True rugby legend Billy Wallace’s tale brought to life

Denis Dwyer has published a book about Billy Wallace, who played for the All Blacks in the early 1900s.  (File photo).

David Unwin/Stuff

Denis Dwyer has published a book about Billy Wallace, who played for the All Blacks in the early 1900s. (File photo).

The story of the “grand old man of New Zealand rugby” has been brought to life in a new book about Billy Wallace.

Palmerston North author Denis Dwyer has published Billy Wallace: A True Rugby Legend, about the gifted All Black, who played 51 games from 1903 to 1908, including 11 tests.

Wallace was a member of the 1905 Originals that toured the British Isles, France and United States and was heavily involved in all facets of the game.

He was a star of the game of his time, but also coached the All Blacks, the New Zealand Māori and was on the New Zealand Rugby executive.

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Working on the book for two years, Dwyer has done extensive research, drawing on Wallace’s reminiscences which he wrote in 1932, newspapers, club history, speaking to family and a book Wallace had a section in, Famous Fullbacks.

“It was so long ago,” Dwyer said. “A lot of people who are really keen on rugby have never heard of him.

“In his lifetime he was an absolute legend. This was said at his funeral 50 years ago, that he became the grand old man of New Zealand rugby.”

Wallace scored the first points for New Zealand in a test match, was the first New Zealander to score 500 points in first-class rugby, held the New Zealand record for most points in an All Blacks match for 46 years and still holds the world record for most points scored on a rugby tour.

Palmerston North author Denis Dwyer has published a new book, Billy Wallace: A True Rugby Legend.

Stuff

Palmerston North author Denis Dwyer has published a new book, Billy Wallace: A True Rugby Legend.

His tour record is 246 points on the 1905 trip, scoring 27 tries, and that was when tries were worth three points.

“The records go on and on.”

He was “seriously fast” and had skills that hadn’t been seen before.

Wallace first played for Wellington in 1897 and was still going to Athletic Park in the 1970s. He died in 1972 aged 93.

He was a distinguished coach of club, provincial and national teams. When coaching the All Blacks in 1932 on their tour of Australia they lost the first test.

“On the long train trip from Sydney to Brisbane he talked to everyone. There was a common resolve to make good.”

They won the next two tests and the series.

The book also takes in Wallace’s personal life and the changing society around him.

“He was still driving a car in his 80s but nobody would go with him,” Dwyer said.

It’s Dwyer’s eighth book.

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