Gordon Short Sturtridge
- 268Wallaby Number
Gordon Sturtridge was a brilliant and creative back who became the first player from Victoria to play Test rugby for Australia. An outstanding athlete Sturtridge was also a leader of men who possessed a flair for captaincy which transformed ordinary teams into formidable opponents. Born in northern New South Wales at Emmaville, near Glen Innes, Sturtridge starred in athletics, tennis, rowing - he was in the bow seat of the 1924 crew which won the Head of the River - and rugby during his education at Brisbane Boys' College. After school he enrolled in Medicine at the University of Melbourne as the course was not offered for study in Queensland at that time.
The timing of his southern venture fortuitously coincided with the reformation of the Victorian Rugby Union in 1926 and a year later he starred when the Southerners headed to Sydney for their first ever matches against New South Wales. Although the Waratahs prevailed 19-13 Sturtridge impressed as a ‘clever swerving, speedy five-eighth of splendid build, and super-charged with energy. This player is young into the bargain, and on the day completely overshadowed his brilliant vis-a-vis, Gregor George.’ Unfortunately he was ineligible for that year’s Waratahs tour to the U.K., France and North America, as well as the 1928 New South Wales tour to New Zealand, and as such had to wait until 1929 for his first taste of international rugby, with the Australian University side on their tour to New Zealand.
Upon his return home Sturtridge was named as a reserve for the first Test against the All Blacks. In that match outside centre Cyril Towers was forced off following a head knock however his replacement Alan Thorpe then contracted synovitis in his knee ahead of the second Test. With both Towers and Thorpe unavailable, Sturtridge was called into the centres for a Test debut in Brisbane where Australia emerged victorious to record the first ever series win over their great rivals. In 1931 Sturtridge, despite his ‘undeniable prospects of inclusion’, initially announced he was unavailable for the tour to New Zealand but then managed to successfully reschedule his University exams so that the two events no longer clashed.
Unfortunately he then injured an ankle during a club match which precluded his selection for the trip. He returned to start all three home Tests against the All Blacks in 1932 and was then one of three Victorians chosen in the first Australian side to South Africa in 1933. Sturtridge played in all five Tests, scored a try in the second Test at Durban when the Springboks suffered their heaviest defeat in Test history (21-6), and was honoured with the captaincy in the uncapped match against Transvaal. Having graduated from Medicine, Sturtridge moved to England where he was appointed to the Northampton General Hospital. Sturtridge also made a considerable contribution to English rugby.
He played for Rosslyn Park and then joined the Northampton Rugby Club whom he captained from 1938 to 1941. Sturtridge was elected president of the club in 1950 and continued in the position until his death. He was president of East Midlands in 1959-60 and as chairman of the Midlands selection committee became well known as a marvellous judge of a player. Sturtridge obtained Membership of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1943 and was elected a Fellow of the College in 1963.
He also became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. Sturtridge passed away at the very hospital where he was consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist on his 57th birthday. While gone, Sturtridge’s legacy to rugby remains strong. In honour of his memory the Gordon S. Sturtridge Cup was instituted by his friend Colin (‘Kiwi’) Lowndes. It is awarded annually by the Melbourne Rugby Club to the player who ‘contributes most to the club both on and off the field during the year’.
Sturtridge won his first Test cap at outside centre in partnership with Sid King in the 17-9, 2nd Test win over New Zealand at the Exhibition Ground.
Sturtridge was capped in all three home losses to New Zealand. He started the first two Tests at outside centre partnering King however following a major shake-up was shifted to fly half, outside of captain Syd Malcolm for the 3rd Test, 13-21 defeat in Sydney.
In his final year of international rugby Sturtridge played in all five Tests on the tour to South Africa. He was selected at outside centre in each of the first four Tests and at fly half for the 15-4, 5th Test victory at Springbok Park.