True cap­tain marvel

Re­mem­ber­ing Wil­liam Tasker, a man who gave his all for his coun­try on both sport­ing and bat­tle fields, writes

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - RUGBY - Michael Carayannis

FIRST as Wal­laby and then as a war hero, Wil­liam Tasker lived to rep­re­sent his coun­try.

While he achieved many feats on the sport­ing field it was his com­mit­ment and will to serve dur­ing World War I which Tasker will long be re­mem­bered. Tasker lived a re­mark­able life be­fore be­ing killed in bat­tle aged just 26.

The dis­tin­guished sports­man blos­somed at New­ing­ton Col­lege where he was schooled be­tween 1906 to 1911. There he rep­re­sented the school’s first XV for three years — go­ing on to cap­tain New­ing­ton to a GPS ti­tle in his fi­nal year. He also played cricket in the first XI and was a school pre­fect.

Tasker con­tin­ued to ex­cel on the sport­ing field well after his school­ing days fin­ished. He joined the New­town Rugby Club in 1912 — whom he would go on to cap­tain — while work­ing in the State Bank in the city, and study­ing law.

Just months after fin­ish­ing school Tasker was named in the 24-man Aus­tralian team to tour Amer­ica. Tasker, who resided in En­more, played 10 tour matches and has the un­for­tu­nate me­mento of be­ing the first Wal­laby sent-off in a 6-5 loss to the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia for un­sports­man­like con­duct. Tasker would make his full Test de­but a year later against the All-Blacks hav­ing ce­mented him­self as Aus­tralia’s pre­mier fly-half dur­ing the tour of New Zealand in 1913.

He re­tained his Wal­laby jumper when the Ki­wis vis­ited Aus­tralia the fol­low­ing year for an­other three Test se­ries with New Zealand clean-sweep­ing the Wal­la­bies. The 22-7 loss at the Syd­ney Sports Ground on Au­gust 15 — less than a month after the out­break of World War I — would be the last of Tasker’s six Tests. He also rep­re­sented NSW on 13 oc­ca­sions.

Tasker, who served at the New­ing­ton cadets for six years, en­listed in the AIF 13th Bat­tal­ion in Jan­uary and left on Fe­bru­ary 11 aged 23. After train­ing in Egypt, he took part in the land­ing at An­zac Cove on April 25 and spent months es­tab­lish­ing and de­fend­ing the An­zac front lines. Tasker was badly in­jured at Quinn’s Post, Gal­lipoli, when a shell ex­ploded near him on May 29 and was in­valided home.

His body was de­stroyed. Tasker needed oper­a­tions on his feet and legs, with his knee and lower leg left se­verely im­paired. The in­juries left him strug­gling to walk while mak­ing it al­most im­pos­si­ble to run. His promis­ing rugby ca­reer was over aged 24. Tasker was dis- charged in De­cem­ber 1915.

But Tasker still wanted to serve. After be­ing re­jected twice, he was reen­listed on Au­gust 2, 1916 as a gun­ner in the 116 How­itzer Bat­tery, 13th Brigade. He was wounded twice while on the Western Front. On Au­gust 9, 1918 he was fa­tally wounded in the groin and lower stom­ach at Har­bonieres in France.

Tasker is buried in the Villers-Bre­ton­neux Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery in France. Tasker was awarded the 1914-15 Star, Bri­tish War Medal and Vic­tory Medal. New­ing­ton plan to hon­our Tasker as part of their An­zac Day com­mem­o­ra­tions on May 1. Some in­for­ma­tion ex­tracted from the His­tory of New­ing­ton Rugby by Barry Ross to be re­leased next year.

Wil­liam Tasker (hold­ing the ball) with the New­ing­ton Col­lege team in 19 11.

Tasker in uni­form in 1915.

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