Debut: Vs Huddersfield (H) 28th August 1937
Honours: Championship (Finalist: 1938), Challenge Cup (Winner: 1941, 1942)
Vic Hey first saw the light of day at Liverpool, N.S.W., on 17th November 1912, and was clearly destined to make his mark in ‘a man’s game’ from his early formative years at Canley Vale Public School. Chosen to represent N. S. W. Combined Schools against Queensland in 1927, whilst a student at Granville Technical College, he graduated to Western Suburbs via the Guildford and Fairfield Junior Clubs. Graduated? Catapulted more like, for after merely one season in the Reserve Grade and just five games in the First, the 20-year-old stripling, weighing 11st 8lb., found himself included as second five-eighth in the 1933-34 Kangaroo squad to tour England.
As ever, it seems, with Australian youth, confidence more than compensated for inexperience. Playing in 26 of the 37 matches, including the Tests at Manchester’s Belle Vue, Headingley and Swinton, he was one of the successes of the Tour, with Leeds officials foremost among his many admirers as he ‘filled out’ into a player of awesome power, whose pace off the mark and swivel-on-a-sixpence manoeuvrability made no concessions to avoirdupois, even though he tipped the scales at 13st 10lb by the time he returned to Australia, pondering his future.
Dinny Campbell, Jeff Moores, Frank O’Rourke, Eric Harris, Chimpy’ Busch; who knows, perhaps one day. Meanwhile, he had spells with both Toowoomba and Ipswich, captained Queensland on two occasions against New South Wales, and played in all three Tests against the 1936 British Lions.
One day, indeed! 30th October 1937 became a red-letter day if ever there was one, for within weeks of arriving at Headingley to take over the captaincy, there he was at Wakefield’s Belle Vue, leading his men to a splendid Yorkshire Cup Final victory with a glorious man-of-the-match display that would have put to the sword any stand-off in the game, let alone Huddersfield’s wretchedly unhappy and woefully inexperienced Swallow, who time and again was either sent sprawling by a shoulder charge, beaten by sheer pace, or left floundering in the wake of a sidestep.
Naturally, after that, Vic was accorded V.I.P. treatment for the rest of the season. Not that he was disposed to modify his take-on-all-comers style of play on that account, but the constant battering from hard-tackling ‘reception committees’, together with the muscular strains imposed by his explosive sidestep, took such a toll that his inclusion for the Championship Final showdown against Hunslet at Eiland Road was a calculated gamble. To be fair, it might well have paid off, too, had the Loiners capitalised on their early chances; as it was, they were doomed from the moment Eddie Bennett ploughed him into the bone-hard ground with a malevolent pile-driver.
Even so, for all that his thigh muscles threatened to seize up completely, he battled on courageously to the bitter end, alternating between stand-off, centre and wing, and then, racked by pain though he was, insisted on struggling up the steps to the rostrum to congratulate the victors. A loser’s medal, maybe; but a reputation for gallantry untarnished!
And so to 1938-39, and that never-to-be-forgotten Christmas Eve clash between top-of-the-table Leeds and third-placed Salford. The cricket ground setting was unique, the atmosphere electric as the battle ebbed and flowed with the citadel at either end seemingly impregnable, barring an act of God or a master-stroke of genius. Genius it was! A quick heel on the Salford ’25’ … a burst by Dai Jenkins, to take a couple of defenders with him … a manoeuvre for position … a perfect back pass … and there was Vic, twinkle-toed as a dancing master, strong as an ox, sidestepping and swerving through without a finger being laid on him, to score a superb try. Yet, magnificent as it undoubtedly was in conception, and welcome as it was as a match-winner, it reflected a tendency, perhaps, to over-exploit fringe-of-the-scrum moves, to the detriment of the free-flowing threequarter play for which Headingley had been renowned over the years.
Of far greater concern, however, was the fact that once again the wear and tear of a hard season reduced him to barely third-gear power and pace in the ill-fated 1939 Challenge Cup Semi-Final versus Halifax at Odsal, and that immediately following a six-match lay-off. Why not switch him to centre, and sign Hunslet’s Oliver Morris? The solution was attractive, the swoop dramatic, the dividends rich, with both players making major contributions towards the triumphant Challenge Cup campaigns of ’41 and ’42.
Employed as an electrical mechanic on the maintenance staff of Hunslet Engine Company, Vic ended his extremely happy association with the Leeds Club in February 1944, in favour of a three-year stint at Dewsbury, thereby renewing family ties with his father’s birthplace. Nor had he any regrets, the Crown Flatt side finishing the 1946-47 season as Yorkshire League Champions and Championship runners-up to Wigan.
Ten years! Time to head back home! Yet nothing like as quickly as he had imagined, the long delay in obtaining a passage permitting him to make nine appearances with Hunslet, the last of them at York’s Wigginton Road ground on Boxing Day 1947.
Highly respected at Parramatta for his services as player and coach, and the master-mind behind Australia’s successful bid to regain the Ashes in 1954, 76-year-old Vic was recently described as ‘a happy volcano of a man, bubbling with memories’. Long will his name continue to echo down Headingley’s corridor of time!