James Thomas Wylie
Jim Wylie was born in New Zealand in 1887 and died at 69 years of age in Palo Alto, California. A giant of a man in those days at 6 foot 3 inches, he was a strong side-row forward, particularly adept in the lineout. He played four games for Auckland and appeared in the 1910 inter-island match.
After this he decided to move to Australia, and linked with the Glebe Club, which was renowned for its fine forwards. Some of them in this time period were Syd Middleton, Jimmy Clark, Tom Griffin and Bob Stuart. He made the NSW team in 1911 and 1912, and was selected in Ward Prentice’s 1912 tour to the USA and Canada. He only played four matches on this tour because of injury, but went up against the Barbarians, Stanford University twice and the University of California at Berkeley. Unfortunately he was not available for the single Test.
He must have liked the rugby atmosphere and lifestyle of California, as he would live at Palo Alto, California, noted for (Leland) Stanford University, a private University of great repute.
Jim Wylie returned to New Zealand in 1913 and was selected for the All Blacks’ tour of North America. Unlike the Australian tour, unsuccessful on the field but successful on it, New Zealand won all of its 16 games, scoring an incredible 610 points and having only six points scored against them, three at the University of California at Berkeley and three against All America at the University of California ground at Berkeley.
Before he departed New Zealand shores he played in the first Test against the visiting Australians in 1913. As he played against All America, he was credited with two Tests in his career, some 12 matches for New Zealand (two of these Tests), some four times for Australia, none of which was a Test.
Wylie remained in California, studying at Stanford University and playing rugby for them. Later he coached the University team. The author was at the University of California at Berkeley from 1950-54 and each year played against Stanford University. These were the years when spring football was banned, so the California coaches had their charges turn out for rugby in the off season to keep them fit and rugged. The Stanford coach was Pete Kmetovic, who would sit on the sidelines slightly bemused at seeing his athletes in shorts and all carrying and running with the ball. Always sitting behind the bench was a grizzled Jim Wylie, who worked as a fruit shipper and wholesaler.
Each year the author would talk to him, and he told me he had played for Australia and New Zealand. The last time the author saw him was in 1954, when Bob Stuart’s All Blacks came home via North America. The author played against them for the University of California at Berkeley, almost causing an upset, and then for the California All Stars, their last match after a long tour.
Jim Wylie was delighted when he was invited to kick off in that match. The author was in that match, and talked to this then kindly man over a drink and spaghetti...Now the author realises all the questions he should have asked.