Born in Melbourne, Billy Mitchell became a dual New Zealand rugby union and rugby league international. The Canterbury Rugby League pioneer captained his country in the 13-a-side code during a decade on the international stage.
Regarded as an exceptional talent, the Merivale outside-back tour Australia with the All Blacks in 1910 and played two Test matches at just 19 years of age.
Mitchell switched codes to join North Sydney in 1911 when his career took another remarkable twist. He was sent to Queensland to bolster the state line-up against the touring New Zealand team but was instead drafted into the Kiwis’ ranks, featuring in all three matches against Queensland and subsequent fixtures against Hunter and NSW as a centre before returning to Norths and playing five first-grade games.
Moving back to New Zealand, Mitchell played in Canterbury’s win over Hawke’s Bay during its foundation 1912 season and was a founding member of the St Albans club in 1913.
Mitchell toured Australia with the 1913 New Zealand team and made another trip across the Tasman in 1919 as captain of the national side. The strapping, versatile back scored seven tries in eight games on the latter tour but did not play in any of the Tests against Australia on home soil later in 1919.
During 1920 Mitchell led Federal to the premiership, captained Canterbury against England and played in the last two Tests against the tourists – at five-eighth in the second-Test win at Lancaster Park and fullback in the one-point loss in the Wellington-hosted third Test. Business commitments prevented Mitchell from taking his place on the 1921 tour of Australia.
Mitchell later coached Canterbury and was a New Zealand selector.
NEW ZEALAND (1911, 1913, 1919-20)
2 Tests – 0 points
15 tour matches – 10 tries, 1 goal (32 points)
-1911 New Zealand tour of Australia – 5-3
-1913 New Zealand tour of Australia – 2-0
-1919 New Zealand tour of Australia – 8-7-1