Alfred Ernest Rainbow
- 210Wallaby Number
Alf Rainbow was a scholar, a traveller, a lawyer and a sportsman who fell victim to one of the great selection dramas in the history of Test rugby. Although born in London, Rainbow spent his youth in Sydney, where he attended The King’s School, Parramatta and played in both the 1st XI (1918) and the 1st XV (1919). After school he returned to England and studied at Cambridge University. While there, Rainbow won a ‘Blue’ for rugby, played a season with London Welsh, and finally graduated with first class honours as a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. Upon his return to Australia, Rainbow was called to the New South Wales Bar (1923) from where he built a large practice in the Workers’ Compensation jurisdiction.
Rainbow joined the Eastern Suburbs club and immediately found himself in the 1925 first grade side. At Easts he impressed with his ironclad defence and as a ‘sparkling attacking player’ who was ‘very clever at making openings’ for his outside supports. Rainbow’s ‘consistent form’ saw him selected as captain for the 2nd XV v 1st XV trial ahead of the inbound tour from New Zealand and from there he was named in the run-on XV for the first Test. Unfortunately the home side were humbled 3-26 and then four days later a NSW 2nd XV stunned the visitors 18-16. As a consequence of those two results one of the great selection culls of all-time saw 11 of the starting 2nd XV chosen for the second Test.
Five of the first Test run-on XV, Rainbow included, never played ‘Test’ rugby again. . Although Rainbow did not know it at the time the first international of that series was his official Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986). Rainbow continued to play for Easts through to the end of the 1929 season before he retired in order to concentrate on his legal career.
In June 1946, Rainbow was appointed Judge in the NSW Workers’ Compensation Commission. “Beyond his judicial duties lay the field of prison reform and the rehabilitation of prisoners, to which for many years he devoted his energy and talents. While his playing days were over, Rainbow went on to have a distinguished career as President of the Australian Rugby Union (1952-54) and President of the NSWRU (1960-62). Alf Rainbow played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #210.
Rainbow won his first Test cap at fly half, in partnership with ‘Oney’ Humphreys, in the 1st Test, 3-26 loss to New Zealand at the Sydney Showgrounds.