Cody Walker & the 10 oldest debutants ever

Written by GREG PRICHARD, March 4, 2016

FIVE-EIGHTH Cody Walker will certainly be an unusual case when he makes his first-grade debut at the age of 26 years and 56 days for South Sydney against Sydney Roosters today, but he’s not even remotely in the ball-park when it comes to the oldest debutants ever.

RLW went to the king of all statistics, league historian David “Guru” Middleton, for the facts and he supplied the top-10 list of oldest debutants going back to the start of the first-grade competition in 1908.

There are some fair dinkum veterans among these blokes, led by Alfred Playfair, who made his debut in that very first year of the competition for Eastern Suburbs at the age of 37 years and 106 days.

The most recent member of the top 10 emerged back in 1964 and is the second oldest – Nat Silcock, who debuted for the Roosters at 36 years and 143 days.

The top 10 is rounded out by William Stuart (Annandale, 34 and 326 days, 1919), Bill Conlon (Balmain, 34 and 292 days, 1945), Bill Hardcastle (Glebe, 34 and 265 days, 1909), Percy Macnamara (Easts, 34 and 166 days, 1908), Fred Burge (Manly, 34 and 111 days, 1947), Ward Prentice (Wests, 33 and 275 days, 1920), Reg James (Norths, 33 and 270 days, 1947) and Bob Nicholson (Norths, 33 and 252 days, 1914).

“Middo” advised that the list was based on available records and that many player birth-dates going way back have not been recorded.

Obviously, times have long since changed in rugby league and players with potential are identified very young, with virtually no-one slipping through the net. Also, the fact there are no longer old-style reserve-grade and third-grade competitions means players can’t float around for years just below first-grade level and finally get called up. There are much bigger first-grade squads now.

Plus, of course, players are unable to commit themselves to playing NSW Cup or similar level for not a lot of money, but still with all the training commitments, for long periods of time before they are forced to opt out to concentrate on full-time employment – or their clubs make the decision for them.

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