Sydney - Former
Wallaby captain Ken Catchpole, considered one of the greats of
Australian rugby, has died aged 78 following a long illness, Rugby
Australia said on Friday.
Affectionately known as "Catchy," he played 27 Tests, 13 as skipper,
and formed one of the game's enduring scrumhalf partnerships with
flyhalf Phil Hawthorne.
Catchpole captained Australia at 21 on his international debut
against Fiji in 1961 and went on to become an influential figure in
Australian rugby throughout that decade.
He suffered a career-ending injury in 1968 at the age of 28 when he
was seriously hurt in a brutal tackle by All Black hard man Colin Meads.
Meads stretched Catchpole’s leg in a ruck and, with the other leg
caught, it led to a complete rupture of groin and hamstring muscles.
Comeback attempts were unsuccessful.
"Ken wasn't just a remarkable rugby player but also a remarkable
man," Rugby Australia board member and former Wallabies skipper Paul
"Ken had a real aura about him both on and off the field. He might
have been small in stature but you knew when Ken was in the room by the
respect he commanded."
Catchpole was inducted onto the Museum of Rugby Wall of Fame in 2004
and is honoured in perpetuity with a plaque in the Walk of Honour at
the Sydney Cricket Ground to commemorate his career.
He received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2005.
Upon his induction into the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame, then
ARU president Paul McLean referred to him as "exuding grace and
Former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer said what he did in the game "are the things of legend".
"He was something else, he was a phenomenal athlete. Superb pass, agility, and he was tough," Dwyer added.
"To get a full appreciation of the talents of Catchy, you’d only need
to talk to his forwards. No matter how much you praised them, they’d
say: 'No, no ... we had Catchy'".
Former Wallaby forward also Simon Poidevin paid tribute to a fallen
team-mate, saying: "Ken was an extraordinary athlete with blistering
speed, amazing agility and a fearless spirit in taking on much bigger
"Catchy was a natural leader and was consistently rated the best halfback in the world.
"He was loved by Wallabies young and old and displayed a modesty that defied his achievements and set an example for our sport."
Catchpole is the second former Wallaby to pass away this week
following the death of 18-Test prop and Queensland great Stan Pilecki,