John "Jack" Manning
- 55Wallaby Number
There is some confusion about the school that John Manning attended. Pollard in Australian Rugby cited Sydney Boys’ High School, as did Dr Thomas Hickie did in A Sense of Union: A History of the Sydney University Football Club. The present authors have concluded that Manning went to Sydney Grammar School and the Riverview College. Manning played for Sydney University and obtained Blues there in 1900, 1902, 1903 and 1904. In 1904 he was one of the team to win the Sydney District competition. He would play 62 games for the University as a halfback/five-eighth. He would play twelve matches for NSW, eight of them being against Queensland. When the New Zealand team came to Australia in 1903, John Manning captained NSW and played halfback in the 0-12 loss. Other University players on the team were Victor Futter and W.A.Barton. He also played in the return match, a 0-3 loss, though the captaincy had gone to Jack O’Donnell. When the first Australian team was announced , two Queenslanders occupied the halfback and five-eighth positions, Austin Gralton and Lew Evans. There was only one Test in 1903.
The year 1904 saw a visit from a Great Britain side, captained by David Bedell-Sivright. Manning found himself in their first match, for NSW, who went down 0-27. All-round athlete ‘Snowy’ Baker was the halfback, whereas John Manning played five-eighth. Other University players on the team were fullback Jack Verge, centre ‘Kitty’ Futter and his brother, winger Victor Futter. The Sydney Morning Herald reported: “The hill-dwellers were paralysed with the neatness and quickness with which the Britishers handled the ball. The catching was clean and sure and attack so emphatic that NSW held its breath in surprise.” As one inhabitant on the Hill said: “By jinks them blokes is rapid. What ‘ope ‘ave we got with that sorter play.” Despite the one-sided nature of the first game, Baker and Manning were selected once more, but the Blues went down 6 to 29. The Herald reporter concluded: “As on the previous Saturday, the British played rings around the home combination, albeit NSW played a much better game than at the former meeting.” The next match was against the Metropolis, and resulted in another loss, this time 6 to 19. The respect that Manning had in the Sydney competition was obvious when he played halfback and captained the team. The five-eighth was James McMahon, who would manage the 1908 Wallabies to Britain. When the first Test team was announced , it was ‘Snowy’ Baker at halfback and Queensland’s Lew Evans as five-eighth. It was a 0-17 loss. The second Test was at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground, and Manning was picked at halfback and Baker five-eighth. It was a 3-17 loss. This would be John Manning’s only Test, as in the third Test the selectors picked ‘Pony’ Finley and Lew Evans as the halfback-five-eighth combination. That effectively ended the University and representative career of John Manning.