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Steinohrt, Herbert Walter (Herb) (1897–1985)

by M. French

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Herbert Steinohrt, 1925

Herbert Steinohrt, 1925

State Library of Queensland,135467

Herbert Walter Thomas Steinohrt (1897-1985), rugby league footballer, was born on 21 October 1897 at Springside, near Pittsworth, Queensland, fourth of ten children of German-born parents Peter Frederick Mathias Steinohrt, farmer, and his wife Wilhelmina, née Schemioneck.  In 1907 the family settled on a cattle and sheep run, Loch Arbor, near Warra.  Herb attended Umbiram State School from 1908.  After his father died in 1912 Herb and his brothers managed Loch Arbor and, during World War I, secured a four-year contract to cut railway sleepers.  As a boy Steinohrt played rugby union football and later Australian rules, but about 1916 switched to a resurgent rugby league, riding 24 miles (39 km) on horseback to play for Warra on rough, poorly prepared grounds.  Invited to join the Valleys Club in the Toowoomba Rugby League, he moved to Toowoomba in 1922 and found employment in a local sawmill.  On 8 September 1924 at St James’s Church of England, Toowoomba, he married Annie Irene Kofoed.  From the early 1930s he worked in a local cinema, becoming assistant-manager; he later took over a brother’s corner store.

The TRL dominated the Queensland competition in the 1920s and early 1930s with players such as Duncan Thompson, E. S. Brown, Vic Armbruster and Steinohrt.  In his first season with Valleys, Steinohrt played centre and wing before settling into a career as a prop-forward (although he sometimes played second row or lock in State and national representative matches).  In 1924 he was a member of Toowoomba’s 'Galloping Clydesdales', which defeated all teams, including the otherwise victorious touring English side.

From 1922 to 1937 Steinohrt played 135 club games and in 1924-33 represented Queensland in eighty games.  His thirty-one matches—of which twelve where classed as international games—for Australia, included three Tests against the touring English in 1928 and 1932 and three of the four in the 1929-30 Kangaroo tour of England.  He was club captain (1927-37) and coach (1928-55); Queensland captain (1931) and coach-selector (1939-49); Australian captain (1932) and selector (1946).  His career highlight was the second Test against England on 18 June 1932 that became known as the 'Battle of Brisbane'.  After Australia narrowly lost the ferocious first Test in Sydney, Steinohrt, as captain, was determined to win by a change of tactics; it was a bruising, injury-ridden clash before 27,000 spectators resulting in a 15-6 victory to Australia.  Nevertheless, England won the third Test and the series.

Steinohrt retired from international football in late 1933, after contracting double pneumonia and pleurisy while serving as a volunteer firefighter; toughening exercises enabled him to continue club and State representation until 1937.  From 1928, until a few years before his death, he coached school and junior teams with considerable success.  In 1980, even though he was the longest-serving junior coach, he was required to take a written test.  He served for a similar period in Valleys and TRL administration, variously as committee-member, secretary-treasurer, and vice-president.  He also played a vital role in keeping rugby league alive in Toowoomba during World War II and re-forming the TRL at war’s end.

Known as 'Steiney', he was dubbed by the press 'the tall, rangy woodcutter'.  He stood about 6 ft 2 ins (188 cm) and weighed around 14 stone (89 kg), was ramrod straight ('six feet of whip cord') and was described as 'hard as a tall redwood' even into old age.  He was known for his big hands.  Regarded as Australia’s greatest forward, he was a smart tactician who 'never played the same game twice'.  He never lost his temper; he was neither cautioned nor sent from the field, but played hard:  'once you go through the gates, you’ve got no mates', he would say.  Off-field, he was a thorough gentleman.

Also a fine cricketer, Steinohrt was a right-hand opening bowler; he established the Valleys Cricket Club in 1926 and represented Queensland Country against England in 1928.  He also had a single-figure handicap at golf and was a competent tennis player.  In later life he worked in real estate.  Awarded life membership of the Toowoomba and Queensland Rugby leagues, he was appointed MBE in 1976.  Survived by his wife and their son, he died on 27 December 1985 at Toowoomba and was buried in Toowoomba Garden of Remembrance lawn cemetery.  The Valleys’ oval at Toowoomba was named in his honour.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Sweeney, The Gentle Clydesdale (1975)
  • B. Harding, A History of Toowoomba Cricket 1888-2004 (2004)
  • I. Heads and D. Middleton, A Centenary of Rugby League 1908-2008 (2008)
  • Chronicle (Toowoomba), 12 June 1976, p 1
  • Chronicle (Toowoomba), 16 September 1981, p 48
  • Chronicle (Toowoomba), 28 December 1985, pp 8, 56
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 28 December 1985, p 51
  • Steinohrt papers (University of Queensland Library).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

M. French, 'Steinohrt, Herbert Walter (Herb) (1897–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/steinohrt-herbert-walter-herb-15547/text26759, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 21 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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