Tony Christopher Melrose
- 601Wallaby Number
Tony Melrose was an elite junior sportsman, a star fly half who had a maturity beyond his years. His game management skills belied his youth and he became a dropped goal sharpshooter who had the rare ability to kick equally well with both feet. Melrose burst into the senior rugby ranks as a 17-year-old schoolboy with the Parramatta club in 1977 and he duly guided the Two Blues’ First Grade side to their inaugural premiership.
Melrose played his early rugby for the U8s at Baulkham Hills Rugby Club, firstly as a winger and then as a flanker. A champion middle-distance runner with a view that the decathlon could be where his sporting future lay, Melrose had a growth spurt at 15 which set him on the path toward rugby and away from athletics.
He burst into the senior rugby ranks as a 17-year-old schoolboy with the Parramatta club in 1977. By the fourth round Melrose was the first grade fly half and he duly guided the Two Blues’ to their inaugural premiership. That same year he captained the all-conquering Australian Schools team, one that included fellow future Wallabies - the Ella brothers, Michael O’Connor, Michael Hawker, Dominic Vaughan, Tony D’Arcy and Chris Roche - to the UK. It is arguable that there has never been a better schoolboys backline than the one Australia fielded against Wales on that tour - 9. Dom Vaughan; 10. Mark Ella; 11. Michael O’Connor; 12. Melrose; 13. Gary Ella; 14. Michael Hawker; and 15. Glen Ella.
Melrose was a shock omission from the 1978 Wallaby tour of New Zealand with Paul McLean and Ken Wright chosen to cover the No.10 spot. Having lost the first two Tests, and following injuries to McLean and Roger Gould, Melrose was summoned from the NSW ski-fields to join the tour. Just two days after his 19th birthday Melrose made his debut in the now legendary third Test in Auckland. He was picked at No.10 and Wright was edged out one position to inside centre. The selections proved to be a master stroke as Australia recorded its largest-ever victory over the All Blacks.
When Ireland arrived in 1979 the selectors had to find a place in the Test team for both Melrose and McLean and as a result Melrose played at inside centre before he was moved back to fly half for the one-off Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney. In a rugged, thrilling and tryless encounter Australia emerged victorious 12-6 on the back of McLean’s goal-kicking and the now familiar Melrose dropped goal to win the elusive Cup for the first time in 30 years. The Shute Shield grand final loss to Randwick that year was Melrose’s last game of rugby before he accepted a lucrative deal to switch codes and play rugby league for the Parramatta Eels.
After 10 seasons of league, which included a 1982 State of Origin selection, Melrose retired. A long and expensive fight to reclaim his amateur status then ensued before Melrose returned to rugby, with Gordon, and signed off with premiership victories in 1993 and 1995.
Captained Australian Schools against Japanese Schools, Irish Schools, Welsh Schools, England Schools and Dutch Youth.
Melrose won his first Test cap outside John Hipwell in the 3rd Test, 30-16 victory over New Zealand in Auckland.
Melrose started in all five Tests of the season - at inside centre in partnership with Bill McKid for the two Tests against Ireland, at fly half outside Peter Carson in the 12-6 defeat of New Zealand in Sydney and at No.10 in combination with Phillip Cox for both away Tests against Argentina.