Sydney Albert ‘Syd’ MiddletonDSO, OBE (24 February 1884 – 2 September 1945) was an Australian Army officer and national representative rugby union player and rower. He won a gold medal in rugby at the 1908 Summer Olympics and competed in rowing at the 1912 Summer Olympics.
He captained the Wallabies in a Test series in 1910. As a rower he was twice an Australian national champion and won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1912. He had a distinguished career in World War I being awarded the DSO and later an OBE.He was a member of the AIF crew which won at the 1919 Peace Regatta and brought the King’s Cup to Australia.
Middleton commenced his rugby career with the Glebe Rugby Club—the Sydney suburb of his birth. His first representative appearance was for New South Wales in the interstate series against Queensland in 1908 which performance saw him selected for New South Wales against the touring Anglo-Welsh side of 1908. He was in the right place at the right time and was selected in Australia’s inaugural national rugby team to tour the northern hemisphere – Dr Paddy Moran‘s First Wallabies. The tour was a long one—36 matches and Middleton would prove to be a reliable member of the party appearing in 31 of the Wallabies matches. He was the second tallest player in the squad which meant he featured in the Australian line-out. But he was also a robust defender at his physical peak and he was selected in every one of the tour’s first eighteen games.
At the time the rugby tournament for the London Olympics game may not have appeared to be of great significance. Australia had already beaten Cornwall, the British county champions early in the tour and Scotland, Ireland and France had all turned down the Rugby Football Union‘s invitation to participate in the Olympic bouts. Neither the tour captain Moran, nor the vice-captain Fred Wood played, so Middleton’s club captain Chris McKivat led the Wallabies to an easy 32–3 victory and to Olympic glory, with each Wallaby in that match thereafter an Olympic gold medallist.
Syd Middleton made his Test debut on that tour at Rectory Field, Blackheath in the Test against England in January 1909. At the tour’s end McKivat would lead fourteen of the Wallabies into the professional ranks with the fledgling rugby league code in Sydney, but Middleton was not interested. He stayed loyal to the amateur game and was rewarded in 1910 when he captained New South Wales in matches against the All Blacks and the New Zealand Māori. That year he captained the Australian national side in three Tests against the All Blacks, one of which was won. All told he made 33 national appearances for Australia including four Tests, three as captain.