Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
Great Britain beat NZ 6-3 in the first of a four test series. From Carisbrook in Dunedin a local 4YA staff member Alfred Laurie Canter was the commentator.
New South Wales and Australia
25 internationals for Australia 1980–84
uth Wales and Australia
6 internationals for Australia 1982–88
New South Wales and Australia
4 internationals for Australia 1982–85
Three brilliant Australian aboriginal brothers who, in combination at either school, club, state or international level, dazzled and delighted rugby crowds with their backline interplay.
The Ella brothers came from a modest family of 12 children in La Perouse, Sydney. Glen and Mark were twins and Gary was 13 months younger. Mark was a flyhalf possessed of brilliant balance, speed and intuition; Glen, a fullback who sometimes played as a centre, and Gary, a long-striding runner, who was used mostly as centre and occasionally on the wing.
The brothers first made headlines as schoolboys. Their uncanny understanding of each other’s play brought suggestions of telepathic aboriginal powers – when viewing some of their tries and plays it was often hard to argue otherwise. From Matraville High in suburban Sydney, all three made the 1977–78 Australian Secondary Schools touring team which went on a nine-week tour of the United Kingdom, France, Japan and the Netherlands.
The team went unbeaten in 16 games. Australian writers were quick to point out that only the 1924–25 All Black ‘Invincible’ team had done as well on tour in Britain. The team also scored 110 tries on the tour (averaging nearly eight a game), and between them the Ella brothers scored a quarter of all the points.
Everywhere the team went the Ella brothers were high in curiosity value for the media. Nor did they let the reporters down. They became stars of the Australian rugby scene before they had even left school. It was inevitable that in time their talents would be utilised in the Wallabies.
Mark was the first to make the grade. After having shone for his club Randwick, Sydney and New South Wales, he toured to Argentina with the Wallabies in 1979 and thereafter became a regular and vital member of Australian test sides. He was made captain for the Wallabies tour to New Zealand in 1982, when aged only 23, and led the team until 1984 when a new coach, Alan Jones, preferred Andrew Slack. That did not deter Ella from playing brilliant rugby and on the 1984 tour of Britain, though seemingly at odds on a personal level with Jones, he was one of the team’s brightest stars. He became the first touring player in Britain to score a try in each of the home internationals, a feat he had also achieved on the schoolboys’ tour seven years earlier (though that team did not play Scotland).
Mark Ella retired at the age of 25, having played 25 internationals, amid rumours that he could no longer tolerate playing in teams coached by Alan Jones. He resisted many lucrative offers to play rugby league and settled into a life as a businessman, TV commentator and newspaper columnist. He returned to Sydney club rugby in 1989 and also played and coached in Italy.
Twin brother Glen and younger brother Gary also played for Randwick in Sydney and both joined Mark in the Wallabies for the 1981–82 tour of Britain. Injuries damaged both their chances of playing consistently on that tour and neither joined Mark in the international matches.
The trio’s best tour for their country was to New Zealand in 1982. Mark was captain and, along with David Campese, he was the team’s star player. Glen was an excellent fullback but could not force his way into the test team ahead of Roger Gould. Gary’s form was such that he made the first two tests at centre. Once again the brothers’ consummate passing and mutual understanding surprised opposition backlines and astonished the hard-to-please New Zealand crowds.
Surprisingly the three Ella brothers never played together in a test match. Gary retired with a knee injury in 1986 and Glen bowed out after being part of yet another Randwick championship winning team in 1987. he became a top coach, leading Australia on many seven aside trips as well as being assistant coach for the Wallabies. Gary returned to play one test against the All Blacks in 1988.
Former Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer, who had coached the trio for Randwick and Australia, said ‘the influence of the Ella brothers on Australian rugby has been absolutely immeasurable.’ They were best summed up by the word that was coined by Australian journalists to describe their play – ‘Ellamagic!’
Which club supplied seven players of the 1971 British and Irish Lions touring team to New Zealand - five of whom played all four tests?