Leslie Raymond Austin
- 484Wallaby Number
Les Austin was a strong, tough front row forward whose time in representative football coincided with Jon White, Tony Miller, and John Thornett, three of the finest props to ever represent Australia. Born in Sydney, Austin was educated at St. Aloysius College and went on to join Northern Suburbs, as a flanker, in 1956. He transferred to the front row in 1957 and three years later helped Norths win the Shute Shield.
In 1961, Austin was picked for North Harbour in their match against the touring Fijians and the following season he made his debut for New South Wales against the 1962 Wallabies at North Sydney Oval. Austin then started in the two interstate matches against Queensland and Victoria and from there was selected to play for The Rest versus ‘Australia’ in the final trials for the upcoming Test against England and the subsequent tour to South Africa. Austin impressed with his rugged, non-stop displays and as a result he earned a Test debut against England in Sydney and a spot on the plane to South Africa.
Austin’s debut match was played on a waterlogged Sports Ground pitch however Australia were rarely troubled in winning 18- 9. Peter Johnson wrote that Austin ‘handled his celebrated opponents with ease.’ On the South African tour, Austin found himself in the team to play a Rhodesian XV where he opposed the legendary Andy MacDonald. In later years MacDonald was out surveying his property on the back of a horse. Unknowingly they were being stalked by a lion. The lion leaped up and knocked MacDonald from the horse. MacDonald then fought the lion with his bare hands and eventually strangled it to death.
He finished up with more than 200 stitches from the experience. Both Austin and the Wallabies had an inkling of his phenomenal strength well before the lion. MacDonald gave Austin a ‘nightmare afternoon’ in Kitwe and just four days later were reunited when Australia played Rhodesia. Johnson wrote: ‘Les Austin once again attracted the attention of Andy Macdonald but at least Les was walking upright after this match.’
Austin did not play in the Test series as the selectors opted for John Freedman and White in the first Test, and Thornett and White for the final three internationals. In 1964 Austin made his second, and final tour with an Australian team, to New Zealand where Thornett and White were chosen for all three Tests. Les Austin played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #484.
Austin won his first Test cap at prop alongside Peter Johnson and Jon White in the 18-9 victory over England at the Sydney Sports Ground.