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Yarn Of The Month (some Great Stories)

16. Not Exactly All Stars - Americans play Rugby League in Australia 1953

Posted by... quigs eraofthebiff - on ... Saturday, May 05, 2012

YARN OF THE MONTH #16 ..... (original entry date) 02/07/2006.


Get some more beers, or make another
coffee, take your time and have some fun.

Just a quick note here. This is where Quigs selects the best "Your Story" received for the month or a selection of a favorite older yarn - no correspondence will be entered into and the winner gets bugger all.
All yarns are unsubstantiated and are posted in good faith. Its just meant to be a fun thing, share some of our great memories from the Greatest Era of the Greatest Game of All.


Story from Gary Lester's History of Australian Rugby League.
The Yankie R.L. Tour of Downunder in the 50's - inc 60,000 spectators at the SCG game.

Posted by Quigs - found this link 11/5/2012 on YouTube
Featuring This Player features in great of league doco. Rugby League That's Rugby League 1950's ... CLICK HERE

Ref includes 102,104.105,106,117,22,23,25,56,61,62,64,73,83,93,...

Not Exactly All Stars - Americans play Rugby League in Australia 1953

The most positive attempt to introduce Americans to rugby league took place in Australia in 1953. But what was at first seen as a trailblazing step to make Americans aware of the game finished as a disaster.

Mike Dimitro, a wrestling promoter, brought his American All Stars on a 26 match tour of Australia and New Zealand.He had been approached by the Australian Board of Control on the recommendation of a New Zealand official.

None of the 22 players had played rugby league previously, and it showed. In 18 matches in Australia, the All Stars won three, lost 13 and drew two. They scored 406 points, but had 560 scored against them. In their eight New Zealand matches, they won three and lost five, scoring 157 points to 211 against.

The American All Stars in their "all american" gear. Top right is coach Latchem Robinson, Manager Mike Dimitro is centre of front row, and on his right is Vince Jones, Captain of the team

Dimitro was and outstanding American gridiron player. He was in Australia during the war and became involved in services boxing and wrestling matches. When it was known that the US Team was to tour, 52 prospective tourists went into training, including Bob Waterfield, the husband of screen star Jane Russell. However, many of the triallists dropped out and in the end Dimitro had difficulty finding sufficient players for the trip. Two players flew in the day before their first match.

The Americans opened their tour in Canberra agains a Monaro and Southern Division team, and won 34 -25. In their next match, against a strong Sydney team at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a sellout 65,453 came to watch them play. But the novelty wore off quickly. The Americans were beaten 52 -25 and in their next match at the SCG, against New South Wales, just over 32,000 saw the Americans thrashed 62 - 41 in a farcial match.

It was too much to expect a team of novices, most of whom had never seen a game of league, to be competitive against on to rugby league's most powerful nations. Dimitro had players who had either played American football or knew something of rugby union. Norm Latchem Robinson was appointed coach of the Americans and was given some assistants after the second match of the tour.

The American All Stars in their match against Sydney at the SCG, watched by some 60,000 spectators. They discarded their "Long Johns" after this match and played in shorts for the rest of the tour

The Ammericans played through country centres of New South Wales, in Brisbane and through Queensland country league strongholds. The drew 33 all with Wide Bay and beat Ipswich 16-15. The only other win was a 19-10 victory over a Newcastle selection.

Australian crowds were bemused by some of the American tactics. Not surprisingly, they used the long gridiron style throw from one side of the field to the other, and for the first two matches the Americans wore long gridiron trousers. After that they changed to shorts

So poor were their attempts to play the ball that New South Wales Hooker Ken Kearney had to kick the ball through to ensure they kept possession. If nothing else, the Americans wore colourful outfits - royal blue jerseys with red and white stars on the shoulders and royal blue shorts with red and white stripes on the sides.

One redeeming aspect was the decision of Al Kirkland, the best of the Americans, to stay in Australia. He worked at St marys Munitions Factory in Sydney and joined Parramatta Club in 1956. He started the season as a winger but learned the game so well the he played some matches in the centre and at five-eight. He appeared in all 18 firstgrade matches in 1956 and scoredf our tries. It was his only season in Sydney football.

The Australian rugby league hope that the United States would find a place for the game flickered since the early 1920's. Winning over the Americans remains a wish of the current administration. In 1987, Queensland and New South Wales played a State of Origin in Los Angeles and in 1988, a move was made to introduce rugby league into Californian high schools.

Story from Gary Lester's History of Australian Rugby League.

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