July 12: Kangaroos thump Great Britain; Hall of Fame duo born

On this day, two Hall of Famers were born, Nathan Friend set up one of the most spectacular tries of all time and Great Britain suffered a massive defeat at the hands of the Kangaroos.

1902

Hall of Fame forward Vic Armbruster was born near Ballina on the NSW North Coast. Armbruster was one of the best of the many NSW players to head to Queensland in the 1920s. He was 20 when he won selection for NSW in the only interstate clash of 1922.

A tall second-rower, Armbruster settled in Toowoomba in 1924, and made an immediate impact on his new club Valleys, where he teamed with future Test stars Herb Steinohrt and Dan Dempsey.

A noted ball handler with the ability to slip a pass when surrounded by defenders and a player renowned for ''dropping back to take the high punts'', Armbruster's international career began in the second Ashes Test of 1924. He played all three Tests against England in 1928 and was one of the first forwards chosen for the 1929–30 Kangaroo tour. 

Armbruster returned to England in 1931, playing with fellow Australians Cec Aynsley and Bill Spencer at the Rochdale Hornets club, his career winding down in 1935.

The 1929 Kangaroo tour portrait, this was the final international series for Armbruster. He coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to another great Queenslander, Billy Slater.
The 1929 Kangaroo tour portrait, this was the final international series for Armbruster. He coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to another great Queenslander, Billy Slater.

1942

Hall of Fame halfback Billy Smith was born in Fremantle. Smith is remembered as one of the great halfbacks, but his initial impact in the St George team of the 1960s was as a centre, partnering the great Reg Gasnier in grand final victories in 1963, 1964 and 1965.

Sandwiched between those premiership victories, in 1964 Smith was named as the NSW halfback for the games against Queensland and then as Australia's half for three Tests against France. This was the beginning of a stellar international career, perhaps the highlight being his feat of winning the Harry Sunderland Medal as the best Australian player in a home Test series in 1966 against Great Britain and the following year against New Zealand.

Smith played in five of the six Tests on the 1967–68 Kangaroo tour and was a key member of the Australian team that won the World Cup in 1968 and 1970. He captained his country against Great Britain during the 1970 Cup.

On the club scene, Smith was one of the great players of his era, racking up an incredible 296 games with the Saints, 234 of them in first grade.

St George halfback Billy Smith tries to outpace British prop Cliff Watson during a match for Australia against Great Britain, 1970.
St George halfback Billy Smith tries to outpace British prop Cliff Watson during a match for Australia against Great Britain, 1970.

1993

Kurt Capewell was born in the Queensland town of Charleville. The utility player was a lower-grader at the Broncos and was a member of the Queensland Cup-winning Ipswich Jets side in 2015. He joined Cronulla the following season, becoming a permanent fixture in the NRL squad from 2017 onwards due to his ability to play in multiple positions in the forwards and backs.

1995

Jai Arrow was born in Fairfield, Queensland. He made his NRL debut with Brisbane in 2016 and played 24 matches for the club until leaving at the end of the following year. Arrow joined the Titans and made his State of Origin debut in the 2018 series and was again called up for the Maroons the following year but his campaign was ended after suffering a leg injury after game one.

2002

Great Britain suffer their greatest humiliation in 95 years of international rugby league when they are trounced 64-10 by Australia at Aussie Stadium. The Australians run in 11 tries to surpass their previous biggest win over the "Old Enemy" – a 50-12 result at Swinton in 1963. A crowd of 31,844 watched the first Sydney Test between the countries in a decade.

2015

An astonishing back-flipping offload by Warriors hooker Nathan Friend that leads to a try to winger David Fusitu’a creates interest across the globe as the Warriors outplay Melbourne 28-14 at Mt Smart Stadium. Vision of Friend’s achievement becomes a huge internet hit and is even replayed on US television.

Warriors hooker Nathan Friend.
Warriors hooker Nathan Friend. ©NRL Photos

2017

Queensland overcome the absence of Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Matt Scott and Darius Boyd to storm to their 11th Origin series victory in 12 years after crushing the Blues 22-6 before a record crowd at Suncorp Stadium.

 

This article contains information from the official records of NRL historian David Middleton.