I have already posted these articles on LWOS, but this looks a better spot for them. As I said in another thread, I stopped researching this subject when a journalist asked me to stop because he is going to write a book on the subject, but since these ones are already up, there is no harm in repeating them. You can see about the book here; http://www.amnrl.com/news/052603.html As you can see, the journalist has contacted some of the players and got their firsthand accounts, which should make for a great read. I'll put up some more articles in a few days. A RUGBY LEAGUE ADVENTURE Rugby League administrators are not generally known for their devil-may-care approach to spreading the game to new countries or for taking financial risks to help promote the game, but one nearly forgotten League tour of Australia was both financially risky and incredibly bold in promoting the game. The tour in question was the 1953 tour of Australia by the American All Stars team. The most incredible fact related to this tour is that not one of the Americans had ever played the game, in fact, only one member of the touring party had ever seen the game played before they arrived in Australia. The idea for the tour came to the American tour organiser, Mike Dimitro, when he witnessed a game of Rugby League between Australian troops in PNG during WW II. Dimitro was a twice All-American gridiron player when in college and went on to become a professional gridiron player after the war. Dimitro gathered together a diverse group of athletes, mostly from around his home state of California. The average age of the tourists was 24 and the oldest man was 29. The group came from many different backgrounds; Bob Buckley was a 20 year old student from Brooklyn University; Harold Han was an Hawaiian native who played gridiron and studied at a Californian University; prop Xavier Mena took leave from his highly paid career as an architect to tour; Bill Albans was an Olympic standard athlete who had competed for USA and was said to be able to run the 100 yards in 9.5 seconds; Al Abajian was a medical student in his last semester at USC; halfback Ted Grossman was a movie stuntman and body double for Clark Gable; lock Jack Bonetti was a Catholic All-American and had played Union for three years at Stanford University; deadly accurate goal kicker and 5/8 Gary Kerkorian had played Union for two years with Pittsburg Athletics. Dimitro claimed that all his men had played Union and several, including himself, were professional gridiron players. The American team was the biggest and heaviest team seen in Australia to that point, with only three of the forward weighing in at under 95 kg. Props Xavier Mena, Pat Henry and Vince Jones were all around 110 kg and all over 190 cm tall. This pack would compare in size to a modern day pack, but were veritable giants when compared to Australian players of the era. The tour began with several well publicised training runs and a trial game against an army side. The tourists impressed all who watched with their athleticism and handling skills as well as the power and aggression of their forward play. The American forwards were said to approach the line like bulldozers and to never submit to a tackle without putting their shoulder into the tackling players. The most novel aspect of their play was the so-called pitch pass, where they would throw the ball up to 50 yards across the field with deadly accuracy to a player who would take the pass at full speed. The Americans played a few games against country teams before, in what looks in hindsight to be a terrible blunder on the part of tour organisers, they were matched up against a full strength NSW side featuring the skills of none other than the man many believe to be the greatest ever League player, Clive Churchill. The Americans were defeated easily in a game where it became obvious to a very large crowd that the NSW team was nursing along the Americans to keep them in the game. The credibility of the tour was shot to pieces after this game, but the Americans went on to complete a gruelling schedule of matches that saw the 20 man squad lining up for two games a week over a seven week tour of Australia and then play an eight game tour of New Zealand. Several of the games saw the Americans perform well against good opposition, including a close loss against a full strength Queensland team and a good win over a strong Newcastle side. All their games were well attended. The greatest regret for League fans is that the American All Stars improved every game and were starting to look like they could be a truly competitive team by the end of the tour, but poor scheduling and a lack of follow up on this tour cost us a superpower of the game developing as far back as 1953. Newcastle Sun, April 16th 1953. U.S Rugby League Tour Could Cause Storm Sydney; The visit by an American Rugby League team to Australia could result in the biggest internal storm the game here has known. If the tour fails the League would find itself with a heavy financial responsibility. Club officials would place full blame on the Australian Board of Control, with reorganisation of its personnel inevitable. If the tour succeeded, the board, of course, would be men of business acumen assured of their positions. A large section of Rugby League officials feel they have been held in ignorance of happenings over the tour. They can't make up their minds whether it is to take place or not. Many will be wrathful with the board if the tour isn't a success. Board of Control officials will discuss the tour during their annual meeting which opens in Brisbane tonight. The board also will discuss a report by English president Bernard Manson on incidents in the third Test, won by the Kangaroos on the recent tour. Newcastle Sun, April 23 1953 Airline Cancels Seats For American League Side Los Angeles, Mon. (O.S.R.): Pan-American Airways announced that tentative reservations for a Rugby League team to fly to Australia on May 17 had been cancelled. The airline announced today that the reservations had been cancelled because promoter Mike Dimitro had failed to meet his obligations in completing payment of fares for his team. Dimitro, the organiser of the tour, had been given until yesterday to complete payment of air fares to Australia after depositing 400 dollars when he made the booking. As late as yesterday Dimitro said: "Tell them in Australia there is no hitch in the American Rugby League plan." Dimitro had been asked for comment on reports that hitches appeared to have developed concerning the tour. Dimitro added, "We are leaving here on May 17 with 22 good, big, fast boys and we are going to show them wide-open Rugby like the French did in 1951." "We have selected boys with lots of speed, some with colledge football experience and a few professionals." "The average age of the players is 24, with the oldest man 29. The American team is coming down-under to show them what really wide-open Rugby is like." added Dimitro. In Sydney today Australian Board of Control chairman Harry Flegg said the news of the cancellation was surprizing to him. "But the Americans will still be here next month - you can be definate about that." declared Mr Flegg. "The tour has caused many problems and great bitterness, but I am certain it will eventuate." Mr Flegg said there had never been any request from Dimitro that the outward fares be paid by Australia. The fact that Dimitro has not sought financial aid from Australia was puzzling In view of the fact that he has not been able to pay the airfares on the dead-line. Newcastle Sun, April 23 1953 Conflicting Reports On American R.L. Tour Sydney: Conflicting reports on the proposed American Rugby League tour of Australia continued today In a cable to the Australian Board of Control, organizor Mike Dimitro said the team would leave on May 16 following a switch of airlines. A Los Angeles message quotes a university coach as saying he knew of only three players who had accepted invitations to join the Sydney-bound party. Board of Control secretary, Harold Matthews, said it now appeared as if all doubts regarding the tour had been eliminated. At Brisbane Q.R.L. officers are "pretty certain the tour won't come off." Early this week Dimitro named 18 players whom he said had been chosen, adding that the team eventually would number 22 or 23. Todays Los Angeles message says that Rugby Union players, mainly university students, had been approached by Dimitro to join the party for Australia, but examinations and other committments caused many of those approached to decline the invitations. Airlines Switch Yesterday Pan-American Airways at Los Angeles announced that reservations for the party on a plane leaving Los Angeles on May 17 had been cancelled. Dimitro's cable received by the Board of Control today said he had switched to Canadian Pacific Airlines and that the team would leave on May 16 and arrive on May 20. He added that a letter explaining the move was following. Newcastle Sun, April 30 1953 U.S. Player Keen On League Tour LOS ANGELES, Sun. (A.A.P.) An American footballer said today that he was so keen on going on the Rugby League tour of Australia he would give up 50 dollars (22pounds Aus.) a day as an Architect. The Player, Xavier Mena, said he had obtained three months leave from his firm to play with the team that promoter Mike Dimitro is organising for the tour. The team is booked to leave on May 16. Dimitro said today expences, including plane fares, would run to 4500 dollars (aus. 2000 pounds) for each of the team. He said 22 players would make the trip. All had been signed up for the tour. Most of the players had <st1lace>Rugby</st1lace> experience, gained mostly in California, ranging up to six years, Dimitro added. Eight Six-footers In U.S. Rugby League Team SYDNEY; Eight six-footers are included in the American Rugby League team, which arrives at Mascot airport tonight for an Australian tour. The team is the biggest and heaviest ever to come to Australia, with only three forwards under 15st. and one under 14.7. The three wingers include the tallest man in the team, 6ft. 4in. Bill Albans. Albans is reported to be a fast runner with a good sprint record in college athletics. Confusion is likely to arise by the presence of Al. E. Kirkland, a centre, and Al. D. Kirkland, a lock forward, in the team. Organiser of the tour, Mike Dimitro, has listed himself as a second row forward. He weighs 15.10. The full committee of the N.S.W. League will greet the Americans on arrival tonight and the players will begin training at Coogee Oval tomorrow morning. They will be coached by Kangaroo manager N. Robinson and leading referee Jack OBrien will instruct them on interpretations of the rules. Newcastle Sun, May 19 1953 U.S. Likely to Invite RL Teams Sydney; Australian and N.Z. Rugby League teams will be invited to America as a result of the Americans current tour of Australia. Manager and second row forward Mike Dimitro said this today. He and his team arrived by air last night. Dimitro said an organisation would be established in America to control and expand Rugby League. He said an Australian team would be able to play in 10 states. It would take two matches and a fortnights activity to get his men right into the groove. he added. Rugby League attitude here is that no matter whether the Americans are good, bad or indifferent, it is a start and can lead to a big future in the game between the two countries.