received by the rugby hierarchy.
In April 1941 he enlisted in the RAAF, was sent to England, and trained as a navigator on Lancasters under the RAF’s Bomber Command. In early 1943 Hutchinson was a member of a seven-man Lancaster crew that left Yorkshire bound for the German city of Essen. The Lancaster was intercepted by a German fighter which shot it down near Nijmegen in Holland. All seven crew members perished.
Hutchinson won his first Test cap at lock, paired with Queensland’s ‘Bimbo’ White, in the 1st Test, 6-11 loss to New Zealand at Athletic Park. That locking combination were retained for the 2nd Test, 13-38 defeat at Carisbrook.
Hutchinson was chosen at lock, alongside Russ Kelly, in the one-sided, 1st Test, 9-24 defeat to New Zealand at the S.C.G. The Australian selectors made seven changes for the second Test in Brisbane and Queensland’s ‘Bill’ Monti came in for Hutchinson. Monti held his place for the third Test but was a late withdrawal due to a family illness. As a consequence Hutchinson was recalled to the middle row alongside ‘Mac’ Ramsay.