Patrick James Mulligan
- 213Wallaby Number
Pat Mulligan, a South African-born inside back of the mid-1920s is among the most mysterious Wallabies of all-time.
Aside from a single newspaper reference in the Evening News to his place of birth almost nothing is known of Mulligan prior to his selection in Randwick’s 1925 first grade side. After ‘performing brilliantly in the club games’ Mulligan, who had started at both fly half and inside centre, was selected as a reserve for the NSW 1st XV v 2nd XV trial ahead of the inbound tour by New Zealand. Mulligan’s versatility was then recognised when he was named as a reserve for the 1st Test of the three match series.
During that match star 13st 7lb winger Alan ‘Sheik’ Bowers was forced to retire with an injured knee the 10st 12 lb Mulligan, and not big Samoan-born centre Ernie Reid, came on as the replacement. Unsurprisingly Mulligan was ‘all at sea in the unfamiliar position of wing three-quarter’ and it asked a lot of him to mark up against the highly regarded and ‘brilliant’ Bill Elvy (who scored 42 tries in his 45 career first class matches). Elvy took advantage of the obvious mismatch to score two tries and lead New Zealand to an emphatic 26-3 victory.
The press of the day later wrote that Mulligan was ‘never at ease in the unaccustomed position and the selectors were criticised for playing him’. Although Mulligan did not know it at the time that match was his official 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). Later that same season Mulligan was one of the two final call-ups for the return, 11 match tour of New Zealand.
The formidable pairing of Reid and ‘Tug’ Morrissey - of whom Cyril Towers later wrote were ‘one of the best centre combinations ever to leave this country’ - so dominated selection in the mid-field that Mulligan did not earn a start until the seventh tour fixture, against Poverty Bay-East Coast. Unfortunately Mulligan suffered a kick to the head and retired at half-time. He recovered in time for the next match against Rotorua however that was his only other start on tour.
The following season the press of the time wrote optimistically about Randwick’s challenge for the premiership: “With Owen Crossman and Alan Bowers on the wings, Morrissey at centre, and Wal Meagher and Patsy Mulligan at half and five-eight respectively, Randwick promises to have an exceptionally fine back division this season.” Mulligan’s early season form reportedly ‘showed all his last year’s brilliance’ however he was overlooked in the trials for the inbound tour from New Zealand and then simply disappeared from grade football from that time forward.
Pat Mulligan played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #213.
Mulligan won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Alan Bowers on the right wing in the 1st Test, 3-26 loss to New Zealand at the Sydney Showground.