The Australian Rugby community is mourning the loss of one-cap Wallaby Gavan Horsley, who passed away last weekend, aged 89.
Gavan Horsley was a strongly built, flying three-quarters who had the misfortune of his representative career to coincide with two magnificent Wallaby wingers in Eddie Stapleton and Garth Jones. A prolific try-scorer and solid defender, Horsley’s surf lifesaver physique was more suited to the centres rather than the wing.
It was in the water that Horsley first came to prominence. An outstanding junior beltman, Horsley joined the Burleigh Heads life-saving club. In 1950, aged 17, he bravely rescued his club mate Leo Ryan who was attacked by a shark. Horsley swam out with a belt and, although the shark continued to circle, saved Ryan. The Royal Humane Society awarded Horsley a silver medal for his effort.
Horsley played his club Rugby with GPS after graduating from ‘Churchie’ and making his representative debut for Queensland in 1952, aged just 19. Early the following year, Horsley emerged a strong chance of selection for the Wallaby tour to South Africa after he was selected to play for ‘The Rest’ in the final trial against Australia. Horsley was chosen for the tour, played in 12 matches, and scored a team-high 14 tries but missed out to Jones and Stapleton for the Tests.
Horsley was injured when he played for Queensland against Fiji the following year. Nonetheless, he was named in the centres to make his Test debut in Brisbane but eventually withdrew because of injury.
He was again selected to make his Wallaby debut against Fiji on the right-wing in Sydney. Unfortunately, it was a game of few opportunities for the outside backs and ended on a sour note with a disputed penalty that allowed Fiji to convert the decisive penalty goal.
Horsley played one further season with Queensland and ended his playing career at just 22 to devote his time to a career which took him to Malaysia, Melbourne and later to Perth. He maintained an interest in Rugby and in 1971 became a State and Australian selector.
Gavan is survived by children Chris, Susan and Meredith, and grandchildren Tom, Nichola, Cameron, Jake, Charlie, Matthew, Max and Will.
Gavan Horsley played one Test for Australia. He was and will forever be Wallaby #407.