Oldest Wallaby passes away, aged 98 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Oldest Wallaby passes away, aged 98

06/10/2010 04:52:47 PM Comments (0)

Australian rugby is mourning the passing of its oldest Wallaby, Stan Bisset, who has died aged 98.

The Kokoda veteran died in his nursing home in Coolum on the Queensland sunshine coast on Tuesday night.

Bisset, born in St Kilda in 1912, was a promising Australian Rules ruckman before being persuaded to play rugby union.

He was immediately hooked on the physicality of the game and, after a couple of practice matches, joined the St Kilda Rugby Club.

"We had a couple of trial practice games and I was rapt in it," Bisset said.

Bisset's career peaked in 1939 when he followed the advice of Sydney Morning Herald sports reporter and former Wallaby Syd King to increase his weight, and he cemented his position as either a lock or flanker after starting his career in the backs.

Bisset was selected for the ill-fated 1939-40 Wallabies tour to the UK and Ireland, before the outbreak of World War II led to the cancellation of the tour soon after the Wallabies arrived in England - denying him a Test debut.

As such, the honour of the oldest living Test Wallaby resides with 96-year-old Gordon Stone, who played one Test against the All Blacks in 1938.

Back home from the tour, Bisset joined the 2/14th Battalion, with elder brother Hal, having already joined.

Both were excellent marksmen after spending a couple of years at Warrandyte in the Victorian countryside, learning to shoot rabbits.

The Bissets went with the battalion to the Middle East and fought in Syria, but after Pearl Harbour was bombed they were sent up the Kokoda Track to relieve the 39th Battalion, who had been fighting the Japanese for weeks and were holding out at Isurava.

Bisset was an intelligence officer, a lieutenant, in charge of a section of 12 men.

They reached Isurava on August 27 and gradually started relieving the exhausted 39th Battalion's positions.

The next day the main battle started and the Australian troops were vastly outnumbered approximately 8000 to the 546 men of the 2/14th and remnants of the 39th Battalion.

"(Hal) got a burst from a Japanese machine gun through his tummy when he was going around distributing grenades," Bisset recalled.

"I heard (Hal) had been hit and stretcher bearers were bringing him back.

"So I went up the track and caught up with them, I sat with him for six hours ... I sat with him until about 4am, when he finally left us."

Bisset, is survived by his wife Gloria, 75, four children - Sally, James, Holly and Tom - and step-daughter Ros.

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