William Thomas 'Poley' Evans

  • 2Caps
  • 6Wallaby Number
PositionCentre
Date Of Birth8 April 1876
Place Of BirthIndooroopilly, QLD
SchoolBrisbane Grammar School
Debut ClubCity (Brisbane)
ProvinceQLD
Died18 July 1964
Debut Test Match1899 Wallabies v Great Britain, 1st Test
Final Test Match1899 Wallabies v Great Britain, 2nd Test Brisbane

Biography

'Poley' Evans, said to be “Australia’s best ever five eighth” in the early decades of rugby, was an outstanding athlete who represented Queensland in three sports: rugby, cricket and bowls. He was a life member of both the Queensland Rugby Union and the Queensland Cricket Association, captain of Queensland in rugby and cricket, State selector in rugby, cricket and bowls, and an Australian selector in rugby. He was born in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, on 9 April 1876, the eldest of four surviving children to John and Mary Ann (née Blackwell) Evans. His father, a Welsh engineer, in 1875 started the shipbuilding and locomotive firm Evans Anderson and Phelan of Kangaroo Point that also produced metal mouldings, iron railings and red cast iron letter boxes for Brisbane.

Evans had acquired his nickname ‘Poley’ by the time he enrolled at Brisbane Grammar School in 1890, but could not recall the origins of the moniker. He represented Queensland from 1896 to 1899, and in his first season played for the colony against NSW and toured New Zealand. He was considered to be “a splendid handler…passing, catching and gathering loose balls with impressive dexterity”. He was named to the “Gallery of Great Players” on the occasion of Queensland Rugby Union’s jubilee in 1932 for representing the State on more than 10 occasions. His total was 14 matches: 11 against NSW as a forward, one against Great Britain and two against New Zealand. In 1899 Poley played two matches for Australia against the touring British rugby side in the inaugural international Test. In the first match, played at Sydney on 24 June, he scored a try that brought the crowd to their feet and contributed to Australia’s 13-3 victory. As a result, he became “every schoolboy’s hero”. He performed well on the second Test, in Sydney, but an on-going knee injury prevented his appearance in the final two Tests of that series and effectively ended his playing career.

His brother, L. J. (Lew) Evans (q.v.), represented Australia in two international tests, against New Zealand in 1903 and Great Britain in 1904. Poley was perhaps even more famous as a representative cricketer, where he was legendary as a big hitter who on several occasions hit sixes out of the Woolloongabba Cricket Ground. In one famous incident, he hit “the longest six ever seen at the ‘Gabba, out onto the hotel roof across the road from the grounds”. After retirement from rugby he became a referee, taking charge of several Queensland - NSW games between 1903 and 1906. An inscribed walking stick presented to him by players in 1903 became one of his most treasured possessions.

He joined the executive of the Queensland Rugby Union, and assumed its presidency in 1929 after it was re-established after a 15-year recess. In his later years Poley took up lawn bowls and became one of Queensland’s leading bowlers, representing the state against England and NSW and winning the Clayfield singles three times and rink championship five times. He chaired the Queensland Cricket Association until 1911, and in his eighties was a member of Bramble Bay Bowling Club at Brisbane’s Woody Point. Poley was a mechanical engineer and draughtsman by profession, and worked with the Harbours and Rivers Department of the Queensland Government. He served on the board of trustees at his old school, Brisbane Grammar, from 1933, and was chairman of trustees from 1940 to 1947. At age 80 he was chairman of the family company at Kangaroo Point. He lived at 434 Shakespeare St., Coorparoo, and died on 19 July 1964, aged 88.

William Thomas 'Poley' Evans