George William Watson
- 84Wallaby Number
Best known as one of the founders of rugby league in Queensland, George Watson was a speedy centre who played 13 representative games for Queensland between 1904 and 1907. Born on 6 January 1885, Watson joined the Public Service and came into first grade in 1903 with North Brisbane who had the talented Lonnie Spragg in their ranks as well as Jack Hindmarsh and Mickey Dore. In 1905, Watson stood out for the Town A side against Country and made his interstate debut against New South Wales in the opening clash in Brisbane when Queensland won 8-6. Thereafter, he was a first choice centre for Queensland and, in 1907, Watson was selected to play on the wing in the first Test against the All Blacks in Sydney. New South Wales had just beaten the All Blacks before a record crowd and Sydneysiders were disgruntled at the selection of four Queenslanders which would “weaken” the side.
Watson replaced the great Dally Messenger who was unavailable. In the event Watson, like Phil Carmichael, had an unhappy game and was omitted from the second Test in Brisbane when Messenger returned. However, bigger events were on the horizon for Watson when he became a prime mover in establishing rugby league in Queensland. As he recounted the story, “I was approached by an old friend and fellow player – although in different clubs - Jack Fihelly, to assist in establishing the new code in Queensland, and eight of us started to organise in close secrecy.We were assisted by New South Wales supporters, notably Victor Trumper.” When the first league game was played on 16 May 1908, Watson was the Queensland captain and he was included in the first Australian rugby league side to play in Brisbane.
Thereafter, Watson dropped out as a player and continued as a referee in the early club matches of 1909. A public servant who rose to the position of Under Secretary, George Watson died in 1961, leaving a legacy of rugby league in Queensland that often threatened to crush the rival rugby code.