“I was with Ray until the end.”
Sam Haron wasn’t anyone special or significant to the greater public. He was an average person enjoying his life. In 1933, he managed to begin the greatest dream of his life, to tour with the Australian Rugby League Kangaroo’s to England, on board the S.S. Jervis Bay as a Rugby League enthusiast.
Players and fans mingled and exercised with each other on board the ship, all becoming well known to each other as friends, not as prominent sportsmen and lowly supporters.
On board the vessel were the 1933-34 Kangaroo’s, en-route to England. Some of the game’s greatest players were on board; Dave Brown, Wally Prigg, Sandy Pearce, Vic Hey, Ray Stehr, Frank McMillan and Viv Thicknesse among a cavalcade of the games stars.
One of those players was a pioneer, the first ever test player for the ailing University club, Ray Morris. Ray began his career in third grade at Western Suburbs before very quickly moving up through the ranks to first grade in 1927.
Morris continued improving his game over the ensuing years. In 1931 he was selected for City on the wing against Country, scoring a try on debut. He was selected against Country in 1932 on the wing, again scoring a try. In 1933 he was selected for the Australian team after a stellar season with his new club University.
The 25 year old, who was an exceptionally fine surf swimmer and clever amateur wrestler, became the ideal man to lead the physical training sessions on board the S.S. Jervis Bay as it steadily made way for England.
Just days after the departure from Western Australia, Morris began his training regimes on the ships which included aerobics, boxing and shovelling coal. He believed it was necessary to vary the exercise to maximise its effects and to prevent the players from being bored.
In one of the boxing sessions, Morris received a blow to the ear. He wasn’t affected initially and continued training. Later in the day he complained of a pain in his ear to the team doctor, who treated it accordingly.
Initially the treatment was ineffective, but eventually the pain dissipated. The ship stopped over at Colombo and the players spent a day relaxing. Morris took the opportunity to go for a swim in a local swimming pool.
Within the next day, after the ship had set sail, Morris’ ear problems returned, this time more seriously. The doctors had him confined to the ship’s hospital quarters for ten days while his condition was constantly observed. Each day he grew weaker.
After just one month on the ship Ray Morris had gone from one of the fittest and strongest men to gravely ill. Doctor Gordon and Doctor Clough consulted and agreed to send a wireless message to Valetta in Malta, for an ear specialist to meet the ship upon its arrival so that Morris’ condition could be analysed by a specialist.
The next day, Morris was taken ashore to the Blue Sisters’ Hospital in Valetta, where he was immediately attended to by Doctor Vella. The news was not good from the specialist and he announced that Morris would require immediate surgery.
Harry Sunderland, the manager of the Kangaroo’s had to decide whether to stay in Malta or to sail on and honour the tour program.
Sam Haron said he would stay with Morris in Malta to comfort him while in hospital, so that the team could continue to England without delay.
Reluctantly, the ship set sail the next day without their beloved team mate, while Haron began a bedside vigil for Morris in his hour of need.
It was found that Morris had ruptured his eardrum and the injury became infected while bathing in Colombo. Dr Vella feared that Morris was suffering from meningitis. He told Haron to take some time off while Morris was being operated on. Sam went for a drive around Malta to see the sights. He arrived back at the hospital the next day.
“…on my return Ray asked me about my trip and seemed cheerful, but early next morning I awakened feeling instinctively that all was not well.”
Haron called the doctor but there was little they could do and Morris died a few hours later, with Sam by his side.
“Ray knew that he was dying. He gripped my hand, mentioned his mother, and then died peacefully.”
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com