When Sydney player Alec Burdon broke his arm in 1907 he spent weeks off work
during his rehabilitation, but he received not a penny in compensation from the
NSW Rugby Union administration. The door was open for a new code. At that time the Australian Cricket Board was riding roughshod over the players.
No longer were the players in charge of profits. Trumper was in the frame of mind to
fight back on behalf of all sportsmen. Victor was among three men who were concerned about Burdon’s “treatment” form the NSW Rugby Union. Trumper, Giltinan and Peter Moir met in Trumper’s Market Street Store. In 1907 a match between the NZ All Blacks and NSW attracted a crowd of 51,000 fans, so rugby union was enjoying peak popularity. A fellow named Baskerville planned to take a NZ professional team to England and there was interest shown in staging a few preliminary matches in Sydney. A meeting was set up again at Trumper’s store.
Peter Moir was there along with Trumper, Giltinan, Alec Burdon and Harry Hoyle.
Terms were sought for three matches in Sydney, before the side left for England.
Giltinan guaranteed 500 pounds for the three matches and advised that they would
be played on the Agricultural ground. (Sydney Showground). Giltinan outfitted
the team and provided the necessary equipment. Victor Trumper was the first honourary Treasurer of the NSW Rugby League, which was formed on August 12, 1907.
Trumper had a bizarre superstition. While bowlers held no terrors for Victor, the
sight of a clergyman wearing a “dog collar” worried the life out of him. Once the great
S.F. Barnes got Trumper early in his innings and Vic said: “I knew I would not score with all those clergyman about…”
Imagine if Shane Warne and Co got wind that the new England super-bat Michael
Vaughan was similarly superstitious. Why we’d have a cast of thousands in the crowd
holding little cardboard cut-outs of Warne and McGrath wearing “dog collars”.
Vic was an exceptional human being…. humble and self-effacing, however, he was
also strong in his commitment to his team mates and refused to bend to authority.
Trumper was one of six men (the others were Warwick Armstrong, Vernon Ransford, Hanson Carter, Tibby Cotter and Clem Hill) who refused to tour England in 1912 because the ACB refused their request to have Frank Laver manage the tour.
Before the Board was formed in 1905, the players organised tours themselves. They
arranged the itinerary, they picked the team and they shared the profits. The Board came along and gradually began to erode the players’ hold on purse strings, until eventually the players were treated like schoolboys.
Trumper saw the warning signs in rugby football and he moved to help form Rugby League. He saw the warning signs in cricket also. Had he lived in another area, Victor
Trumper almost certainly would have joined the Chappells and Lillees in World Series
cricket. A fitting memorial to the memory of Victor Trumper needs to be found. It has
been suggested that funds be found to raise a statue of Trumper – perhaps a design of Vic sitting on a tram seat, dressed in civilian clothes, his kit beside him, offering his bat to a boy sitting in front of him.
When he died in 1915, Victor Trumper’s funeral attracted some 20,000 mourners,
among them my grandfather Alexander Garnaut West, the man who introduced me
to cricket. The people of Sydney lined the streets. The cricket King was dead. Long
live the King. Today, 125 years ago, Victor Trumper took up his first stance on Earth. Maybe at this very moment Victor is deep in discussion with Don Bradman, talking about the best way to handle the combined attack of Warne and McGrath.
Today I reflect on my own family connection with Trumper. At the turn of the last century, Tom Storey played against him – my great great grandmother was Mary-
Ann Story. Two of her sons were John and Tom Storey. The both played for Balmain
CC. Tom helped “found” the club in 1896 and a celebratory match was played at the
time. Tom Storey played for Noble’s Paddington team and he scored ONE –
caught Trumper bowled Noble. John Storey may have scored the club’s first ton – 127 in the 1898/99 season. He also became NSW Premier…. Anyone who has seen the famous Beldam photograph of Trumper jumping out to drive instinctively knows that this fellow as a gifted cricketer.
Today we celebrate the life of Trumper the cricketer, but we also – and more importantly – pay homage to Trumper the man. Victor Trumper possessed humanity’s
greatest gift: to give of himself and to give unto others.
That was the true colour of the man.