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