Andrew John Cairns
Andrew Cairns was a livewire halfback who, like many very good number nines down the years, had the misfortune to find his career coincided with that of a world class, Australian great. To put some perspective around that statement one has to look no further than the fact that as at the end of 2019 just four halfbacks - George Gregan, Will Genia, Nick Farr-Jones and John Hipwell - had collectively started in more than half of Australia’s 641 Test matches.
In Cairns’ case it was Farr-Jones, the 1991 Rugby World Cup winning captain and future Wallaby Hall of Fame inductee. To make matters even more difficult for Cairns was the presence of Queensland’s Peter Slattery, who himself patiently sat unused behind Farr-Jones for 32 Tests between 1985 and 1993.
Born in Sydney, Cairns was educated at Canberra Grammar before he moved to Sydney and attended St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill - Australia’s premier rugby nursery. In 1985 he played for the school’s premiership winning undefeated 2nd XV and the following year was a member of the 1st XV that swept its way to the GPS title. Cairns’ performances were rewarded with selection in the GPS 1st XV, NSW ‘B’ - behind The Armidale School’s Michael Forsythe - and finally for Australian Schools on their tour to New Zealand.
In 1988 Cairns, alongside fellow future Wallabies Phil Kearns (captain), Matt Ryan, Andrew Blades, John Ross, Scott Gourlay, Paul Kahl, Richard Tombs and Darren Junee - as a well as future national coach Michael Cheika - was part of the Australian U21s side that posted a rare victory over New Zealand U21s. A year later Cairns played his first senior representative match, for City v. Country before he made his state debut in the 28-13 win over the ACT. He also kept his name firmly in front of the selectors with four tries for a President’s XV against the Australian Institute of Sport in the curtain raiser to the third Lions’ Test.
In 1990 Cairns was called onto the Wallabies’ tour of New Zealand in quite unique circumstances. Farr-Jones strained a hamstring against Otago a week out from the second Test. As a consequence the selectors chose to put his deputy - Slattery - ‘on ice’ just in case the captain didn’t recover in time therefore a third halfback was required for the mid-week fixture with North Auckland. Cairns joined the tour on the Monday and debuted in the 28-14 victory at Whangarei after which coach Bob Dwyer expressed ‘delight’ at his new halfback’s performance. “Andrew played very well, showing great composure for his first game - he’s a big plus for us,” Dwyer said. As a non-playing member of the touring squad, a.k.a. a “double dirty”, Cairns remained in New Zealand for the 17-27 second Test loss in Wellington, sat unused on the bench for the midweek match against North Harbour and then returned home.
Later that same year Cairns and Slattery were chosen for the Emerging Wallabies tour to Europe before both were named, alongside Farr-Jones, in the revised 1991 Rugby World Cup squad of 36. In late 1992 Cairns was also selected in a 43 man Wallaby training squad for the 1993 season.
Cairns returned to Canberra in 1995 only to find his opportunities at representative level limited by then new Wallaby halfback George Gregan. Nonetheless Cairns did represent an ACT President’s XV against France on their 1997 tour. He ended his first grade career in 1998 as a member of the John I Dent cup premiership winning Tuggeranong Vikings.
Represented Australian Schools in their 8-18 loss to New Zealand in Christchurch.
Represented Australian U21s when they defeated New Zealand 24-19 in the curtain raiser to the Australia vs. New Zealand Test at Ballymore.
Cairns started at halfback for Australia in the uncapped tour match against North Auckland.