Beat surrender: When Kangaroos clashed with The Jam

Four decades to the day of the incident, NRL.com takes a look back at a long-forgotten chapter in Kangaroo Tour history when British rockers The Jam made the mistake of getting physical with the Australian team manager.

Words were exchanged, a glass was smashed and Kangaroos team manager Jim Caldwell reeled back with blood streaming from his face, so goes the tale of a mysterious incident from the 1978 tour of Great Britain.

Former Australian captain Max Krilich has recalled how he was scratched and clawed by a female fan of The Jam in the lift of the team's Leeds hotel after the altercation between some Kangaroo tour members and the English band. 

The colourful incident, which began when Caldwell was allegedly glassed by The Jam's front man Paul Weller, occurred 40 years ago this week in the bar of the Queens Hotel, where Kangaroos teams continued to stay until the early 2000s.

Jam bass player Bruce Foxton was hospitalised with a rib injury, Weller had to appear in court and the band were forced to find alternative accommodation but details of exactly what occurred remain unclear to this day.

"I was in bed when Allan McMahon and a few of the others knocked on my door and said, 'quick get up, we are going to chase a couple of blokes from The Jam'," Krilich said.

Former Kangaroos skipper Max Krilich.
Former Kangaroos skipper Max Krilich. ©NRL Photos

"I was playing in the midweek game so I stayed in bed but I think they went and gave them a hiding. There wasn't much discussion about it afterwards because the deed had been done and I think the boys had given them a hiding.

"They hushed it up but I am pretty sure that is what they would have done. The police came to the hotel a few days later to see Jimmy Caldwell, who has since passed away.

"He got glassed and that is why some of the players went out and chased these guys. They were scumbags."

According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald on November 15, 1978 by renowned rugby league journalist Alan Clarkson, the trouble began after Caldwell accidentally bumped one of the band members as he was moving a chair in the bar.

"Words were exchanged, a glass was smashed and Mr Caldwell reeled back with blood streaming from his face," Clarkson wrote.

"Larry Corowa was with Mr Caldwell at the time and went to his assistance. He was punched from behind and then raced to get some members of the team. The brawl erupted when the players saw the injuries Mr Caldwell had suffered."

Clarkson reported Caldwell was taken to hospital after suffering "seven gashes on the right side of his face", while his fellow team manager, Peter "Bullfrog" Moore, tried to calm the players as he dealt with police.

"Mr Moore told the police he could guarantee his players' conduct that night but he said he could not give a guarantee if the rock group were still in the hotel the next morning," Clarkson wrote.

A police report cleared the Australian players of any wrongdoing but Weller was ordered to appear at Leeds Crown Court, where a wounding charge was immediately thrown out.

Weller referred to the incident in notes on the sleeve of The Jam's final album, Dig The New Breed, in which he wrote: "A night in the nick in Leeds! 'Paul Weller is innocent' chalked on the steps of Leeds Court. God bless you girls".

Krilich had a different view of The Jam fans after being attacked in the lift of the hotel by one after she realised who he was.

The 1978 Kangaroo Tour team.
The 1978 Kangaroo Tour team. ©NRL Photos

"I got in the lift a few days later and I said to this girl 'where do you want to go to'," he said. "As soon as she heard my Australian accent she started screaming and she started attacking me. She started clawing at me and all of that.

"As the hotel lifts opened there was [Australian officials] Ken Arthurson and Kevin Humphreys. I said, 'look what she has done to me' and the hotel security bloke picked her up and threw her out of the place."

Political tensions were high in the UK at the time of the Kangaroo tour, with the winter of 1978-79 widely known as the "Winter of Discontent", and bands like The Jam, The Clash and The Sex Pistols gave disaffected youth a voice.

"There was a lot of friction between some of those groups and members of the general public in England at the time," Kangaroos forward Bruce Walker said.

"The bar at the hotel was always pretty popular but I don't think I was there when the incident with Jim Caldwell occurred. I think I was out and then came back and it had all happened."

Walker and Krilich were among seven players from Manly's 1978 premiership-winning team on the Kangaroo tour, which was coached by Sea Eagles mentor Frank Stanton and captained by Bob Fulton.

There wasn't much discussion about it afterwards because the deed had been done and I think the boys had given them a hiding.

Max Krilich

"I think Frank Stanton was the one who laid the foundation for the success of the 1982 and 1986 tours," Walker said. "He introduced a discipline in 1978 that carried through to those tours, with things like everyone getting up to go for a walk together before breakfast."

Krilich, who captained Australia on the unbeaten 1982 Kangaroo tour, shared the hooking duties in 1978 with George Peponis.

"It was a very good team," Krilich said. "We had players like Fulton and Graham Eadie and those sort of players, Ray Price was at his peak, Les Boyd was at his rampaging best and Craig Young and Rocket Reddy were just coming through as youngsters but they were really good."

The 1978 Kangaroos squad

  • Chris Anderson (Canterbury)
  • Kerry Boustead (Innisfail)
  • Les Boyd (Western Suburbs)
  • Larry Corowa (Balmain)
  • Michael Cronin (Parramatta)
  • Graham Eadie (Manly)
  • Bob Fulton (Eastern Suburbs)
  • Geoff Gerard (Parramatta)
  • John Gibbs (Manly)
  • Ron Hilditch (Parramatta)
  • Steve Kneen (Cronulla)
  • Max Krilich (Manly)
  • Steve Martin (Manly)
  • Allan McMahon (Balmain)
  • Rod Morris (Easts Brisbane)
  • Greg Oliphant (Redcliffe)
  • Graeme Olling (Parramatta)
  • George Peponis (Canterbury)
  • Greg Pierce (Cronulla)
  • Ray Price (Parramatta)
  • Tommy Raudonikis (Western Suburbs)
  • Rod Reddy (St George)
  • Steve Rogers (Cronulla)
  • Ian Schubert (Eastern Suburbs)
  • Alan Thompson (Manly)
  • Ian Thomson (Manly)
  • Bruce Walker (Manly)
  • Craig Young (St George)