Almanac Rugby – The Forgotten story of Steve Merrick: Rugby Union’s last amateur (first published in The Guardian)

The name Steve Merrick isn’t very well known to Australian rules fans. In rugby circles however, Steve is remembered fondly as the game’s last amateur.

Replacing George Gregan in the Wallabies line-up in 1995 – just as the Murdoch-backed SANZAR and the code’s breakaway World Rugby Corporation began showering players with wads of cash as the game went fully-professional – Merrick stared down Jonah Lomu and an All Black’s haka in his debut for the Wallabies at the graveyard that is Auckland’s Eden Park.

On the morning of the Test match in New Zealand, Merrick’s room-mate and Wallaby legend Tim Horan pulled back the curtains to reveal torrential weather. Merrick recalls Horan looking outside and looking back at him saying coldly: “Your first Test. Eden Park in this weather. I’d jump out the window.”

In The Guardian, Almanacker Patrick Skene recounts the tale of a scrumhalf who turned down the mega-bucks on offer in favour honouring the traditions and spirit of rugby;

“I want to live in a place where you can play cricket on the street and get 20 overs in before the first car comes.” Merrick told the Sydney Morning Herald soon after. The decision was clear and definitive. “I’ve done everything I’ve ever dreamed of in the last four weeks,” he said. “I wouldn’t be disappointed if I broke my leg and couldn’t play again. I’m off. Hooroo!” It is the sweetest irony that after 100 years of amateurism, a working class coalminer with a rugby league background was the last man standing upholding rugby union’s amateur tradition.

To read Patrick’s article in full, please CLICK THIS LINK and enjoy the story of a bloke who turned down the megabucks, went back to the pits and hasn’t regretted it for a second.




  1. Wayne Ball says

    I remember watching this bloke play. Gregan would only be known as the back up today if Merrick didn’t walk away from the game.

    Great read.

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