Francis Wallace Meagher
- 203Wallaby Number
Wally Meagher, one of Australia’s most courageous halfbacks, is inextricably linked with the storied history and success of the Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club. Those who delight in either playing with or watching Randwick are indebted to Meagher for the unique rugby principles that he fashioned for the Galloping Greens.
Despite his undoubted rugby pedigree Meagher was actually born into one of Australia’s most famous cricketing families, the Gregorys, four of whom collectively played 96 Test matches. Meagher was the grandson of Edward James Gregory who played in the first ever Test match, against England, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1877. Ned’s brother Dave captained Australia that day and, a year later, also led the first ever tour to England. Ned will forever be remembered for two notable achievements – he scored Test cricket’s first ever ‘duck’ and in retirement he became the curator of the Sydney Cricket Ground which was laid out under his supervision.
Educated at Waverley College, Meagher first showed in 1923 when he played in the first Randwick side following the club’s re-entry into first division rugby. The press of the day wrote that Meagher ‘has good football in him’ and ‘looks like following in [Wakka] Walker’s footsteps as a half, having modelled his play on the style of the New South Wales captain.’ That same season, and with Walker unavailable due to business commitments, Meagher won a spot on the tour to New Zealand and he started his first representative match at inside centre in the 23-16 win over South Canterbury. A run-on at fly half against Southland was finally followed by two games at halfback before he replaced Norm Mingay for the final ‘Test’ in Wellington. Although Meagher did not know it at the time that match was also his official Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986).
Walker’s refusal to remain in retirement and some questionable selection policies meant that Meagher did not secure the halfback jersey for his own until 1925. Unfortunately for Meagher the emergence of the great Syd Malcolm on the famous Waratah tour of the northern hemisphere brought an end to his representative career as the Novocastrian went on to dominate the position for the next seven years.
Back at Randwick, Meagher captained the club to its first Shute Shield premiership win (1930) in his final first grade game. Meagher was Randwick club coach and first grade coach from 1931 to 1953 during which he guided them to four first grade premierships and eight minor premierships. As coach Meagher developed Randwick's running style of play. He virtually eliminated kicking and emphasised continuous running, passing and backing up - the style of the 1927-28 Waratahs. Meagher described his brand of rugby as a blend of that developed by A.C. ["Johnny"] Wallace, captain of the Waratahs, and that preached by former player and successful coach in both rugby union and rugby league, Arthur Hennessey. He looked upon rugby union as a game to be played and enjoyed by amateurs, with little reward other than the honour of representing your district and, if fortunate, your State and possibly country.
After he stepped down as coach Meagher was elected President of the Randwick Football Club and held that post until his death in 1966. In 1958 Meagher became a Life Member of the New South Wales Rugby Union and eight years later he was elected President of the NSWRU. Wally Meagher played eight Tests for Australia in a five-year international career.
Meagher won his first Test cap at halfback in the 3rdTest, 11-38 defeat to New Zealand at Athletic Park
‘Wakka’ Walker started the first two Tests of the home series against New Zealand however a broken rib ruled him out of the final match. Meagher came into the side at halfback for the 8-38 loss at the RAS Showground.
Meagher started at halfback, inside Tom Lawton, in the one-off 10-36 defeat to New Zealand at Eden Park.
Billy Sheehan partnered Meagher in the halves for the first three home Tests played against New Zealand.
Meager earned his final caps in the opening two Tests of the Waratahs’ tour – the wins against Ireland at Lansdowne Road and Wales at Cardiff Arms Park.