Stanley Montgomery Wickham
- 44Wallaby Number
Whatever else Stan Wickham did in his long representative career, he will go down in history as Australia’s first touring captain. Teams from NSW and Queensland had toured before, but this was Australia’s first tour, to New Zealand in 1905. There were 23 tourists on that initial tour, 14 from NSW and nine from Queensland. James Henderson, who also managed the 1901 NSW team to New Zealand, was the manager. There were some famous names on the Australian team, and they all became part of Australia’s rugby history. There was Phil Carmichael from Queensland at fullback who played with his cap on. The three-quarters were Doug McLean (Qld), the scion of the famous McLean rugby family, Arthur Penman, Charlie (‘Boxer’) Russell, Frank Bede Smith, L.M. Smith, and Stan Wickham (all from NSW), the five-eighths were Ernie Anlezark (NSW) and Mick Dore (Qld), and the halfback was Fred Wood (NSW), who would later captain his country.
The forwards were Alex Burdon, whose broken collar-bone was the prime cause of the rugby league split, Peter Burge, another captain to be, ex-New Zealander Jimmy Clarken (all from NSW), Tom Colton (Qld), Bill Hirschberg (NSW), Fred Nicholson (Qld), Ned O’Brien (Qld), ‘Butcher’ Oxlade (Qld), ‘Billy’ Richards (Qld) and former British player Blair Swannell (NSW). In those days tourists went by ship, the voyage from Sydney to Wellington, being on the Warrimoo. This tour looked like easy pickings for the Australian team, as most had played against New Zealand in Australia a few weeks earlier, and the top New Zealand players were already on their way to England. It was a disappointing tour considering these facts, Australia playing seven games and winning only three, these being the last three games against Manawatu-Hawkes Bay, Wanganui-Taranaki and Auckland. Stan Wickham played every match on tour and was top scorer with 18 points, with two penalty goals and three goals from a mark. A prolific point scorer, perhaps Wickham’s finest representative appearance was for NSW against the 1897 New Zealand tourists. He scored two tries and a conversion in a thrilling and rare 22-8 victory.
Wickham’s representative career began for NSW against Queensland in 1895 at the tender age of 19. He played for NSW in 1906, so his career at the top spanned 11 years. Twenty-four of his representative games were against Queensland. Born at Parramatta in 1877, he went to school at the Parramatta Marist Brothers, where he learned the game. He played for the Parramatta Club in 1893 and 1894, then for the powerful Wallaroo side in 1895 and 1896. It was then off to the central west, where he represented Lucknow and played in Country versus City games from 1896 to 1899. In 1900 he was back in Sydney playing for Western Suburbs. He was to log up 87 first-grade games for his club. Peter Sharpham, in The First Wallabies, said this of Stan Wickham: “A dashing centre three-quarter or fullback who was renowned for his exaggerated sidestep and swerve, and an accomplished coach.” When the team to tour the British Isles in 1908-09 was announced, only the manager, Captain James McMahon, was named to accompany the team.
There were also two Official Visitors, E.S. Marks and Frank Roberts. There was a public furore over Wickham’s omission, and a vehement public campaign led to his later inclusion as assistant manager. Coaches were frowned upon in those days, and the assistant manager could not have been labelled as the coach by the amateur moguls in the British Isles. All coaching was supposed to be done by the captain, who in this case was Herbert (‘Paddy’) Moran. The fine point of the tour contract was ignored, and Stan Wickham acted unofficially as the coach. The manager was also a recent player so the First Wallabies were well looked after in the coaching department. A significant figure in Australia’s early rugby, Wickham would captain his country in four of his five Test matches. He was never to captain or play in a winning Test side.