William Adolphus Hirschberg
- 67Wallaby Number
Bill Hirschberg did well to be chosen for New South Wales from the country at a time when that was a rare feat and an honour that only fell to high-quality players. A rugged forward who preferred flanker but also appeared as a lock from time to time, he quickly proved to have ability far beyond the norm and it was no surprise to his admirers in Armidale that he reached international level.
Hirschberg was only 21 when he made his State debut, being chosen for both matches against the 1903 All Blacks and playing against Queensland. The All Black matches were the obvious highlight, as this team was regarded by many old-timers in New Zealand as the finest ever to leave that country and, after they had won the first match with ease, were forced to battle all the way in the return before winning by a solitary penalty goal to nil. Being part of that team did Hirschberg’s chances no harm, although he was not chosen for Australia in the one Test, but he did fit in another game against the tourists for New South Wales Country. His talents were neglected in Sydney in 1904, when he missed selection for inter-State matches and those against the touring Great Britain team although he did play a country match against the tourists. Given that he had been a reasonable success a year earlier and that the local teams were getting badly beaten in every match, it is perhaps surprising that a known player was not even considered for these matches. Needless to say this neglect meant he had no chance of making the Test team.
In 1905 he was back in favour, playing against Queensland and appearing in the early-season matches against New Zealand. The visitors won the first game easily enough but the second, which saw the locals in much better form, resulted in an 8-8 draw after a stirring match. This display probably clinched a touring place for Hirschberg. He was one of only five players to appear in every match on the 1905 tour; the others were Stan Wickham, Frank Bede Smith, Alex Burdon and Butcher Oxlade. The forwards in particular needed to work hard on this trip, as many of the grounds were extremely heavy. Indeed, the only Test was transferred from the Caledonian Ground in north Dunedin to the sand-based Tahuna Park, out near the beach, rather than being cancelled or postponed. Hirschberg’s best match was at Nelson, where he was the best forward on the park, but every one of his seven appearances was a good one.
When he returned to Australia he contented himself for the most part with minor matches, although he played for New South Wales against Western Australia in 1907 and Queensland again in 1910. His last match against a touring team came in 1910, when he led New England to a 6-6 draw with the first New Zealand Maori touring team.