Peter Michael James
- 443Wallaby Number
Peter James was a tall, heavy-set centre who possessed great hands and immaculate game management. He played a single season of Test rugby before he left Australia to travel abroad.
Born and bred in Brisbane, James was educated at Brisbane Grammar School where he was an exceptionally fine all-round sportsman, most notably in rugby and the high jump.
In 1952, James broke the nine-year old GPS Open High Jump record that had been held by his elder brother Bob and he played in the school’s 1st XV. After graduation, James spent some time in the country before he returned to the city and, rather by accident, joined Souths in the Brisbane competition.
In 1956, James switched clubs to link up with the University of Queensland and soon found himself on debut for Queensland against New England. An ankle injury hampered James when the All Blacks toured in 1957 however his fortunes changed the following year when he starred in the interstate series against New South Wales and was spoken of as a Test probable against the visiting Maori team.
Although he could not play for Queensland against the Maori, and therefore missed the first Test, it proved a godsend. Despite a 15-14 victory the Australian selectors made eight changes, including both centres, for the second Test and James was called up for his international debut in Sydney.
When the Wallaby team was announced to tour New Zealand later that year, James had withdrawn to focus on his studies but close friend Tom Baxter was selected and played in the final Test in Auckland. After Baxter returned from New Zealand he departed for Oxford. That decision inspired James to leave Australia and head to London.
While overseas, he turned out for the famous English club, Blackheath FC, the world’s oldest independent rugby club, founded in 1858.
In later life, James wrote a history of Brisbane Grammar School rugby entitled 100 Years of Grammar Rugby (1988), published by Boolarong Publications. Profusely illustrated the book was vastly informative with an insightful chapter on old Grammarian and Wallaby great Tom Lawton Sr. With that publication, James left a legacy that remains an immense benefit to all rugby historians.
James won his first Test cap at outside centre alongside Saxon White in the 2nd Test, 3-3 draw at the S.C.G. He and White remained as the centre pairing in the 6-13, 3rd Test loss in Melbourne.