Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Spragg, Alonzo Stephen (Lonnie) (1879–1904)

by Don Wilkey

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Alonzo Stephen (Lonnie) Spragg (1879-1904), footballer, was born on 2 October 1879 at Redfern, Sydney, youngest of five children of George Henry Spragg, grocer, and his wife Margaret, née Balser. In 1882 the family moved to Enfield and 'Lonnie' was educated at Druitt Town Public and Sydney Boys' High schools; at Sydney Technical College he studied wool-classing, the trade he entered in 1899.

He began playing Rugby Union football in first-junior grade with the Mercantile club at Burwood in 1897 and attracted attention next year with the Wallaroo senior club. At 18 the youngest senior player in Sydney, Spragg was selected for city against country; later that season, after substituting for Queensland in a match at Newcastle, he made his debut for New South Wales as a winger in both return intercolonial matches in Brisbane. In 1899 he played for his colony against Queensland and Rev. Mullineux's touring British team. His elusiveness and goal-kicking prowess won him a place in Australia's first full international team against Great Britain in Sydney on 24 June. The outstanding local player and top try-scorer in the series, Spragg made the memorable match-winning try in the first Test. That year he helped Wallaroos to the Sydney premiership and represented Strathfield junior (third grade) club on the metropolitan union.

On 2 January 1900 Spragg moved to Rockhampton, Queensland; on 9 May he settled in Brisbane. He was employed by the Queensland Government Savings Bank until 1903, then became a hide and skin merchant. Prominent in many sports, he rowed interstate in Adelaide, was a useful all-rounder, captain and honorary secretary for North Brisbane Cricket Club, and a leading Brisbane table tennis player. Above all, he was the idol of Queensland Rugby for his sportsmanship and the all-round brilliance of his play as an attacking centre three-quarter. His Brisbane football career began with the City team and in 1901-03 he played for North Brisbane. He set new standards in point-scoring: in twenty games in 1901 he scored a total of 195 points, with 26 tries; in a 1902 club match he converted all 10 tries. In 1900-02 he played twelve consecutive matches for Queensland against New South Wales and, aged 22, captained the side in two 1902 Sydney matches. His record total of 70 points scored for Queensland stood for thirty years until bettered by Tommy Lawton. Spragg helped Queensland to five successive wins over New South Wales in Brisbane. In twenty-one international and interstate matches he scored 104 points.

Although only 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall and 11 st. 8 lb. (73 kg), he was the ideal athlete—strong, unselfish and good-tempered. A staunch teetotaller and non-smoker, noted for his genial personality and cheery smile, he was quick to praise and to assist those in need. At his peak, Spragg injured his knee in a club match in June 1903 which ended his playing career. On 23 January 1904 he played a 'neat' innings of 24 for his cricket club. He then fell ill. Treated for typhoid fever, he died at Brisbane General Hospital on 12 February 1904 after an appendicectomy and was buried with Anglican rites in Toowong cemetery. He was unmarried. A monument over his grave was erected by the 'Athletes of Australia'.

Select Bibliography

  • D. B. Ryan, Fifty Years of Football (Brisb, 1932)
  • W. H. Bickley (ed), Maroon (Brisb, 1982)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Rugby Union (Syd, 1984)
  • Referee (Sydney), 13 July 1898, 17, 20 Feb 1904
  • Capricornian, 28 Apr 1900, 20 Feb 1904
  • Evening Observer, sports edition, 27 July 1901
  • Daily Mail (Brisbane), 13 Feb 1904
  • Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 13 Feb 1904
  • Saturday Observer, 13 Feb 1904
  • Brisbane Courier, 13, 15 Feb 1904
  • Town and Country Journal, 17 Feb 1904
  • Arrow (Sydney), 15 Aug 1908.

Citation details

Don Wilkey, 'Spragg, Alonzo Stephen (Lonnie) (1879–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/spragg-alonzo-stephen-lonnie-8609/text15037, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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