Ralph Baldridge Hill
Ralph Hill was another Newtown player who stepped in to replace the various players who had turned professional from 1907 to 1911.
In 1907 the New Zealand All Golds came to Australia and signed the immortal Dally Messenger, but the effect on rugby union was minimal until fourteen of the Wallabies defected in 1909. While a disaster for the union game, it opened up positions for many players who might never have attained representative honours.
Ralph’s other brother was William Hill, who became an important figure in the union code. Bill played 50 first grade game for Newtown, as well as three games for NSW against Queensland in 1906. This was the year he attained representative honours, but there were no tours either in or out of Australia that year.
Australia went to NZ in 1905, and New Zealand came to Australia in 1907. A man of considerable charm, and a successful businessman, managing a horse-drawn carriage company owned by Australian fullback Michael McMahon, Bill became secretary of the NSWRU in 1906, and became its President in 1933. He also became a member of the International Rugby Board.
`Billy’ Hill was an Official Visitor when the 1912 Australian team toured the United States and Canada. Hill was invited to referee some games on the tour, the principal on being the first Test between Australia and the United States at the University of California at Berkeley game on 15 November 1912. His affable and responsible personality was such that both sides approved his appointment.
On that first tour of the United States the flanker was Ralph Hill. A little known fact is that in 1910 American Universities came to Australia, playing eight games. The 1912 tour was not a successful one from the playing viewpoint, Australia losing, for example, all of its games in Canada. However Australia did manage to barely win the single Test though it was behind most of the game. Hill did not play in this Test, but did manage to play in ten of the games, against Santa Clara College (2), Stanford University, The Olympic Club, the University of California at Berkeley (3), Vancouver and British Columbia. The players were housed in various fraternity houses, and the social life definitely interfered with their play. This was a period in which American football was banned in California through the death rate brought about by the flying wedge and other techniques, and the big game on the campuses was rugby.
Ralph Hill continued playing after the 1912 tour. He did represent and captain the Metropolitan team which played against the 1913 Maoris, losing a close match by 3 to 6. He was selected for Australia’s 1913 tour of New Zealand. Ralph Hill was injured before leaving Australia, and did not recover throughout the tour. He did not play a game. This also happened to another Australian forward, Roy Roberts.
Ralph Hill did not play a Test for Australia, but did play 10 representative matches on the 1912 tour. He played five games for NSW. During the World War I rugby union disbanded, while rugby league kept its competition going. Both Hills did much in the post-war years coaching youngsters like Larry Wogan and Tom Griffin, and the game became strong once more. The Hill family made an important contribution to NSW and Australian rugby.