Mervyn Hamilton Rylance
- 239Wallaby Number
Merv Rylance was perhaps the most decorated schoolboy sportsman to ever represent the Wallabies. A sure-handling winger who possessed speed and determination, Rylance’s days at The King’s School were quite remarkable. To say he had an outstanding academic and sporting career is in itself a gross understatement. In rugby Rylance was awarded his colours as a 15-year old in 1921 and played wing three-quarter for four consecutive seasons in the 1st XV (1922-25). He was awarded the School Honour Cap (1924 & 25), won the GPS premiership in 1924 and captained the side in his final year. Rylance was selected to play in the All Schools Teams of 1923, 1924 and 1925 (captain). In athletics Rylance was a member of the School Junior teams (1920-21).
In 1921 he won the Higgins Cup awarded to the champion U16s athlete. He won his School Colours in 1922, 23, 24 & 25 and captained the team in each of the last two years. During that period King’s won the G.P.S. Competition on three occasions. Rylance won two Headmaster’s Cup for the 100yds championship (1924-25) and two Old Boys’ Cups for the 440yds championship (1924-25). He was awarded the Gray Challenge Cup, for the Champion Athlete, in 1923 and again in 1924. In rifle shooting Rylance earned school colours in 1923, 24 & 25 (captain).
In his final year Rylance won the Verge Cup, was awarded the Crown Badge and gained selection in the All Schools Team. King’s twice won the G.P.S. premiership (1923-24) and along the way also collected the Buchanan Shield (1923) and the Rawson Cup (1924). In 1925 Rylance was the School captain, a position he occupied with distinction and authority, traits which were recognised and resulted in his award of the Burkitt Shield. After graduation Rylance joined Eastern Suburbs and the press of the time said his acquisition was ‘a gift that some other clubs would appreciate intensely’. He shaped well in his early appearances with occasional ‘flashes of brilliance’ and the view prevailed that with more experience Rylance should become a ‘first rater’ in his position.
That season New Zealand toured Australia with three games scheduled against New South Wales. Rylance came closest to making his state debut when he was selected for The Colts v. Coogee curtain raiser to the third of those fixtures. Somewhat surprisingly the NSWRU hastily scheduled an extra match against the tourists, one that required New Zealand to return to Sydney from Melbourne following their scheduled fixture with Victoria. Rylance was called on to the NSW reserves bench for that fourth match when Stuart McLaren came into the XV at the eleventh hour for ‘Sheik’ Bowers who had to withdraw with a wrist fracture. At half-time ‘Stumpy’ Crossman retired with a leg injury and Rylance came on as the replacement. Almost immediately he put up a splendid run and nearly scored in the corner.
Although he did not know it at the time that match was Rylance’s Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986). In 1927 Rylance continued to show for Easts and it was said he “must come into consideration before finality is reached” for the Waratahs tour. For reasons that remain unexplained Rylance was not selected for the tour’s key final trials.
At this time it appears that Rylance focussed upon his architectural studies and he went on to graduate with honours from Sydney Technical College in 1931. The following autumn he sailed for London ‘to further his architectural studies abroad’ which culminated in his admission to the Royal Institute of British Architects. On his return to Australia Rylance worked in the Sydney office of Joseland and Gilling until 1936 after which he opened a Brisbane office. Much of his early work was concentrated in Clayfield and Hamilton, where his distinguished houses are much valued today. During the course of World War II he served with the Commonwealth Architectural Branch. Merv Rylance played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #239.
Rylance won his first Test cap when he replace Owen Crossman on the right wing in the 4th Test, 21-28 loss to New Zealand at the Sydney Showground.