Auckland Star Sports Edition
VOL.XLVIII. -NO. 245 THE AUCKLAND STAR, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 1917.
All footballers in New Zealand experienced a shock of regret on receipt of the news that Dave Gallaher, the leader of the famous “All Black” team that toured Britain and America in 1905, was killed in action in France last week. We have heard much of the “game that made New Zealand famous” and the advertisement New Zealand owes to the original “All Blacks” is admitted. Dave Gallaher was the most discussed footballer of his day, partly because he was captain of the team that made New Zealand famous, and that played the most remarkable tour in the annals of football, and because he occupied the position in that team of wing forward he drew on his devoted head columns of criticism, favourable and otherwise, from publications of even the highest standing in Great Britain. He undoubtedly could claim the distinction of being the most discussed footballer in the world. But to New Zealanders who took the wing forward more or less as a matter of fact and a mere incident of the game, Davie Gallaher was respected as a man who was a clean sportsman, and a dashing forward who ranked among the finest of many very fine players that the rugby game in New Zealand has produced. In view of the rank that New Zealand has taken in the Rugby world, that means that Dave Gallaher was one of the finest rubgy players in the world.
A GLORIOUS FOOTBALL CAREER
In actual fact Dave Gallaher was not a New Zealander by birth, but by adoption. He was born in Ramelton, County Donegal Ireland, and came to New Zealand with his parents 30 years ago, when he was only five years of age. The family, which came out in the ship Vesey Stewart, settled in the Tauranga district but later moved to Auckland, and young Davie started off on his football career among the juniors of Parnell. It was not until he had reached the comparatively late age, for a New Zealand footballer, of 23 years that he appeared on the scene as a senior in the game that was to bring him the greatest fame of any living footballer. He then played for the Ponsonby team, and such was his prowess that by the end of the season he was selected to represent the province. From that time onwards Dave Gallaher was a recognised big factor in local and interprovincial football in New Zealand. In 1897 he was one of the fifteen who carried off the Auckland Championship honours for the Ponsonby district club, and he played for Auckland province that year, and in1899. His football prowess received wider recognition in 1900 and 1901 for he enlisted with the New Zealand Rough Riders that took part in the Bouer campaign and while in south Africa he captained the New Zealand military team that won the rugby championship in the army matches promoted among the English and Colonial forces during the campaign.
THE CULMINATING POINT
On his return to New Zealand he again represented Auckland in 1903, 1904 and 1905,and in the last named year the seal appeared to be set on his football fame by selection in the New Zealand team chosen to take the tour of Great Britain. He was later chosen captain of the team that took Great Britain by storm, winning 31 out of a program of 32 matches against the pick of the club, university, county and international teams of Britain and Ireland and scoring 830 points, while their opponents registered only 36 points against them. The teams only loss was the historic match against Wales when the Celts won by 3 points to nil. Dave Gallaher had thus played the highest rank of football in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and America. His interest in the game was however as keen as ever, and until his departure last year for France he acted as sole selector for the Auckland rugby union, and as a selector of the New Zealand teams.
MOST CRITICISED PLAYER IN THE WORLD
The more or less bald recital of Davie Gallahers career does not adequately convey the extraordinary impression that he made on the sporting public of Great Britain when the All Blacks stole into the Home Country and commenced to devastate the playing reputation of the best of the English county and their teams. Dave was skipper and wing forward in the all-conquering combination and a wing forward was a new feature of the game to Britishers. He was a big, strong, dashing, agile man who was out with all his power to spoil the opposing half back, to disorganise the defence and attack, and to open up play for his own men behind him. Standing six feet in height, thirteen stone in weight, hard as nails, fast and full of dash, he bolted from the mark every time, played right up to the whistle and stopped for nothing big or small. The Britishers stood aghast at this style of play. They only saw Gallaher descending like fury on the British halves, bumping them and robbing them, and opening up the lightning passing bout that ended in big scores for the black-garbed stranger team. The critics cried out the loud protest, the crowds roared with indignation, the newspapers were filled with more or less dignified adverse discussion of Gallaher and his play, and the air of the playing fields rang with thunderous complaints of unfair play in which the name of Gallaher was shouted continuously. If Dave, on account of injury or other reason, changed place from the wing to inside the scrum his name continued to be called in popular derision to the player who took his unpopular place. Any wing forward was Gallaher. He was a nightmare to the British players and the public alike and was held to be the one reason why the New Zealanders continued to carry all before them. The wing forward of course, continued to be Dave Gallaher, and in this guise he was dished up to the British public continuously, till he was more intimately known throughout the British Empire than was the British Prime Minister. Of course the commercial world did not miss the opportunity, and “Gallaher” brand of pipes, tobaccos, braces, etc appeared in advertisement columns of newspapers, coincident with grave discussions on Gallahers method of play. As on an instance of the final decision on Gallaher, one may mention the statement of an anglo-french player and critic in “London Daily Express”. “In Gallaher”, he writes “they have a captain and a player whose claims to lead such a great contingent has been undeniable. His tact, under trying circumstances, has never failed him”
Eventually Gallahers greatness as a player and captain became so generally recognised that one of the big paper proprietaries approached him to write a book on the rugby game. Sufficient inducement was offered to overcome his reluctance to attack this unwanted enterprise, and he and the vice captain J. W Stead collaborated in a work which was printed at the conclusion of the tour and is the most exhaustive and finest written exposition of the Rugby game that has yet been printed.
ONE OF THE BEST
In conclusion it may be stated that among fellow New Zealanders Dave Gallaher was ever popular. His tact, consideration and clean sporting instincts were his outstanding characteristics generally. As a player he was one of the finest of many fine forwards that have won recognition in the representative playing ranks of New Zealand. A hard,dashing forward he ever was and withal he was a clean player, from whom no opponent ever feared a mean advantage, so that even among the ranks of the beaten, as among the victors, he always left friends behind him. Small wonder that the death of a player who acheived such a glorious record on his merits is universally regretted in New Zealand today.
HOW IT WAS ACHIEVED .
ADVANTAGES OF THE WING FORWARD.
In the course of the following interesting article, written after the return of the “All Blacks” to New Zealand, Dave Gallaher thus summed up the secret of the success of the tour.
Perhaps, next to our striking series of successes-which were due, to put it briefly, to our superior condition, speed,and combination- perhaps the most remarkable thing about our tour was the criticism levelled at our scrum methods and formation, and the much discussed and unfortunate wing forward. The outcry against the wing forward assumed a very bitter tone in South Wales. People everywhere naturally criticised his methods, as he was an innovation, and he was occasionally accused of wilful obstruction. But on our arrival in South Wales it seemed as if the pent up indignation of the whole race for years had been let loose on us, and on me particularly. The Welshmen have got a fixed idea in their minds that the wing forward must be offside directly he made a move- no matter how he went or where the ball was. The fact that he stood up close to the side of the scrum was apparently enough to disqualify him. The controversy about the wing forward became complicated in South Wales by the introduction -mainly the work of ill informed and irresponsible journalists, I will admit- of all the nonsense of me putting “bias” on the ball, when putting it into the scrum. The suggestion is ridiculous in the extreme. I am sure I could not do it- I have never tried, to tell the truth. Even if you put the ball in unfairly in the way suggested, there is nothing gained by it. The referee will simply blow his whistle, and give a free kick against you.
As to the much abused wing forward, a great deal of misapprehension exists and has been fomented about him. If we had called him a half back we should have heard nothing about him-of that I am sure. But people imagined because he was new to them, that a wing forward was a terrible person, with a double dose of original football sin. And what amused me throughout this phase of bother was that nearly all our opponents themselves played wing forwards only they called them halves, they had one half who put the ball in and took it if it came out his side, and another half on the other side who did ditto if it came out there. That is practically playing two wings. But they were above suspicion, apparently, because they were called halves.
QUICK SCRUM WORK
No referee could accuse me throughout the tour of putting the ball in unfairly or of putting “bias” on it. I would be quite content to accept the verdict on such referees as Mr.Gil Evans or Mr. Perey Coles on the point. There were times when the scrum work was done so neatly that as soon as the ball had left my hands the forwards shoved over the top of it, and it was heeled out, and Roberts was off with it before you could say “knife”. It was all over so quickly that almost everyone-the referee sometimes included-thought there was something unfair about it, some “trickery” and that the ball had not only been put in but passed out unfairly. People here have been accustomed when the ball was put into the scrum to see it wobbling about and frequently never coming out in a proper way.
How can a man possibly put “bias” on a ball if he rolls it into the scrum? The only way to put my screw on a ball would be, I would say, to throw it straight down, shoulder high, on to its end, so that it may possibly bounce in the desired direction. I have never done that-in fact, it can’t be done in the scrum and if I had ever attempted it I should have expected to be penalised immediately.
I have been jeered and hooted at over and over again for doing that which every other half in the country does every day. Does the English and Welsh half, under similar circumstances, stop dead and wait for the whistle to go? It is conceivable that the referee-either through incapacity or inability to see properly (which frequently happens)-may be of the opinion that the ball has properly entered the scrum and decline to blow his whistle, although obviously he ought to have done so. What would my position be then, if I had failed to gather the ball as it came out and pass it? Is it for the referee alone to say whether the ball has properly entered the scrum or not, and I play to his whistle, as every footballer ought to do. I am always one of the first to recognise the whistle and bow to it. And why I should be accused of “dirty tricks” in doing this, merely because I am called a wing forward, and not a halfback I am at a loss to understand.
ADVANTAGE OF THE WING FORWARD
A great advantage of the wing forward is his power, due to his upright attitude, of immediately stopping play among the opposing backs-of nipping in the bud a hostile advance. He can watch the progress of the ball going out of the scrum much better and directly it is out it is his province to pounce on the opposing half before he can get it away. Of course I may sometimes have made a mistake in this respect like any half back frequently does, and overrun the ball. If I did so, and tackled the half before he got the ball, I was always the first to admit a mistake, and accept the penalty.
But this over running of the ball happens every day in the case of the ordinary English or Welsh or Irish or Scottish half. He also sometimes gets infront of the ball, in the mistaken belief that it is out of the scrum. There is the difference between us however, my mistake is supposed to be wilful and is received with hoots and cries of “dirty game”! In other cases the mistake- in both cases due to over eagerness- is allowed to pass without comment by the crowd; and the penalty kick is taken as a matter of course, and as an ordinary incident of the game.
I can quite understand how the wing forward seemed an un-necessary sort of excrescence to the home players. The wing forward as we play it is the embodiment of an idea, a system of play which is new here. They stick to the style of the odd halfback, who puts the ball in the scrum, and then runs round and picks it up as it comes out at the back. That antique method would be impossible with us. The New Zealand half (or wing forward) after putting the ball in could not possibly get round to the back of the scrum in time. Our scrum heels out much too quickly for that.
THE FIVE EIGHTHS FORMATION
From what I have learned wherever the New Zealand five eighths formation has come under notice of good judges of the game, it would not surprise me if some of the more progressive clubs and unions were to adopt this system over here. It has long been obvious to us in New Zealand that the five-eighths innovation affords two advantages-one of attack and the other of defence. In attack you have two men behind the scrum half who can run round either side of the scrum and thus develop an attack from either side through being so near to the scrum. They are also able to draw the defence before our three quarters really get to work, and it frequently happens that the five eighths have disposed of say 2 or even 3 of our opponents before the three quarters even are fairly in their stride. The centre half may go right up to the opposing three-quarters before he gets rid of the ball. He draws one of the three-quarters and if he passes to the five eighths they always have a chance of cutting through. If not, they can pass out to the three-quarters. With the ordinary three-quarter formation there is scarcely enough room to work in the field. They jam each other onto the touchline.
The advantage of the double line of defence which the five eighths and three quarters supply is too obvious to need any elaboration.
LYING ON THE BALL
I think the British Rugby unions might, with advantage to the game alter or remodel some of the laws bearing upon the actual play. For instance, the law respecting lying on the ball in stopping a rush. In New Zealand a “penalty” is awarded if the player falls upon the ball and does not immediately take steps to get rid of it. He can go down to gather it but he must not lie upon it.
In my opinion, the majority of cases of injury in this country are owing to a player deliberately lying upon the ball. He sustains his hurt through the opposing team rushing over him, and in the endeavour to get the ball away from him. Besides, lying on the ball stops the play and makes the game slower as a scrum-and there are plenty already-nearly always ensures on these smothering tactics. There are times, of course, when you must go down to stop a ball, but in New Zealand, if after stopping the rush the player does not immediately get away from the ball the whistle goes for a free kick. It makes the game so much brighter!