Remembering Dr Charles ‘Chilla’ Wilson – by Ken Donald

Dr Charles ‘Chilla’ Wilson, former Queensland and Wallabies representative passed away aged 85 on September 2nd, 2016. He was a UQ Club Stalwart, and will be dearly missed by the community.

Ken Donald spoke of their time together both on and off the field:

“I first met Chilla when I turned up at rugby training for UQ as a “fresher”.  I had played against Uni in the annual GPS Schools game the year before and I was nervous about this first attempt to join the UQ Rugby Team. As I warmed up at the old Victoria Park training ground Chilla dropped in beside me, jogged along and welcomed me. He told me how the team hoped I would become part of the plan and outlined what was expected of the wingers in the way they went about the game. He then queried my exam results and my study plans (later, others were surprised by the latter as attention to study was not considered Chilla’s first priority.)  He had however already showed me that this was a team game and that we were there to support one another.

Fast forward a few months and we were room mates in Sydney for my first Test against the All Blacks.  Early on the morning of the Test I was “hooked” by a conman who called from the hotel lobby. To cut an embarrassing story short “enter Chilla/ exit conman”. Team effort again. During the Test I got crushed on my first ball carry and later finished up with four broken bones in my right hand (no replacements in those days) and Chilla took time out from his struggles up front to check several times to see how things were going. The point here is that Chilla made major contributions to the game on the field as statistics show and importantly to the culture which makes it enjoyable and safe to play what is a game of controlled violence. Chilla was not chosen for the Wallaby tour of Britain that year (for which the team suffered) but out of the blue in 1958 he was chosen to captain the Wallabies to New Zealand. The records show that they took a Test from the All Blacks on their home soil a feat that was (and is) long over due. After that tour Chilla headed off to the UK ( now serious about study) and completed his specialist training in Obs and Gynae. Whilst there he played rugby for clubs and counties in several parts of Britain and represented at least two counties in matches against the All Blacks (I can just hear him reminding them of the result in NZ in 1958 during those UK games as well as after). On return to Australia he became captain coach of Wests in Brisbane to again make his contribution to the team game. Finally he retired from rugby and built his medical career.

Fast forward again to 1981.  I had been Wallaby manager since 1978, a period during which some of our best ever players and coaches were in the game, eg they had won and then defended the Bledisloe Cup. However my career and family made it time to go and on hearing this Chilla rang to make sure I was going before he decided to nominate. He pressed to make sure he was not undermining a team mate. He got the gig and managed the 1982 Grand Slam Tour of the UK.  Talk to the players and they label him “a player’s manager” ; it was about the team ,the game and how it should be done. In 1996 the ARU asked Chilla to join the Judiciary Panel of the ARU. Nobody could have been better suited to look after the safety and welfare of players on the field . So this was the story of a man who could play the game on the field at any level, who looked after his team mates, and made a contribution to the culture of the game which underpins the pleasure and safety of playing. As this short story tells it was to my pleasure and benefit that I had the chance from time to time to be part of his story. Ken”