SUFC is saddened to announce the passing of Dr Herbert John Solomon, after a protracted battle with illness. John will forever be remembered for the part he played in one of the most extraordinary sporting gestures ever seen on a rugby pitch.
The year was 1953 and the scene was the famous Newlands ground in Cape Town. Australia had just handed the Springboks their first defeat in 15 years with a remarkable come from behind, final minutes 18-14 victory. After the final whistle was blown two of the giant South African forwards Chris Koch and Ernst Dinkelmann hoisted Solomon onto their shoulders and chaired him from the field as, so aptly put by Ian Diehm, ‘excited spectators stood in their thousands to applaud the triumphant Wallabies in a memorable tribute to Australia’s most thrilling victory.’ A highly intelligent and skilled utility back, Solomon was described by teammate Sir Nicholas Shehadie as ‘quick enough to play centre or wing, equipped with a skilful swerve and sharp acceleration when a gap appeared.
Much admired for his astute captaincy.’ Born and raised in Sydney, Solomon was a star athlete during his days at The Scots College where he played two years in the 1st XV. He burst onto the Sydney club rugby scene in 1948 and immediately won a spot in the University of Sydney first grade team, whilst residing at St. Andrew’s College. After five first grade matches Solomon, aged just 18, was chosen for New South Wales and ‘gave the greatest display of fly-half handling seen on the Exhibition Ground since before the war’ in the 17-9 defeat of Queensland. The following year he toured New Zealand with the Australian Universities side and upon his return was called up for his Test debut against the Maori in Sydney. Solomon earned a spot on the subsequent tour to New Zealand where his great versatility came to the fore. Solomon played three different positions in his first five matches: five-eighth, fullback and centre and made the team for the final Test where Australia won their first ever Bledisloe Cup series on New Zealand soil. Solomon was handed the captaincy for the 1952 home series against Fiji and the following year’s tour to South Africa before he retired in order to concentrate on his final year of medical exams. He made a triumphant return to rugby and the Wallabies in 1955 and led the side that won 10 of 13 games on the tour to New Zealand. John Solomon played 14 Tests for Australia, eight as captain, in a six year international career. He was inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame in 2016.
In 1955 in his final season of international rugby Solomon led Australia from fly half in the 1st Test, 8-16 loss to New Zealand. Sadly his tour ended early in the match against Canterbury Otago
when he left the field with a dislocated shoulder. As a result, Gordon Davis and then Dick Tooth played fly half in the final two Tests of the series. At University, John played forty -four first grade games and earned rugby blues in 1948, 49, 50, 51.
A leader of men, Solomon made an outstanding contribution to Australian rugby.
Solomon was celebrated at the inaugural SUFC Legends Lunch in 2019, along with Dr Richard Murray “Dick” Tooth and Emeritus Professor Saxon White AM. For which Theo Clark produced a film which tells the rugby stories of some greats of the game who started their representative careers in Uni colours in the 1940s, 50s and 60s and went on to Wallaby glory. Click here for a short clip in which Solomon recalls the day he was hoisted high on the shoulders of his opposition after leading Australia to victory over the Springboks in Cape Town for the first time.
Our condolences go our to the Solomon family at this sad time.