Graham Douglas Bailey
When Graham Bailey ran onto the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1954, for Hawkesbury Agricultural College against Combined High Schools, the prospect of touring with the next Australian side to the United Kingdom was likely the last thing on his mind. That day Bailey played in the curtain raiser to the New South Wales vs. Fiji fixture. A little over three years later Bailey boarded the RMS Strathmore to the U.K. alongside six of the Waratahs from the Fijian match -- Tony Fox, Jim Phipps, Mac Hughes, Tony Miller, Nick Shehadie and Alan Cameron -- as a member of the Fourth Wallabies.
Bailey was a big, tough, raw-boned country boy. Don Strachan, the man who was asked to captain the Fourth Wallabies but had to withdraw for personal reasons, described Bailey as a very good footballer. He was fast, with a great change of pace, a fantastic defender and unselfish – a born centre. Strachan added: “Bailey was as good as [Jim] Lenehan, but bigger”.
Born at Molong, in the Central West region of New South Wales, Bailey was educated at the Armidale School. In 1956 he was chosen to play for Central West in the Country Week carnival. Central West won the tournament and from there Bailey earned a spot in the Combined Country team to face Newcastle in a representative trial match for selection in the N.S.W. team to visit Queensland. Soon thereafter Bailey was named in the Country squad to face the touring Springboks however Gordon Davis, Wallaby #411, ultimately secured the outside centre jersey in the narrow 8-15 loss. Bailey rounded out a whirlwind season with a bang in his state debut, against Queensland, as he scored two tries in the 32-9 romp at North Sydney Oval.
Twelve months on and Bailey continued to take his chances and while not chosen for any state fixture the representative selectors gave an insight into their thinking when Bailey was invited to play for the Australian Barbarians against New Zealand. Unfortunately, Bailey was forced to withdraw from the match due to injury. Two months later Bailey took part in the controversial trials for the Wallaby tour. The ARFU had arranged an interstate carnival for the purpose of selecting the team. The program that was agreed had Queensland up against South Australia and then Victoria. The state with the best record was then to play the NSW No.1 side on the day prior to the naming of the squad. However, and at the last minute, NSW forced a change in the schedule to instead trial composite teams - Australia vs. The Rest and Possibles vs. Probables - which allowed Country New South Wales players to be included with better company. The QRU protested but they were the sole vote against the motion.
The controversy around the trial structure paled in comparison to that generated by the makeup of the final squad. Seasoned fullback / fly-half Dick Tooth, who was also the incumbent Australian captain (10 caps), Cyril Burke (26 caps) and Keith Cross (19 caps) were sensationally excluded by the five-man selection panel - Dave Cowper, Eddie Bonis, Tom Pauling, Bill McLaughlin and Max Carpenter. Of the 30 players selected there were seven from Country, just three Queenslanders and a single Victorian. Bailey, alongside three experienced centres in Jim Phipps, Saxon White and Jack Potts, was in the team.
Bailey made his Australian debut alongside White in the tour’s second match, against Oxford, where the Wallabies were outplayed despite the tight 6-12 score line. After two further losses the selectors chose to shunt Bailey out to the wing where, as Strachan later said, “he was wasted” and bring Rod Phelps into the mid-field. Even when Phipps broke his leg against Glasgow-Edinburgh the selectors moved Lenehan from full-back rather than recall Bailey to his best position. The selectors chose four different centre pairings for the tour’s five Tests - Lenehan & Potts; White & Potts; White & Lenehan (2) and Lenehan & Phelps - and Australia lost all five.
Following their return home Bailey played in the team’s 28-6 victory over New South Wales and for the Australian Barbarians against the touring Maori before his swansong, Central West’s sensational 18-15 victory over the Maori at Orange. Led by an inspired Don Strachan, and alongside fellow Wallabies Bill Gunther and Jon White, Bailey’s side inflicted just the second loss from 12 matches for the tourists. At the end of that season Bailey walked away from representative rugby and returned to the land, at Croppa Creek, 80 kilometres from Moree in northern New South Wales.
Bailey played in 17 uncapped matches on the Fourth Wallabies' tour: - vs. Oxford University (L 6-12); Cambridge University (L 3-13); Newport (L 0-11); Leinster (W 10-8); Ulster (W 9-0); South of Scotland (W 12-6); Llanelli (W 9-5); Neath-Aberavon (W 5-3); Abertillery & Ebbw Vale (L 5-6); South-West Counties (D 3-3); North-West Counties (L 3-6); France ‘B’ (L 3-8); South-West France (W 17-14); British Columbia (L 8-11); University of California, Los Angeles (W 36-9); Combined California Universities (W 35-3); and Stanford University (W 12-3)