Sydenham stalwart Joe Duke earned his only Kiwis call-up as a 31-year-old for the 1948 tour of Australia.
A World War II veteran – enduring five years as a prisoner of war – Duke returned home and broke into the Canterbury and South Island teams in 1946. The front-rower played for South Island again in 1947, with Sydenham also claiming the CRL premiership that year, but illness forced him to withdraw from a national trial, hindering his chances of gaining a spot in the Kiwis’ squad for the tour of Britain and France.
But after featuring in South Island’s victory over North Island in 1948 as a second-rower, Duke was chosen to make the trip to Australia – New Zealand’s first across the Tasman in a decade. He scored a try on debut, a 30-16 win against NSW Country, and played in subsequent victories over Northern Division, Rockhampton and Newcastle.
A former amateur and professional wrestler, Duke later became a prominent wrestling referee.
NEW ZEALAND (1948)
4 tour matches – 1 try (3 points)
-1948 Kiwis tour of Australia