Gordon Cordeaux Smart Walker
Gordon Walker had a brief association with New South Wales teams in the early 1920s but, with a clutch of really top-class centres about, never cemented a place in the first-string lineup and his only matches were on tour in New Zealand in 1921. Although the 1921 team contained a bunch of lightweight backs, Walker was one of the lightest at 10st 9lb (67kg).
Walker was too young to be called up for service in World War I and made his debut against Queensland in 1919, before rugby in the northern state lapsed for the next decade. However, he had not appeared in a major match against either the 1920 All Blacks or the 1921 Springboks before his selection for the tour.
Although the 1921 Waratahs proved extremely successful – they beat New Zealand 17-0 at Christchurch and only lost an unbeaten record when defeated by Ranfurly Shield holder Wellington in the last match – not a lot of thought went into the makeup of the touring party. While 14 backs were chosen for the 10-match trip, 10 were three-quarters and naturally some were going to see little or no action.
As it turned out, five players between them accumulated no more than seven appearances and Walker was one of this unfortunate group. He had been chosen as a centre but never actually played there as Larry Wogan and ‘Bot’ Stanley dominated the position, making nine appearances each. Walker had a quiet day at fullback in his first appearance, against Poverty Bay in the tour’s fourth match, when an experimental New South Wales lineup had a tougher time than expected, and he was slightly busier on the wing against Buller, although most of the play that afternoon ran towards John Pym’s wing. There was no way Walker was in contention for Test selection and his tour ended after the Westport match.
Although he never won full State selection, Walker remained on the periphery for a few more years; he was, after all, only 21 when he made his tour. He appeared at fullback against the 1922 All Blacks for both Metropolitan Union and the State Second XV, while he also played for Metropolitan in a 16-16 draw with the 1923 New Zealand Maori team, kicking two conversions and giving a brilliant defensive display on a saturated Manly Oval.
His last appearance in a major contest came when he played at centre for Metropolitan against the 1924 All Blacks, converting the only try. Why he was not chosen for the 1923 team that toured New Zealand is a mystery, since that side was hit hard by unavailability and really struggled in the backs; although he was not one of the first XV at the time he had plenty of big-match experience by then.
Walker, like many of his contemporaries, left the game while still a young man to concentrate on earning his livelihood in what were tough economic times.