John Vincent Bermingham
- 288Wallaby Number
Vince Bermingham was a hard and powerful country born forward who rose to prominence during Queensland’s revival years of the mid-to-late 1930s.
Born in Greenmount, near Toowoomba, Bermingham possessed the perfect build for a prop at 6 foot and 14 stone although he did play some of his early rugby at flanker. In life he maintained a conservative rural philosophy that revolved around the family farm. A teetotaller and non-smoker Bermingham held a strong view that the best way to keep young people off the street was for them to participate in sport. He embodied those beliefs in his actions.
Outside of rugby he won a Queensland amateur heavyweight boxing championship, an amateur wrestling championship, graduated in Judo and anchored champion Tug-of-War Teams. A natural leader, Bermingham was fearless, notably prior to one particular game played in Stanthorpe. A hostile local fan invaded the away team dressing room and brandished a tomahawk. While his teammates froze, Bermingham calmly grabbed a kit bag, approached the assailant, took a number of hits on the bag, manoeuvred himself into position and delivered a few sharp blows to the attacker who, when he next woke, found himself a guest of Her Majesty.
Bermingham played rugby league in the post-World War I period, when the state union was disbanded, and after his rugby career had ended he was chosen in the 1941 Queensland squad for the interstate matches in Sydney. Bermingham switched to rugby with the South End club in Toowoomba in the early 1930s and in 1932 played his first match against an international team, for Toowoomba against New Zealand. Further representative honours followed in quick time and the single clearest indication of both his ability, and his durability, is the fact that he started 29 of Queensland’s 31 matches played between 1933 and 1938.
In 1934 Queensland split the interstate series with New South Wales and when the first Test team was named to play the All Blacks there were six northerners in the side, including Bermingham on debut. The Wallabies won that match decisively and, with Bermingham once again the cornerstone of the scrum, drew the second to win Australia their first Bledisloe Cup series. Australia did not play a single Test match in 1935 and as such the 1936 tour to New Zealand took on even greater importance. Bermingham’s devotion to the farm effectively ruled him out of consideration however when the Springboks came in 1937 he was back in the thick of the action.
It was on that tour that the much revered South African halfback Dr. Danie Craven threw the one and only punch of his career. In the match against Toowoomba the mighty Springbok forwards were at a loss to stop Bermingham’s wholesale harassment of their champion half at lineout time, on the fringe of rucks or, on occasion, at times when Craven didn’t even have the ball. Craven decided to take matters into his own hands and took at swing at the big prop. The punch had no effect and Bermingham continued to wage a near one-man war with the Boks for the remainder of the game. Despite a string of consistently good performances in the early part of 1939, Bermingham was overlooked by the Queensland selectors for the first time in seven seasons and any hope he held of sailing to Great Britain with the Second Wallabies was vanquished.
In 1977 Bermingham was awarded the Queen’s Medal for service to the dairy industry as part of Her Majesty's Silver Jubilee celebrations.
Bermingham won his first Test cap at prop, alongside Eddie Bonis and Ted Jessep, in the 1st Test, 25-11 victory over New Zealand at the S.C.G. That same front-row trio were retained for the 2nd Test, 3-3 draw that clinched Australia’s first Bledisloe Cup series win.
The Wallabies did not play a Test match in 1935.
Bermingham earned his third and final cap, again at prop, in the 1st Test, 5-9 loss to South Africa in Sydney.