Maxwell Gordon Carpenter
- 312Wallaby Number
Max Carpenter was an exceptional all-round athlete, a rugby nomad of sorts, who became the first Test capped Wallaby to have represented Western Australia. Small, agile and fast, he could run the 100 yards in even time, Carpenter was a winger of repute who was also a star centre and on occasion a more than capable fly half. It was said that Carpenter had a flair for ‘absolute genius in his football make-up’ and at one point was acclaimed as Australia’s greatest wing three-quarter of the 1930s. Although born in the north-west of New South Wales at Trangie, Carpenter was educated in Sydney at Randwick Intermediate High School.
In 1925 and again the following year Carpenter represented New South Wales in rugby league against Queensland at schools level however he was better known in tennis circles. In 1929 Carpenter won the Queensland junior tennis championship and he also represented New South Wales in the Linton Cup (interstate junior matches). In the 1930 Linton Cup quarter-final he defeated future triple Australian Open men’s single champion Adrian Quist 6-3, 6-2 before he upped and moved to Western Australia and joined the Perth rugby club. That same year he debuted for his new state, in something of a baptism of fire, against the British Lions. In 1932 Carpenter was placed third, by the West Australian Rugby Union, on a graded list of that state's nominations for the Australian trials.
The Australian selection committee evidently regarded him more highly as they elevated him to number one position. Carpenter then endured a horror near-six day train journey from Perth in order to attend the Sydney-based trials where he played fly half for a combined New South Wales-Victoria selection against Queensland. Although he ‘impressed with his speed, especially off the mark, and his handling and passing left nothing to be desired’ Carpenter was not selected for the touring team to South Africa. He relocated to Victoria in late 1936 and joined the undefeated Footscray club who went on to record an emphatic 27-0 grand final win over Power House.
Although Carpenter represented Victoria against the touring Springboks in 1937 he did not make the Test team however that changed the following year after he starred as Victoria split their two match series against New South Wales. In response Carpenter was selected in the Wallabies’ first ever three-quarter line to not include a Waratah for his Test debut against New Zealand in Sydney. He scored 20 of Australia’s 23 points in the first two games before illness ruled him out of the final Test. In 1939 Carpenter captained Australia against The Rest and went on to be one of four Victorians picked in the Second Wallabies tour to Great Britain.
Unfortunately the tour was abandoned after England declared war on Germany and the team left for home without playing a single match. Upon his return to Australia Carpenter enlisted in the Seventh Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force and continued to play rugby for the Combined Services. After the war he coached Drummoyne (1946-47), Services (1948-51) and Parramatta (1950).
Carpenter won his first Test cap on the right wing in the 9-24, 1st Test loss to New Zealand at the S.C.G. He scored all nine of Australia’s points through three penalty goals. Carpenter pulled a leg muscle at training ahead of the Brisbane match but recovered to retain his position and was lauded for ‘two brilliant tries’ in ‘a display of rare pace’ in the 14-20 defeat. Moved to outside centre for the final Test of the series, Carpenter was forced to withdraw at the last minute after he contracted influenza.