Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Frank Burge (1894–1958)

by Kristine Corcoran

This article was published:

Frank Burge (1894-1958), Rugby League footballer and council cleaner, was born on 14 August 1894 at Darlington, Sydney, sixth of eight surviving children of native-born parents Peter Burg, carrier, and his wife Emily Rosina, née Pickering. Educated at Darlington Public School, Frank played for the South Sydney Football Club with his siblings Peter (1884-1956) and Albert ('Son') (1888-1943) who were to become Rugby internationals. The brothers later joined Glebe. At 14 Frank entered second grade as centre. One Saturday he played an extra game, as a winger, and became the youngest to appear in a first-grade match in either Rugby code. A forward in Glebe's first-grade Rugby League side in 1911, he reputedly missed selection in the Kangaroo team to tour Britain because the selectors thought him too young to take on the tough English forwards.

In 1912 Burge made the State side: he scored three tries in a match against Queensland and toured New Zealand. A member of State teams against Queensland in 1913-15, 1919-21 and 1926, he played in all three Tests against England in 1914. Next year he tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, but was rejected due to a speech impediment. He represented Australia against New Zealand in 1919 and reached his peak on the 1921 Kangaroo tour of England, scoring 33 tries in 23 games. One of the code's greatest scoring forwards and an accurate goal-kicker, he had an uncanny power to anticipate passes and, being 'big and powerful and very fast', was able to streak 'with bull-like resolution to the white line'. His pet move was to dash from the scrum and take a reverse pass from the half-back before the opposition could stop him.

Known as 'Chunky' or 'Mr Elegance', Frank was a fitness fanatic who went for long training-runs, occasionally with (Sir) William McKell. Between 1911 and 1922 Burge played 149 games for Glebe, and returned in July 1923 for his 150th match and a testimonial, a guaranteed minimum of £100. He coached (1923-25) at Grenfell before turning out in third grade for Glebe in 1926. That year he was appointed captain of New South Wales in the hope of restoring the State to football supremacy. He played his last season in 1927, as captain-coach of St George.

In the 1930s Burge coached St George, Newtown, Canterbury, Western Suburbs and North Sydney; he developed many notable players, but never a team that won a first-grade premiership. A labourer for most of his life, after World War II he worked as a Sydney County Council cleaner, and sometimes as a commentator and correspondent. On 9 June 1948 he married 51-year-old Millie Gladys Dyson at the district registrar's office, Rockdale. A life member of the New South Wales Rugby League, in 1950 Burge was the third league player to be elected to honorary membership of the Sydney Cricket Ground. He collapsed after watching a North Sydney-Newtown match and died of heart disease on 5 July 1958 at Marrickville. Survived by his wife, he was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Greenwood (ed), Australian Rugby League's Greatest Players (Syd, 1978)
  • G. Lester, The Story of Australian Rugby League (Syd, 1988)
  • Redcap, Queensland Rugby League Annual, 1927
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Sept 1950, 7 July 1958
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 6 July 1958
  • private information.

Citation details

Kristine Corcoran, 'Burge, Frank (1894–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 August, 1894
Darlington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


5 July, 1958 (aged 63)
Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.