4 days ago
Vale Albert Baskerville - 20 May 1908
On 20 May 1908 Albert Baskerville, rugby footballer, rugby league pioneer, aged 26 years old, died in a Brisbane hospital.
A century on, the code will do very little to mark his passing, nor remember his monumental contribution ot the founding of rugby league in Australia and New Zealand.
He played in the first Test Match between Australia and the Kiwis in Sydney on May 9, 1908 - scored a try - he had only played one game during the All Golds 1907/08 tour of the UK (the final game) as he was so focused upon making the tour a success.
In Australia, with injuries in the Kiwis camp, his team mates convinced him to play in the first Test. Baskerville played a very determined/strong game, but did cop a 'gruelling" from the Aussies at one point.
The following Monday (May 11) the Kiwis caught the steamer to Brisbane. Baskerville fell ill during the voyage, perhaps his post-Test weakened condition didn't help...on 20 May 1908 he died, the victim of pneumonia.
Baskerville didn't need Australian rugby league to make the All Golds tour a success - he could have taken his team straight to the UK in August 1907 instead of coming via Sydney and bank-rolling the formation of the NSWRL - he could have ended the All Golds tour in England in February 1908....instead he did his utmost to keep the team together, to bring it back to Australia in April 1908 and embark on a tour.
It was a tour which funded the crucial first months of the NSWRL and the QRL, and show-cased the 13-man code to Australian spectators.
He almost certainly would have lived a much longer life if he had not brought his team back to Australia in 1908 to tour NSW and Queensland and aid the founding of rugby league here.
Yes, Baskerville was a Kiwi, but he deserves Australian rugby league's thanks in our Centenary season.