Lionel Morgan (rugby league)

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Lionel Morgan
Personal information
Born(1938-08-12)12 August 1938
Tweed Heads, New South Wales, Australia
Died16 September 2023(2023-09-16) (aged 85)
Playing information
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1959–68 Wynnum-Manly 106
Years Team Pld T G FG P
Brisbane 23 147
1960–63 Queensland 12 9 0 0 27
1960 Australia 3 2 0 0 6
Source: [1][2] RLP

Lionel Morgan (12 August 1938 – 16 September 2023) was an Australian rugby league player—named amongst the nation's finest of the 20th century—and coach. Morgan was the first Indigenous Australian to be selected to play in a recognised rugby league Test match.[3] He primarily played on the wing.[4]

Rugby League career[edit]

A New South Wales' Schoolboy representative player, Morgan moved from Tweed Heads to play for Wynnum-Manly in the Brisbane Rugby League premiership.[5] In 1960 he was selected for the second and third Tests of the French tour of Australia.[6] He scored two tries on his international debut.[5] At the end of the 1960 season, he played one match for Australia in the 1960 World Cup, again against France, at Wigan. Morgan's selection for the Tests made him the first Indigenous Australian to represent at an international level in any major national sporting team.[6] In 1962 he was named Queensland's Best Back.[7]

A representative of Brisbane in the Bulimba Cup, Morgan scored 24 tries and 147 points in just 18 games between 1959 and 1963. In 1962, he scored 5 tries and 6 goals in a single match against Ipswich.[8]

Morgan was subjected to racism throughout his career. He has described an incident in a match against Ipswich. "I was tackled over the sideline, and apparently the whole Ipswich team jumped on top of me," he said. "I woke up in hospital." In another incident he was hospitalised after being punched by a spectator.[9]

Morgan continued his association with rugby league as coach of the Queensland Rugby League's Indigenous Under-16 team.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Morgan was born on 12 August 1938,[11] in Tweed Heads, New South Wales.[12]

His four sons all spent time playing for Wynnum-Manly.[13]

Morgan died on 16 September 2023, at age 85.[14][5]


In August 2008, Morgan was named on the wing in the Indigenous Team of the Century.[15]


  1. ^ Colin Tatz (1987). Aborigines in Sport. Bedford Park, South Australia: The Australian Society For Sports History. p. 81. ISBN 0-85837-603-2.
  2. ^ Alan Whiticker & Glen Hudson (1995). The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players (with Queensland Section). Smithfield, New South Wales: Gary Allen Pty Ltd. p. 516. ISBN 978-1-877082-93-1.
  3. ^ "A league of their own". Queensland Government:Community Spirit. 1 September 2007. Archived from the original on 9 August 2008. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  4. ^ Dr Greg Mallory. "The Decline of Brisbane Community Culture – An Oral History Perspective". Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Meyn, Travis; Craddock, Robert (17 September 2023). "Lionel Morgan, the first indigenous man to play Test rugby league for Australia, dies aged 85". The Australian. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  6. ^ a b Sean Fagan. "First Indigenous Rugby League Footballers". Archived from the original on 3 September 2008. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  7. ^ "Queensland Indigenous Greats Named". Queensland Rugby League. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  8. ^ J E Christison (2009). Ipswich Rugby League: The Bulimba Cup Era 1925 to 1972. J. E. Christison. ISBN 978-0-9806074-0-6.
  9. ^ Glenn Jackson (13 February 2010). "Pioneers' pride lives on, despite all the bruises". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  10. ^ "No Eligibility Dramas For Jones". Queensland Rugby League. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  11. ^ "Morgan, Lionel". Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved 17 September 2023. Morgan, Lionel Aboriginal rugby league player and the first indigenous player selected at test level. Milestone Born12 Aug 1938 Occupation Sportsperson
  12. ^ "'An inspiration and trailblazer': Indigenous rugby league player Lionel Morgan dies, aged 85". ABC News. 17 September 2023. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  13. ^ "Morgan among century's best". Wynnum Herald. 1 September 2008. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2008.
  14. ^ "Vale Lionel Morgan". National Rugby League. 17 September 2023. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  15. ^ "Modern stars join greats in Indigenous Team of Century". ABC News. 9 August 2008. Retrieved 10 August 2008.

General sources[edit]