Albert Aaron Rosenfeld – Rugby League Pioneer

From Australia’s Jewish Past:

Albert "Rozzy" Rosenfeld

One of Australia’s greatest rugby league heroes

First published in J-Wire February 16, 2022

ALbert “Rozzy” Rosenfeld at Huddersfield

The son of a Jewish tailor, Albert Aaron Rosenfeld, known as ‘’Rozzy’’, was born on 28 July 1885.

He pioneered Australian Rugby League, as a foundation player in the New South Wales Rugby Football League, which had split from the established New South Wales Rugby Football Union.

His first game was for the Eastern Suburbs Club in the Australian inaugural season 1908/1909. This took place on Easter Monday 1908 in the Easts’ team that beat Newtown 32-16.

Albert (Rozzy) Rosenfeld (back row, far right) with 1908 Kangaroos
Albert (Rozzy) Rosenfeld (back row, far right) with 1908 Kangaroos

He represented his country in four Test Matches, making his Test debut in Australia’s first-ever international series against New Zealand in 1908 where he played in all three matches. Later that season he was selected for Australia’s inaugural Kangaroo Tour (1908/09), making one Test appearance and playing in 13 minor representative matches. Rozzy set a number of try-scoring records, including the Standing World First-grade Record of 80 tries in a season in 1913/1914.

1908 Kangaroos team pictured in their street clothes standing in front of a fine house. The team mascot, a small kangaroo, is standing in front of the team.
Albert (Rozzy) Rosenfeld centre (under the lamp) with the 1908 Kangaroos

Whilst on tour in England, he married Ethel Barrand and they had one son. The local club – Huddersfield-moved him to the wing position and he became a try-scoring sensation. In the English season of 1911/12, he set a new try-scoring record for one season with 78 tries, only to better two seasons later by scoring 80. To date, neither mark has been beaten in England or Australia. The nearest anyone has come was 72, coincidentally by another Australian and former Eastern Suburbs player, Brian Bevan, also playing in England in the 1952/53 season.

Other clubs Rozzy played for included Bradford Northern and Wakefield Trinity (Heritage No 277), where he played right wing in the Wakefield Trinity‘s 3-29 defeat by Australia in the 1921/22 Kangaroo Tour of Great Britain match at Belle Vue, Wakefield on 22 October 1921.

His phenomenal try-scoring record is all the more amazing, considering his career was interrupted by three years of active service in the British Army from 1916 to 1919 in the Mesopotamian Campaign.

His rugby career spanned from 1908 to 1924. During this time he scored 391 tries with these try-scoring feats earning him a place in the British Rugby League Hall of Fame in 1988. In 2005, he was accepted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame with his official induction to take place at the 2009 Maccabiah Games. He is one of only two rugby league players to be so honoured. Albert (Rozzy) Rosenfeld was awarded Life Membership of the New South Wales Rugby League in 1914.

He retired at the age of thirty-nine and lived out his life in Huddersfield. He owned a tobacco shop and worked as a van driver, as well as in a local dye house.

Unfortunately, his son Albert ‘Aussie’ Rosenfeld died following a speedway accident on 6 July 1946, during a crash that took him into the fence at Odsal Stadium England, with 34,000 spectators. He died on 16 July in hospital.

In February 2008, he was named in the list of Australia’s 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code’s centenary year in Australia.

Rozzie died aged 85 years on 16 January 1998 and was the last of the inaugural Kangaroo Tourists to die.

From Australia's Jewish Past is written by Ruth Lilian OAM for AJHS and published weekly in J-Wire. ​