Walter Laird Dawson
- 326Wallaby Number
Wal Dawson was an exceptional and technically correct hooker who faced a fierce three-way battle with Ken Kearney and Don Furness for national honours when international rugby resumed after World War II. Born in Manly, Dawson played his early rugby with North Steyne juniors. After school Dawson enrolled in Engineering at the University of Sydney but played his club rugby with Manly. In 1943 he was ‘considered the most improved hooker in the code’ as Manly defeated Easts 5-0 to win the first grade premiership.
In 1944 Dawson was politely encouraged to reassess his decision to play his rugby at Manly, rather than for University. To Manly’s great displeasure Dawson, along with Randwick’s Brian Piper and Easts’ Paul Johnson, crossed over to Uni however they fell a game short of glory when beaten by Easts in the grand final. The following year, having attained his Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) degree, Dawson was stationed in a northern operational area as part of his service and in 1946 took up a position as assistant engineer with the Irrigation Commission at Gunnedah. Nonetheless he returned to Manly and although unavailable for the NSW tour to Queensland remained hopeful of being selected on the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. Dawson enhanced his chances when matched against Queensland’s Kev Hodda for The Rest v. Australia trial match and as a result won a spot in the squad. When Hodda injured his knee in the opening match loss to North Auckland, Dawson stepped into the breach and deservedly earned his Test debut in Dunedin.
In 1947, and despite having been overlooked for all the major representative games, Dawson was chosen for the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. and Europe. It was said that Dawson’s flanker-like mobility around the field enabled to him to see off the challenge of Randwick’s Don Furness. Although Kearney switched to rugby league the next year the competition for the hooking spot did not ease with the arrival on the scene of future Wallaby captain Nev Cottrell. Although he never added to his two Test caps, Dawson continued to play for NSW where he faced the 1950 British Lions and, in his final representative game, captained the Waratahs against the 1951 All Blacks.
Dawson won his first Test cap in a front row that included ‘Wallaby Bob’ McMaster and Eric Tweedale in the 1st Test, 8-31 loss at Carisbrook. It was written that he ‘overshadowed McRae in the scrums and also did well in general play’. He picked up a second cap in the 10-14 defeat to New Zealand at Eden Park.