Vale Wallaby #455, Ken Catchpole

by Rugby Australia

Rugby Australia today mourns the loss of Wallaby 455 and former Captain, Ken Catchpole who has passed away at the age of 78.

A veteran of 67 games for Australia including 27 Test matches, Catchpole passed away peacefully on Thursday evening in Sydney.

A legend of the Randwick club in Sydney, Catchpole received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2001 and is widely regarded as one of the finest scrumhalves that Australia has ever produced.

At just 21 years of age, he became the second youngest player since World War II to Captain the Wallabies and just the third player to claim the honour on his Test debut since 1945.

Shortly after his Test debut against Fiji in 1961, Catchpole was named Captain and Coach for a now-famed six-match tour of South Africa, orchestrating what pundits described as “the great Australian Rugby revival.”

The Scots College old boy amassed over 180 games for Randwick and was an inaugural member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985. He was then one of the original five inductees into the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame in 2005. Just four years ago, in 2013, he became the 66th player inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

Following his career, which was cut short through injury at just 28, Catchpole became a regular voice on ABC’s Rugby coverage and served as Vice-President and President of the New South Wales Rugby Union.

Catchpole also served as a trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust for over 20 years and his statue within the Sydney Cricket Ground and Football Stadium precinct will be relocated to the entrance of the new Rugby Australia Building on Boxing Day (next Tuesday, 26 December).

Rugby Australia Board Director and former Wallabies Captain, Paul McLean said: "Ken wasn't just a remarkable Rugby player but also a remarkable man.

“He'll be fondly remembered as one of our best and his records will live long at Randwick, New South Wales and the Wallabies.="Ken had a real aura about him both on and off the field. He might have been small in stature but you knew when Ken was in the room by the respect he commanded.

“On behalf of the entire Australian Rugby community, I want to pass on our thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones,” McLean said.

Classic Wallabies President, Simon Poidevin said: "The Classic Wallabies are truly saddened by the news of the passing of one of the great icons of Rugby Union in the legendary Ken Catchpole.

"Affectionately known as “Catchy” to his team mates and Rugby supporters around the world, Ken was an extraordinary athlete with blistering speed, amazing agility and a fearless spirit in taking on much bigger opponents.

"Catchy was a natural leader and was consistently rated the best halfback in the world. He was loved by Wallabies young and old and displayed a modesty that defied his achievements and set an example for our sport.

"He was one of 102 Wallabies selected from the Randwick Club, a team he dearly loved. Coogee Oval has arguably never seen a better player than Ken Catchpole," Poidevin said.

Born in Sydney in 1939, Catchpole was a good schoolboy athlete as well as Rugby player. He made his New South Wales debut against the Lions in 1959, aged just 19 and after only eight first grade matches.

Club players in the Sydney Shute Shield competition still know the Catchpole name well, as every year they vie for the Ken Catchpole Medal for the competition’s most valuable player, awarded to the winner of a season-long vote by referees.