OVER 830 men have run out for the Wallabies in 100-plus years of Australian rugby.
These men have travelled far and wide to wear the green and gold, but few have lived to 95 to tell the story.
Australia’s eldest living Wallaby, Gordon Stone, cap number 316, recently moved to the Southern Highlands to be closer to his daughter and son-in-law.
Despite his age, Stone shows the fighting spirit and work ethic that once saw him represent his country.
The scrum-half made his international debut against the All Blacks in 1938 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
It was a match that Australia lost and, unfortunately for Stone, he never had the chance to avenge the defeat.
He was replaced by his arch-rival at club level, Ces Romalli, for the next Test match in Brisbane and then the second world war broke out and the Wallabies didn’t play any internationals from 1939 to 1945.
Stone joined the Army in his capacity as a medical technologist and worked in Army hospitals around Australia before being sent to New Guinea and New Britain to help Australian soldiers combat malaria.
He was in Darwin when it was bombed by the Japanese and remembers the bombers aiming for the big red cross of the Army hospital.
It was particularly tough for Stone who married his long-time wife Iris in 1941 and was kept away from his bride for three-years.
Mrs Stone served as a nurse in the Army but the two were never seconded to the same hospital.
Since then, the 95-year old remains a staunch Wallabies supporter.
He even had the chance to meet the team in 2004 when the Australian Rugby Union flew him to Perth for the Wallabies Test against South Africa.
But he said the game had changed a lot since he played, with new rules and the dawn of the professional era.
“Physically the players build themselves up a lot more with training now,” Stone said.
“Mind you there were some pretty big players back in those days [1930s] too.”
Stone was offered money to switch codes and play rugby league for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
But he said he stuck with union and had no regrets.
“I played a little bit of league in the Army,” he said.
“South Sydney offered me some money to play league but it was hardly worthwhile. I think it was something like eight pounds per year.”
Stone’s sporting achievements span wider than a long career with Randwick in Sydney club rugby.
He also played first grade cricket for Randwick and once had a chance to bowl to Sir Donald Bradman.
Stone was playing for his school Sydney Boys High at the time and Bradman visited the school along with a Cricket NSW official.
“Bradman said that whatever happened, he would not let one of us bowl him in the nets,” Stone said.
“And he was true to his word.”
He was watching on from his room at Bowral House on Saturday night as the Wallabies beat Italy.
It’s a case of once a Wallaby, always a Wallaby for player number 316.