Patrick Bernard "Nimmo" Walsh
- 51Wallaby Number
Born on 3 May 1879 at Cook’s Hill, one of the inner city suburbs of Newcastle, ‘Nimmo’ Walsh was a brilliant open side flanker who was always on the ball and was one of the best forwards in Australia in 1904/5. He obtained employment as a railway porter in Newcastle and played for the Carlton Club. In 1903, he was its vice-captain. At the time, Harry Dolan was the President of Carltons and these two were to figure in a very controversial match the following year – Walsh as a player and Dolan as a referee. Tall, for his time, but solid at more than 6 foot and near 14 stone, Walsh was the scourge of opposing five-eighths with his devastating tackling and he was a dynamic figure with his pace to the loose ball and superb backing up in the open. In his time, he ranked as one of the best and most effective loose forwards to play for Australia.
Overcoming the disability of living in Newcastle far from the eyes of the NSW selectors in Sydney, Walsh gained his first State honours when he was selected in the New South Wales team that visited Queensland in 1903 for the return interstate matches. He was not chosen in the first game but performed well for New South Wales against Brisbane, playing at number eight in his team’s 16-6 win and he made his first class debut in the last interstate fixture of the season. New South Wales won the match 12-6 with Stan Wickham scoring all of the points through two tries and two penalty goals. In 1904, Walsh was at his zenith.
After several good displays, he was selected for New South Wales in the opening interstate match in Sydney. He was outstanding, playing brilliantly in the lineout and in the loose but suffered an injury that not only kept him out of the return fixture, but also forced him to miss the first New South Wales game against Bedell-Sivright’s British touring team. He was back for the return match a week later, replacing Cecil Murnin, the Eastern Suburbs loose forward. This game featured another wonderful display by the outstanding backline of the tourists as they ran riot to win by 29 points to 6. Walsh was one of the better NSW forwards and he was rewarded with selection in the Australian team for the first Test at the SCG.
The Australian forward pack looked formidable, particularly in the back row where Walsh packed with the virile Harold Judd at number eight and the fast breaking Tom ‘Puddin’ Colton. Walsh and the rest of Australian pack played up to expectations and held the tourists in the forwards. There was no score in the first half, but Charlie White had to leave the field with a broken rib before the interval and, since replacements were not permitted, Walsh was taken out of the pack to replace him. This ruined the game, since, playing a man short, Australia could not hold the visitors out and lost the Test 17-0. Nevertheless, critics claimed that Australia could win by maintaining the same team.
After the Test, the tourists moved to Newcastle for their tour match with Combined Northern Districts. Walsh was chosen at five-eighth for the game and partnered Fred Wood who was later to move to Glebe and represent Australia from 1907 to 1914. Charlie Ellis, the old 1899 Australian forward captained the side, which also include Charlie Hedley at fullback and Stan Carpenter in the pack. Both Hedley and Carpenter were to join Walsh in rugby league four years later. Played before a small, partisan crowd, the match was a fiery affair. Almost from the kick-off, Walsh collided with Fred Jowett, the Welsh winger and the latter had to leave the field. Just after halftime, with the tourists leading 9-0, referee Harry Dolan awarded a penalty to the Northern team. Suddenly, Dolan, who was President of Walsh’s club, Carlton, was seen to speak to Denys Dobson, one of the British forwards and he sent him from the field. After Sivright spoke to Dolan, he led his team from the field in protest. The referee was quite within his rights to award the match to the Northern team but he waited and the British returned after about 15 minutes minus Dobson to continue the match.
Walsh was chosen for the second Test in Brisbane, but, because Queensland did rather better than New South Wales, there were many changes in personnel for the Test. The match was notable because Australia scored first when ‘Bluey’ Burdon went over and gave his side the lead 3-0 at halftime. However, a series of injuries ruined Australia’s chances. First, Burdon injured his shoulder, Phil Carmichael became a passenger and finally, Blair Swannell flattened Walsh, one of the best of the Australian forwards, and knocked the Novacastrian unconscious. In the third Test, Walsh found himself in a new back row trio with Judd and James White, a young player from Bathurst in his first Test. The match followed a similar pattern.
By now, the Australians had deduced that the British pack was not terribly strong and that they could match them in the forwards, particularly as Sivright was injured in a match against Brisbane and was unable to play again in Australia. Once again, Walsh was outstanding but the brilliant British backs carried the side to a clean sweep in the series with a win by 16 points to nil. After the tourists left for the New Zealand leg of their tour, Walsh came to Brisbane for the return interstate series. In the second game, he played on the wing, because of injuries. On the team’s return to Sydney, New South Wales met the British team and Walsh figured in the back-row with Judd and Tom Comber, a raw-boned flanker from Ireland via New Zealand. After their disastrous sojourn in New Zealand, where sea-sickness and injuries had decimated the tourists, the British were nothing like the players who had torn the home side apart a few months earlier. The visitors did well to beat New South Wales 5-0 before heading home via America. In his first season of international rugby, Walsh proved one of Australia’s stars, being one of the few players to figure in all three Test matches. His international future looked secure. Unfortunately, he had crossed Jim Henderson, the NSW manager and Australian selector, who marked his cards.
In 1905, Walsh looked forward to continuing his international career on the Australian tour of New Zealand. Once again, he played for New South Wales in Brisbane in the opening two interstate matches. The Australian touring team was announced after these games and before the return interstate matches in Sydney. There were three selectors from each State but Walsh was not included in the team. As he was one of the most accomplished footballers in Australia, it was obvious that his omission was on grounds other than footballing ability. Even when FK Lamb, a prop forward withdrew from the tour, Bill Hirschberg, a New England flanker, was included ahead of Walsh.
Realising that he had little future in representative rugby in Australia, Walsh moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and turned out for Parnell, an Auckland club, representing a district adjoining the Auckland Domain. In time, he represented Auckland and was selected to play for Auckland against the touring Anglo-Welsh team on 18 July 1908. However, just before the game, Walsh gambled his future on returning to Australia in an attempt to make the Australian Rugby League team to tour Britain later in the year. Arriving in Sydney on Friday, 17 July, 1908, Walsh gained selection in the ‘Queensland’ team to meet New South Wales the next day. Obviously, Walsh had no connection at all with Queensland, but then, neither did EA ‘George’ Anlezark, a railway clerk from Lismore who shortly before, had taken part in the NSW Country Rugby Union Carnival for Northern Rivers. Incidentally, the Queensland team was captained by Bluey Thompson, the famous AIF flanker, who was later reinstated and played two Tests in 1914 against the All Blacks.
\The Kangaroos selectors did not select Walsh. This folly caused Jack Davis, who wrote in The Referee as ‘The Cynic’, to denounce the selection: With Anlezark, P Walsh and H Messenger considered eligible to represent Queensland, there is, one supposes, nothing on the score of residential qualification to urge against the eligibility of Walsh for this team. If so, it would be interesting to know why he has been excluded. How many of the selected forwards are as able as Walsh, who is really an ideal forward for the N. U. game? I have reason to believe that Walsh came back from Auckland specially for the purpose of trying to win a place in the team. If so, he has further cause to rail at his fortune, for he was dropped from the NSW Rugby Union team when his abilities were unquestionable. He was apparently un-selected to represent Auckland against the British team last Saturday, though reports as to his form were in the highest terms of praise; and now, after a day or two back in his own country, he finds himself rejected once more, and this time by the selectors of the Northern Union game.
His latest act, of course, outs him off from Rugby Union football forever. My sole reason for discussing this matter is that Walsh is a forward of the highest type. There are fifteen forwards in the party and if all were as able as Walsh the N.U. clubs would not have such an’ easy road to hoe’ as many here now think they have. Others soundly criticised Walsh’s omission from the Kangaroos and a group of supporters raised the money to send him to England on board the Salamis. Walsh arrived just after the Australians played the fifth match of the tour and was welcomed by the team and invited to join them. He was immediately thrust into the game against Salford and was one of the stars. In fact, he played brilliantly in six consecutive matches and was one of the outstanding players of the tour, a sure tackler and brilliant dribbler of the ball. Usually positioned at lock forward, he played in the first and third test matches and missed the second through an attack of boils. Walsh made such a big impression in England that, after the Kangaroo tour was over, he signed papers with the Huddersfield Club in West Yorkshire but played little football in the 1909/10 season because of a bad knee injury that required the removal of a cartilage. Walsh later returned to Australia and settled in Newcastle. In 1912, he came up to Brisbane with a New South Wales rugby league team consisting of mainly northern New South Wales footballers and played against Queensland.
Meanwhile, Walsh’s younger brother, James Walsh, was making a name for himself in rugby league as an attacking fullback in the Newcastle side. In 1911, he toured with the Northern Districts team (combined Newcastle and Maitland) and played against Queensland. He built up a striking record for scoring tries and was tipped to make the 1911-12 Kangaroos. When ‘Chook’ Fraser and Webby Neill were preferred, Newcastle fans held a protest meeting. A clever, intelligent player, Walsh played eight matches for New South Wales and three Test matches for Australia in rugby union between 1903 and 1905, while playing two Test matches in rugby league against England in 1908/9. He died in 1953.
Walsh played 2 ½ seasons with the Huddersfield League Club. While in England he suffered a torn knee ligament on a frozen ground and became a pioneer of the now common operation for its removal. Like many of our sportsmen, with the outbreak of WW1 Pat Walsh felt it his duty to serve his Country. On 9th February 1915 he enlisted with the AIF, and served with the 12th Light Horse in Egypt, Gallipoli and Palestine, and was mentioned in despatches by General Sir E.H.H.Allenby for ‘Distinguished and Gallant Services and Devotion to Duty.’ In November 1915 Pat Walsh complained of Diplopia (double vision). As he had plenty of severe falls and blows about the head while playing football it was suggested this may have been the cause. While serving for his country Pat contracted a form of Paralysis which affected him for the rest of his life, later requiring him to wear calipers and walk with the aid of crutches. He passed away at Yaralla Military Hospital, Concord, in 1953. A sad end to such a brilliant sportsman!