Lars Eric Christian Hedberg
Dual Rugby World Cup winner and All Black Jerome Kaino once said, “you have to stick your head in some dark places in the tight five”. Those tight, “dark places” of close contact confrontation - the scrum, the ruck and the maul - were the stamping grounds of Lars Hedberg. While he may have been considered undersized for the second row and too tall for a prop forward, Hedberg emerged from New South Wales Country rugby to become a Wallaby.
Hedberg played his first rugby at The Cranbrook School in Sydney before he went on to play one season in the 1st XV (1965). After graduation Hedberg enrolled to study Agriculture at Hawkesbury Agricultural College. During a three-year tenure at the College, Hedberg played in the 1st XV rugby side that competed in Sydney’s second division.
In 1969 Hedberg joined the Soil Conservation Service and began a career that saw him posted to four New South Wales regional centres. Hedberg emerged as a “lively", “new front rower” with Goulburn in his first year out of College. He soon won selection for the ACT representative squad for the NSW Country Carnival and then debuted for NSW Country, at lock alongside fellow future Wallaby Tony Gelling, against Fiji in Tamworth (L 9-22) That was the start of a long association with the Country side that saw Hedberg represent against Scotland in 1970 (L 15-18 in Bathurst), South Africa in 1971 (L3-19 at Orange), France in 1972 (L 15-25 at Armidale) and Tonga in 1973 (W 22-11 at Young).
Hedberg first played for the Waratahs in 1972 however it was his effort from prop, in the 1974 Centenary match at the SCG against a near full strength All Black side, that brought him firmly into Wallaby contention. For the first of the three Test matches, Australia selected a starting front row of Stu Macdougall, Peter Horton and a debutante, John Meadows. The press of the day wrote that both [Ron] Graham (who was named as the reserve prop forward) and Hedberg “looked more probable choices”. Nonetheless an opportunity emerged after Meadows injured his back and missed the final two internationals. As a result, Graham was elevated from the bench to the run-on XV and Hedberg added to the reserves. Unfortunately for Hedberg the front row played all 80 minutes of both Tests and a debut remained agonisingly out of reach.
In 1975, Hedberg was selected in the 35-man squad ahead of the home series against Japan and England and also the Sixth Wallabies tour. The Canberra Times reacted to the news: ‘[Hedberg’s] invitation indicates that either the selectors do not read the newspapers, which conveyed the announcement of his retirement to the rugby public recently or that he has changed his mind.' Two years later Hedberg signed off from rugby after he captained the Bathurst Bulldogs to a 19-6 grand final win against Mitchell College. It was the first top grade Central West premiership for the Bulldogs in 20 seasons.
1974 Hedberg was an unused reserve for the second and third Tests of the home series against New Zealand.