Harold Wesley George
- 108Wallaby Number
Harold George played for Eastern Suburbs Club in Sydney, which has produced many Wallabies over the years. George was a prop, 5 foot 10 ½ inches in height and a solid 13 stone. He was one of the great pre-war forwards.
It was in 1910 that he rose to the top in rugby, but he had five years at Easts fine-tuning his game. He was a member of the Easts second grade rugby premiership team in 1905, then progressing to first grade by 1907. In 1910 George was selected in the front row with Jimmy Clarken and Tom Griffin for NSW against NZ. The Blues lost by 8 to 21. He held his position for the return match, again lost by 11-17. His performances led to his selection in the first Test at the SCG. The Australian team that day was Larry Dwyer, Bert Gilbert, Dinny Campbell, Ward Prentice, Alf Dunbar, Charlie Hodgens, Fred Wood, Norm Row, Syd Middleton, Brickey Farmer, Fred Timbury, Paddy Murphy, Harold George, Tom Griffin and Jimmy Clarken. In an exciting game, NZ won 6-0. George was picked in the second Test, in which Australia turned the tables with a 11-0 win. This was a significant milestone in Australian rugby. It represented the first Test win over New Zealand in seven meetings (one match had been drawn), and the first time Australia had held an opponent scoreless. At a time of turmoil in the game, with fourteen Wallabies defecting to rugby league the year before, Australia’s record Test win was real fillip. The Series decider, with George once more on the team, was a 28-13 win for New Zealand. But Gilbert and Dinny Campbell turned professional after the game.
The NZ Maori team was also in Australia in 1910, and George played against them twice, for NSW. There were no Tests against the Maori. The visitors won both matches. In 1912 Australia sent a team to the United States and Canada, and George was one of the party, led by Ward Prentice. The other Easts players were Arthur Walker and Ted Fahey. At the time George was 25 years of age. E.W.Kann wrote, in his excellent Easts Rugby Story: “That sea trip to America on the Moana, lasting from September 7 to October 3, was rough. Harold George was one of only about five players who were not sick immediately upon leaving Sydney on the Saturday afternoon. They played their first tour matches in America on the second and third days after landing, George scoring a try in the opening game.”
One of the problems was that the players were housed in University fraternity houses and simply had one big party. Bob Adamson on his return from the tour remarked: “We were never in bed. That was the trouble. I never had such a time in all my life.” ‘Bobs‘, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote up the Test: “Australia 12, America 8. These are the cold figures, but they do not give you any idea of the game. If ever a team looked to be hopelessly outclassed the Waratahs [sic] did yesterday in the first half and for twenty minutes play after the interval.” The team went on to Canada, losing all its games there. George played against Vancouver (lost 3-6), British Columbia (lost 0-15) and Victoria BC (lost 11-13).
In 1913 Harold George played in the two NSW games, the Blues winning 15-3 and 16-5. After this, George went on the 1913 tour of New Zealand, captained by Larry Dwyer. George would play eight of the nine games, and the last three, through an injury to O’Donnell , he played hooker. The games were against Auckland (lost 13-15), Taranaki (won 11-9), Wanganui (lost 6-11), New Zealand (lost 5-30), Southland (lost 8-13), South Canterbury (won 16-3), New Zealand at Christchurch (won 16-5) and Marlborough (won 30-3). It was a disappointing tour, the highlights being the surprising defeat of the All Blacks in the second Test. George was in two of the three Tests.
The 1914 tour by New Zealand has been termed the ’Declaration of War’ tour, as war was declared halfway through the tour. In his last season in Australia he played two games for NSW , one for the Metropolitan team, and two Tests. Of the final Test team Harold George and Fred Thompson were both killed at Gallipoli, while Bill Tasker was seriously injured. Major James Macmanamey, the President of the NSW union and a former international referee, was killed at the Dardanelles and the vast majority of players who represented Australia team on this tour served in some capacity. Harold George would gain eight Tests and 20 non-Test caps for his country.
He played 20 times for NSW between 1910-1913. He made 95 first grade appearances for Easts, the most for the club by any other pre-World War player. He was three times captain of Easts, 1911-1912-1914. He stuck firmly with the amateur code during times of great duress.