- 233Wallaby Number
Ray Bowden was a big yet surprisingly quick forward who graduated to a Test cap from the rigors of New South Wales’ annual Country Week Carnival. Born and raised as the youngest of 13 children at Walcha in the New England district of New South Wales, Bowden grew into a solid young man at 6ft 1in and 13st during his time in the local Armidale competition. Bowden was said to have the ‘attributes of an International’ as he exhibited splendid handling, tenacious defence and sharp pace off the mark.
In 1925 Bowden moved south to Hamilton, Newcastle and by the following year his play for the local club had caught the eye of the regional selectors. Chosen for Combined Country in their annual clash against City, Bowden went on to miss the state trials after he was unable to secure the necessary leave from his postmaster employer. That season New Zealand came to Australia for a six-match tour. The All Blacks lost their first match against New South Wales but won the next two. Somewhat surprisingly the NSWRU hastily scheduled an extra match against the tourists, one that required New Zealand to return to Sydney from Melbourne following their scheduled fixture with Victoria. The local selectors made nine changes for that fourth state game, one of which was Bowden coming in at lock for ‘Huck’ Finlay. Although he did not know it at the time that match was Bowden’s 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).
In 1927 Bowden was right in the mix for a spot on the grand Waratahs tour of the northern hemisphere when named in the No.3 Team for the key trials. Unfortunately Charlie Fox, Bruce Judd, Geoff Storey, Geoff Bland, Finlay and Storey were the locks chosen in the 29-man squad. In 1929 Bowden switched codes to play rugby league for Central Newcastle. Ray Bowden played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #233.
Bowden won his first Test cap at lock, in combination with fellow debutant Geoff Storey, in the 4th Test, 21-28 loss to New Zealand at the Sydney Showground.