Walter James Flower "Jim" Phipps
- 256Wallaby Number
Jim Phipps was a compact, try-scoring hooker whose opportunities at representative level suffered due to the presence of a man who dominated the middle of the front-row for a decade - Queensland’s Eddie Bonis. Born at Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Phipps was educated at Sydney Grammar School where he starred in both rowing and rugby. He had a seat in the 1st VIII for three years (1925-27), was twice Captain of Boats (1926-27) and played two seasons of 1st XV football for both the school and in the Combined GPS (1925-26).
Following his 1927 graduation Phipps enrolled in Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney and was immediately recruited into their first grade rugby side. Phipps had a ‘great debut’ in the Students’ 24-11 victory over Wests where he hooked ‘with certainty’ and scored two tries. With ‘Jock’ Blackwood retired, following the Waratahs’ 1927/28 tour to the Northern Hemisphere, the state hooking position was well and truly up for grabs. New South Wales were scheduled to play two matches against Victoria ahead of their tour to New Zealand. Easts’ Cec O’Dea got the nod for the away fixture before Phipps was selected for his debut in Sydney.
Twenty four hours after Phipps started in the home side’s 14-0 win he was named in the touring squad as one of the two hookers alongside Randwick’s John O’Donnell. On tour, Phipps started three of the ten matches, including the second ‘Test’ against New Zealand in Dunedin which, some 66 years later, was confirmed as his Test debut. That match was one of 34 that were retrospectively elevated to Test status by the ARU in order to recognise all New South Wales fixtures played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals had been granted Test status in 1986). A year later the reformation of the Queensland Rugby Union saw Bonis emerge to play the first of his 20 consecutive Tests.
Incredibly it was not until the second Test against South Africa in 1937, and the selection of Alby Stone, that a hooker other than Bonis started a Test for Australia. Nonetheless Phipps continued to show for University and he earned additional Blues in 1929 and again in 1930. He passed his fourth year of veterinary science in 1932 and went on to have great success as a breeder and showman of Great Danes, notably in Royal Agricultural Society competitions, in the mid-to-late 1930s. Phipps enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force during World War II where he rose to the rank of Captain. Originally in a Light Horse unit he transferred to Artillery before he went missing in action in Libya in 1941.
Captured, Phipps became as a prisoner of war and was later sent to Western Germany. He remained a POW until March of 1945 when his camp was dramatically liberated by the United States’ First Army. The family name returned to the rugby fore in later years. Phipps’ nephews Jim and Peter toured New Zealand in 1955 and in 2011 his grand nephew Nick became Wallaby #850 when he debuted against Western Samoa. Jim Phipps played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #256.
Phipps won his first Test cap propped by ‘Wild Bill’ Cerutti and Ian Comrie-Thomson in the 2nd Test, 14-16 loss to New Zealand at Carisbrook.