Phillip Patrick Carmichael

  • 4Caps
  • 52Wallaby Number
Date Of BirthJanuary 24, 1884
Place of BirthSandgate, QLD
SchoolSt. Joseph's Christian Brother's College, Gregory Terrace
Debut ClubSouth Brisbane
Other ClubBrother's (Brisbane), Norths Brisbane and Valleys (Brisbane)
Debut Test Match1904 Wallabies v Great Britain, 2nd
Final Test Match1909 Wallabies v England, Blackheath
DiedSeptember 8, 1973


Phil Carmichael was born in Sandgate, Queensland, and went to school at St. Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace. The school has been one of Queensland’s main training grounds for rugby players. In 1903 Queensland’s fullback was Toowoomba’s Charles Redwood, a family that produced some great athletes, and the NSW fullback was John Maund. In 1904 the scene changed, with Jack Verge from Sydney University being the Australian choice for the first Test against Britain. But though Charles Redwood held on to his position in the first game for Queensland against the touring British side, Carmichael from the Brothers was picked as a winger, and made many fine runs.

He was also on the wing for Brisbane. In the second Queensland game, it was Souths’ Eddie Martin as a fullback, Charles Redwood on the wing and Carmichael in the centre (lost 7 – 18). Howell, et al, wrote in They Came to Conquer: “Though overly rugged, the Queenslanders played well, the pick of the side being McKinnon and Oxlade among the forwards and Carmichael, Redwood and Pearce among the backs.” There were seven Queenslanders in the second Test team against Britain at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground. In those days the rugby authorities were not overly financial and more Queenslanders would normally be selected and fewer usually when the games were in Sydney. This was Carmichael’s first Test, and it was in the centre that he played. Carmichael was only 20 years of age at that time. In 1905 the New Zealand team did not play a Test or a match against Queensland, but there was an Australian team tour of New Zealand.

Carmichael was picked as the sole fullback, though there were others like Arthur Penman to fill in. The team was Phil Carmichael, Doug McLean, Arthur Penman, Charlie Russell, Frank Bede Smith, Lancelot Smith, Stan Wickham (capt.), Ernie Anlezark, Mick Dore, Fred Wood, Alex Burdon, Peter Burge, Jimmy Clarken, Tom Colton, Bill Hirschberg, Harold Judd, Ben Lucas, Cecil Murnin, Frank Nicholson (who did not play on tour), Edward O’Brien, Butcher Oxlade, Billy Richards and Blair Swannell, who had been on the 1904 tour with the British team. Carmichael was 21 years of age by that time and was a fair size for a back at 11 stone and 10 lbs. Though he was a sole fullback, he could only manage three of the seven tour games, the first and the second ( in which he was injured) and the last match. The games he played were against Wellington-Wairarapa-Horowhenua (lost 7-23), where he played as a centre, Marlborough-Nelson-Buller-West Coast (lost 3-12) and Auckland (won (10-8). In the latter two games he was fullback. In the first match, Chester and McMillan wrote in ‘The Visitors’: “The Australians brought Penman, who had started the match at fullback, to centre and dropped Phil Carmichael back in his place. The alteration seemed to make a considerable difference to the visitors, who held their own until the end of the first half.”

It was, in every respect, however, a disappointing tour for Carmichael. When the 1907 New Zealand team arrived, Carmichael was the acknowledged Australian fullback. Australia lost 6 to 26, Carmichael scoring all of Australia’s points with a penalty goal and a goal from a mark. Australia wore a sweater with maroon and blue stripes and a kangaroo on the left breast. Carmichael had worn the NSW blue sweater in his previous Test. He next played for Queensland against the All Blacks, losing 11 to 17 and in the process he kicked a conversion and a penalty goal. He was not picked for the second, Brisbane Test, and the two selectors, James McMahon of Sydney and ‘Poley’ Evans from Brisbane, were highly criticised.

Bill Dix from NSW played fullback in the Test (lost 5 to 15). Dix retained the position in the third and final Test. Two days before the Test, at the Bateman’s Hotel, rugby league was launched. A week after the rugby union Test, a professional rugby match was staged, between NSW and the New Zealand ‘All Golds’. They played 15 aside because the rule book had not arrived from England. Dally Messenger was the main defector. A 1908 Anglo-Welsh team arrived in Australia, the first post-professional tour. The Anglo-Welsh captain was Arthur ‘Boxer’ Harding. There was no Test on their tour and when they played Queensland twice and Brisbane once, there was Carmichael playing in all three matches.

One of his brothers, Joe, played in the centre. Phil, like the rest of the Australian team, departed for England after their second game against NSW at the SCG. The official send-off was held and some 4,000 were at the wharf to farewell them on the SS Omrah. This was Australia’s first-ever tour of the British Isles. There were 38 games on the tour and one match against Victoria on the way and Carmichael played in 34 of them, an incredible record. The games in which he was in were: Victoria (won 26-6, 4 conv), Devon (24-3, 3 conv), Gloucestershire (16-0, 2 conv), Cornwall (18-5, 3 conv), Glamorgan (16-3, 2 conv), Aberavon and Neath (15-0, 3 conv), Llanelli (lost 3-8), London (3-0), Cornwall (32-3, pg, 4 conv), Navy and Army (8-6, pg, conv), Durham (29-7, 4 conv), Northumberland and Cumberland (18-6, 3 conv), Cheshire (37-3, gm, 5 conv), London (24-3, pg, 3 conv), Cambridge University (11-9, conv), Oxford University (19-3, pg, 2 conv), Yorkshire (24-0, 3 conv), Lancashire (12-6), Somerset (8-0, conv), Midlands and East Midlands (lost 5-16, conv), Anglo-Welsh (24-0, conv), Wales (lost 6-9), Glamorgan League (11-3, conv), Newport (5-3, conv), Abertillery (draw 3-3, conv), North Glamorgan (13-5, 2 conv), Swansea (lost 0-6), Cardiff (lost (8-24, conv), England (9-3), University of California (27-0, 3 conv), Stanford University (13-3, 2 conv), California (17-0, conv), Vancouver (23-0, conv), Victoria, B.C. (26-3, try, dg, 2 conv).

There were so many stories about Carmichael on this tour and perhaps a few will suffice. Peter Sharpham, in his excellent book on’ The First Wallabies’, had this to say of him: “A clever and resourceful fullback, his preferred position, he used to turn out wearing one of his representative caps at the start of a match. This was a not uncommon practice in Australia and New Zealand before World War I but had become largely outmoded in the British Isles by 1908. On cold days while touring England and Wales, Carmichael took the field wearing a woollen cap and only desisted when he was jeered by spectators and the British press criticised the practice as mere affectation.

However, he took it up again on the tour of North America where it was still acceptable. It has been claimed that Carmichael failed to score a try on the 1908-09 tour, but he notched one during the North American leg, as well as lone dropped goal on the trip. Noted for his soaring torpedo punts down the sideline, Carmichael kicked many conversions on tour, often from difficult angles. Invariably the ball was held for him by Tom Richards, Queensland’s globe-trotting breakaway or flanker. Carmichael’s penalty kicking was restricted, however, by the fact that the Australians received only a third as many penalties in England and Wales as did the opposing sides. This was not so much due to biased refereeing as a different interpretation of the rules in the Northern Hemisphere.” Max Hawkins, in ‘The Queensland Great Public Schools’, wrote: “In all games Carmichael scored 122 points, which was nearly double the score of his nearest rival. One story of the tour illustrated how Carmichael seriously took his goal kicking. One of the wingers, ‘Boxer’ Russell, was a tremendous try-scoring player, mostly touching down near the corner flag. This made it difficult for Carmichael to add the extra points for the conversion.

After many matches, Carmichael one day turned to Russell who had scored once more near the corner and said ‘Listen Boxer, can’t you score them closer to the post. It’s a bit hard to always put them across from here’.” Bert Bickley wrote about him in ‘Maroons’, referring to the Welsh Test: “His goal kicking was invaluable. He converted no fewer than 52 tries (in the difficult days when the ball had to be held and then positioned by a placer) out of 104 scored by the team, as well as kicking a goal from a mark. He also kicked five penalty goals and they were the only penalty goals on the tour. Five penalty goals in 31 games! Times must have changed sadly. There are quite likely to be five penalty goals in one game nowadays.” Phi Carmichael used to tell great stories of the tour of the 1908 Wallabies, especially the match between Australia and Wales at Cardiff Arms Park.

According to him, half of Wales seemed to be packed into Cardiff Arms Park and the Australians got their first experience of the famous pre-match singing with which a Welsh crowd worked itself into fervour of excitement. Carmichael used to say he would wake at night still hearing the Welsh thousands singing ‘Land of My Fathers’ and ‘Men of Harlech’ as the teams prepared to take the field. Rusty’ Richards several years later recalled: “The field was like a cockpit, walled around on all sides were masses of densely packed people. Looking up from the ground, it seemed to me they soared to the sky. With immense violence they sang – wonderful songs full of appeal, songs strongly martial, songs packed with defiance and challenge, songs that made them shake and throb with national enthusiasm, patriotic and pleading and racial fervour. It roused both them, and those in whom their faith was set.” “The match was incident-packed. First Wales scored a try (three points then), that was disputed. Glen Travers, a forward, dived for the line as he was tackled. Mr Gil Evans, the referee, awarded the try. “Most of the Wallabies thought their opponent had been stopped inches short of the line. The next incident was even more explosive.

From a line-out, Richards broke away and passed to R. Craig, a tough forward from Balmain, Sydney. Craig made ground and passed back to Richards, who crashed across eight metres from the post to score for Australia. “Carmichael took the conversion kick, with Richards holding and placing the ball as was required by the law in those days. As the ball was soaring straight between the posts, it got up into the wind blowing over the stands and veered in flight, but not before it had crossed the bar (or so it seemed to the Australians). But the referee disallowed the goal. The Australians, already roused by the disputed try, were dumbfounded. Some actually walked off the field. “ Moran, the captain, called them back saying, ‘Come on boys, we’ll beat them just the same.’ The half-time score was 3-3 and Wales scored another try and kicked a penalty goal to lead 9-3.

Australia hammered the Welsh defence for the rest of the game and eventually ‘Boxer’ Russell, a wing, sped in for a try for Australia. The whistle blew soon afterwards, making the final score Wales 9, Australia 6. Most Wallabies maintained that Australia really won 8-6.” Then Bickley wrote of their Olympic victory: “The Olympic Games were held in London in 1908 and someone had a bright idea of incorporating a Rugby championship, the first time there has been such an event at the Games. The Wallabies entered and met Cornwall, the champion county, representing England, in the final. Australia won 32-3 and the Wallabies thus became Australia’s first footballing Olympic gold medallists. “Each member of the team was presented with a commemorative scroll as a souvenir.

Phil Carmichael always treasured his and on his death it passed to the QRU and now hangs in the Rugby Club at Ballymore. “Understandably he also was pretty proud of a gold medal, presented to him on his retirement through the then ‘Daily Mail.’ It was inscribed: ‘To Phil Carmichael, Voted To Be Brisbane’s Most Popular Player.’” Brothers Rugby Club voted Carmichael in for their Team of the Century in recent years. His first Club was actually the Brisbane Club (1900-05), Brothers in 1906-07, and Valley Football Club in 1908, according to Peter Sharpham. Sharpham in ‘The First Wallabies’ added: “From a dedicated footballing family, two of his brothers having also represented Queensland, Carmichael continued playing club football with a passion after his return from the United Kingdom in 1909. He turned down numerous lucrative offers to play rugby league both in England and in Brisbane on his arrival back in Australia. He lived a long and much-loved figure in the grandstand at international and interstate fixtures at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground in the 1950s and 1960s.

A non-smoker and fitness fanatic, Philip Carmichael died in September 1973 at the age of eighty-nine. For many years he had been the last surviving member of the First Wallabies.” In 1910, the Queensland fullback against the New Zealand team was Vince Carmichael, his other brother. A gold medallist, a member of the first great rugby tour that Australia undertook, the highest point scorer in the UK until Paul McLean, Phil Carmichael retired with four Test caps and 35 non-Test representative games. He was captain in five of his 28 games for the State.

Phillip Patrick Carmichael CW profile