James Richard Leonard "Len" Palfreyman

  • 4Caps
  • 264Wallaby Number
PositionFlanker
Date Of Birth8 May 1905
Place Of BirthSydney
SchoolSydney Grammar School
Debut ClubRandwick
ProvinceNSW
Died22 September 1973
Service Number3116
Debut Test Match1929 Wallabies v New Zealand, 1st Test Sydney
Final Test Match1932 Wallabies v New Zealand, 3rd Test Sydney

Biography

Len Palfreyman was a tall, long-legged, speedy and unassuming flanker who played a key role in the 1929, 3-0 series sweep of New Zealand. Born in Sydney and educated at Sydney Grammar School, Palfreyman became a peerless lineout man with a 6ft 3in, 15 ½ stone frame and hands that were said to be ‘like frying pans’. He was also a more than handy pugilist, a hard hitter with a dangerous left, who earned a well-deserved reputation as an enforcer. He began his first grade career with Randwick in 1924 however the opportunity to play representative rugby did not come for five years as the likes of Ted Thorn, Wylie Breckenridge and Ted Greatorex dominated the Waratah side in the late 1920s.

In 1929 Palfreyman finally broke through for his state debut and was then named on the flank for the first Test against New Zealand in Sydney. Australia won that match 9-8 to put themselves firmly on track to record the first series win over their great rivals and opened up the possibility for the first All Black sweep by any nation since 1884. Unfortunately Palfreyman then withdrew from the second Test team after his father passed away on the Monday following his debut match. A year later he made a triumphant return to top level rugby when he started in each of New South Wales’ first seven matches, reclaimed his Test spot for the narrow 6-5 win over the Lions and then rounded out the representative season on the side of the Waratah scrum when they humbled the tourists in the their second clash by 28-3.

Palfreyman toured to New Zealand in 1931 where he played in eight of the ten matches but upon his return to Australia formally retired from representative rugby. That retirement decision didn’t last long and a year later he returned to face the New Zealanders at home. Later that season Palfreyman captained the Combined XV against Queensland in the trials for the 1933 tour to South Africa however he then ruled himself unavailable for the trip due to business-related reasons. Palfreyman retired for a second and final time after Randwick won the 1934 grand final. He went on to coach Randwick’s reserve grade side (1939-45) and was later named as a selector for New South Wales. Len Palfreyman played four Tests for Australia in a four-year international career.

Highlights

1929

Palfreyman won his first Test cap at flanker alongside Wylie Breckenridge and Jack Ford in the 1st Test, 9-8 defeat of New Zealand at the S.C.G.

1930
Ford, Breckenridge and Palfreyman were reunited for the one-off Test, 6-5 victory over the British Lions in Sydney.

1931
For the third year running he won a single cap, on the flank in the 13-20 loss to New Zealand at Eden Park.

1932
He returned to pick his fourth and final Test cap in partnership with Owen Bridle and the debutant ‘Weary’ Dunlop in the 3rd Test, 13-21 defeat to New Zealand at the S.C.G.

James Richard Leonard "Len" Palfreyman