- 126Wallaby Number
Although a country player, Herbert Jones was prominent in both State and National teams just before World War I. This was some feat in his day, as most country players who had national aspirations were persuaded to move into town and it took a really high-class performer to win regular selection from outside the metropolitan areas. Jones was a 23-year-old coal trimmer and labourer on the docks at Carrington when he was first noticed by the representative selectors and introduced to the New South Wales team for the 1911 Queensland series. A centre with good pace and an eye for a gap, he quickly proved himself at home in the much higher grade of rugby and was soon one of the State’s first picks. In all he played 15 times against Queensland over the next four years, not missing a match, but his only other appearance was against New Zealand in 1914.
Jones was a good servant to the speedy wingers who played outside him and was a dangerous attacker in his own right. By 1912 it was clear that he was one of the country’s premier centres and was chosen for the tour to USA and Canada, although he had a relatively minor role. As a university man, Jones would not have minded the accommodation – the team was quartered in hostels and fraternity houses – and it is unlikely he was averse to the high-jinks that continued throughout the tour. The tour was hardly what would be expected from an international team these days, as partying and general lack of sleep rendered most of the party unfit for serious rugby, and the results were poor.
Jones had seven matches, scoring six tries, but he was not chosen for the solitary Test. In 1913 he was always going to be chosen for the New Zealand tour, although he made a slow start and his first match was the first Test. That was not the best match for a player to make his initial tour appearance, as the weather was appalling and the Australian forwards were totally outplayed by a fine All Black pack. Thus Jones and his colleagues had little to do but tackle, which was not always enough to keep the All Blacks at bay. In the end New Zealand won 30-5, but this team was about to leave for a tour of USA and Canada and sailed before the second Test.
In the interim Australia had played another hard game against Southland, in which Jones again made some telling breaks, and the Wallabies hit Dunedin for the second match in a reasonable frame of mind. The visiting backs were clearly superior on the day but the home forwards did enough to secure a 25-13 victory, although all agreed that the final margin flattered the New Zealanders. Jones scored two fine tries and his running was a source of concern to the All Black backs all afternoon. He repeated that double – and the good general play – at Timaru in the midweeker before the third Test. Australia gave by far its best performance of the series in this game and won 16-5, securing the Wallabies’ first win over New Zealand in New Zealand. Jones was again one of the better players and again scored a good try, completing an excellent series.
He played the last tour match, against Marlborough, and capped a good tour with his sixth try from as many matches. Jones played the first State match against the 1914 All Blacks and appeared against the tourists for New England, but was in a heavily beaten side both times. He was not chosen for the Tests, in which Australia struggled, and also missed out on the return State match although he did play against Queensland. As with almost all his colleagues, Jones signed up immediately for military service and saw action overseas throughout the war. He died in 1916 as a result of wounds received in action.