William Henry "Dooee" Tanner
- 13Wallaby Number
‘Dooee’ Tanner was born in Brisbane on December 27 1871, and was to die in 1938. Jack Davis described him as “a tall, strong scrummager”, while Pollard said he was ‘a tough, resilient forward, with great stamina.” His introduction to the top levels of the game was against the New Zealand tourists of 1893. He was on a NSW Junior XVIII, which lost 0-19 despite having the advantage of the extra players. Though playing for NSW from 1893 to 1895, he returned to Brisbane, playing for the City and North Brisbane Clubs.
He played for Queensland against the 1897 New Zealand team, losing 5 to 16, and would play for his State from 1896 to 1901. He was also in the second Queensland match, again losing, this time by 6 to 24. The highlight of Tanner’s career came with the visit of Mullineaux’s British team in 1899. He was selected for Australia’s first-ever Test, on 24 June 1899. Five of the Australian team were Queenslanders: Bob McCowan, Poley Evans, Alf Colton, Patrick Carew and Bill Tanner. Australia won 13 to 3, ‘Doey’ impressing in the ruggedness of his play. Tanner also went up against the British for Queensland (winning 11 to 3). Gwyn Nicholls, the British player, was asked if he found the Queensland ground hard. He replied: “ Yes, but not half as those Queensland forwards.” Howell, et al, in They Came To Conquerwrote: “Forwards Ginger Colton, Tanner and Carew showed prominently with the ball at their feet.” The British captain, the Reverend Mullineux, complained about the refereeing and rule interpretations.
When the second Test was played in Queensland at the Bowen Park Exhibition Ground, there were nine Queenslanders in the team, compared to five in Sydney. The players elected the captain and thus Bob McCowan became the first Queenslander to captain his country in rugby union.The British were clearly superior, winning 11 to 0. Tanner was invited to play in the third Test if required, but he withdrew. As a labourer he could not afford the additional expenses necessary for such a match. This marked the end of Tanner’s Test career and he was not picked for the fourth and final Test. The Australian team in Tanner’s, and Australia’s, first Test was Bob McCowan, Charlie White, Frank Row (capt.), Lonnie Spragg, Poley Evans, Peter Ward, Austin Gralton, Alf Cotton, Charlie Ellis, Alexander Kelly, Walter Davis, Hyam Marks, Patrick Carew, James Carson and Bill Tanner. Australia utilised a 2-3-2 scrum, as did New Zealand at the time. Next year Australia changed to the scrum positions used by Great Britain on their first tour.