Anthony Abrahams (1962), OC of the Year 2015

Anthony Abrahams (1962), lawyer and former Wallaby, is one of only four old Cranbrookians to have represented Australia in rugby.

In his final year at Cranbrook, in 1962, Abrahams was selected for the School’s 1st XV and for the Combined Associated Schools’ 1st XV. At the University of Sydney, where he studied Arts/Law, his rugby career blossomed further: having joined the university rugby club, he was soon promoted to first grade and in 1964 won a Varsity Blue; in the same year, he also began playing for the NSW team.

In 1969, he was selected in the Wallaby team for the Test against Wales. The next day, he departed with the Wallabies for South Africa, little realising that he would not return for some twenty eight years.

At the time, Abrahams had become concerned about the morality of touring South Africa while the apartheid system continued there.  Abrahams took counsel from a number of people, the majority of whom encouraged him to see the country for himself. However, once there, he became increasingly concerned about the political situation, not only there but also in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), whose mostly white government had unilaterally declared independence from the United Kingdom. As a result, Abrahams asked not to be selected for the fourth match of the tour against Rhodesia, and Wallaby management acceded to that request.

Following the tour, Abrahams hitch-hiked through Central and Eastern Africa. Along the way, he had a letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald that helped to trigger the apartheid debate in Australia,: questioning the morality of maintaining sporting ties with a country that included race as a selection criterion for its national teams.

By 1970, he had moved to France to begin work for the international law firm Clifford Turner, but his concern about the political situation in South Africa had not dimmed, and its team was due to tour Australia the following year.

In Australia, a campaign was started in 1971 to prevent the Springboks from touring, at the forefront of which were six ex-Wallabies who had also attended Sydney University: Abrahams, Jim Roxburgh, Jim Boyce, Paul Darveniza (1962), Terry Foreman and Barry McDonald (1957). Although the tour did ultimately go ahead, the campaign affected sporting contacts between Australia and South Africa so much that the upcoming South African cricket tour was cancelled. The Wallabies did not play the Springboks for another 21 years.

Back in Paris, Abrahams continued working for Clifford Turner – later to become Clifford Chance. Working principally in the fields of property and construction, Abrahams became a partner in 1974 and remained with the firm for twenty six years, working mostly in the French language. . 

On his return to Sydney, Abrahams accepted a position with KPMG Legal, heading up that firm’s construction and infrastructure group.

Abrahams now lives with his partner Wendy Sillence, between his home in Sydney and a “small farm” in the Southern Highlands whilst continuing his long relationship with French-Australian institutions, currently as a member of the State Council of the French Australian Chamber of Commerce.