Mark Phillip Catchpole
Few Australian rugby players have been born with bigger shoes to fill than Mark Catchpole. The son of one, if not the greatest of all half backs, Catchpole overcame that great personal challenge to justifiably earn Australian colours in his own right.
A robust, aggressive scrum half with a strong, efficient pass to either side, and an astute football brain, Catchpole played his first rugby for the mighty Lindfield U7s on Sydney’s lower northside before the family moved to Queensland. Catchpole attended The Southport School and played two years in the 1st XV (1984-85).
After graduation Catchpole played three seasons of rugby with the Gold Coast RUFC. During his time with the Eagles, Catchpole won two premierships (1987-88) and earned his first representative stripes for Queensland Country. A move to Brisbane’s Western Districts in 1989 preceded his state debut a year later in the 37-9 victory over Western Samoa in Apia.
Unfortunately, further representative opportunities were few and far between given the presence of Peter Slattery who went on to win more than 100 caps for the Reds (1985-95). Nonetheless Catchpole continued to star at club level and his performances were recognised in 1992 when he was awarded both the 1992 Rothmans Medal, for the Best and Fairest Player in the Queensland Premier Club Competition, and the Australian Airlines Player of the Year.
The following year Catchpole enjoyed his first taste of international rugby when selected for the Australian Men’s 7s squad to contest the Fiji Sevens tournament before he and fellow Queenslander Barry Lea were the two surprise selections for the Wallaby tour to Canada and France. Catchpole’s inclusion came at the expense of another Red, Brett Johnstone, who, earlier in the season, had been capped against Tonga and then sat unused behind Nick Farr-Jones for the one-off Bledisloe match as well as the first two home tests against South Africa. Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer disclosed that Catchpole would have been Farr-Jones’ back-up earlier in the season had he himself not been injured. Catchpole made his debut for Australia in the uncapped 40-3 victory over Canada ‘B’ however he then remained unused on the bench, behind Slattery, for each of the three internationals - vs. Canada (1) and France (2).
With the third Rugby World Cup on the horizon, and Slattery firmly entrenched as the Reds’ number one halfback, Catchpole headed to Sydney in 1994 and joined the Warringah Rats. He enjoyed a stellar first year in the Shute Shield, one that saw him debut for New South Wales, against Southland in Invercargill, captain an Australian XV against Ireland in Mt. Isa (W 57-9), and tour to South Africa with the Emerging Wallabies. The season ended in fine style when Catchpole won the AAMI Medal for Best and Fairest Player in the Sydney Premier Club Competition.
In 1995 Catchpole captained the Australian Barbarians’ tour of Uruguay and Argentina and was a member of the Australian Barbarians’ tour of Canada. Two years later, and with George Gregan well settled into his long and distinguished Wallaby career, Catchpole moved to South Africa, joined Western Province and played in their winning Currie Cup side. In 1998 Catchpole returned to Australia and joined Sydney University. That season he was awarded a Sydney University Blue, named the Sydney University Sportsman of the Year and appropriately won the inaugural Ken Catchpole Medal as Best and Fairest Player in the Shute Shield. Catchpole captained Sydney University for three more years before he retired from first class rugby in 2001.
Catchpole played five matches on the Wallaby tour to Canada and France – vs. Canada ‘B’ at Calgary (W 40-3), vs. South-West Selection XV at Agen (W 20-19), vs. South-East Selection XV at Grenoble (W 24-23), vs. Provence-Littoral XV at Toulon (L 15-21), and vs. French Barbarians at Clermont-Ferrand (W 43-26)