Eric de Courcy Gibbons
- 293Wallaby Number
‘Mike’ Gibbons was a gritty and courageous halfback who enjoyed a remarkable renaissance in international rugby when honoured with the vice-captaincy for the ultimately ill-fated Second Wallaby tour of Great Britain. Easily identifiable by his blond mop of hair, Gibbons weighed just 10st. ringing wet and stood a mere 5ft 5in. Rival forwards regularly punished him physically, more often than not illegally, in an effort to marginalise the significant influence he held over many a match. Nonetheless he was as ‘game as a fighting cock and always came back for more’.
One of the great servants for Sydney’s Northern Suburbs club, Gibbons play was hallmarked by his quick ruck clearances and dangerous running from the scrum base. Gibbons first came to prominence in 1933, the same year he scored Norths’ only try when they defeated Manly 8-6 to win their first ever rugby premiership. With Syd Malcolm retired, Gibbons earned his first taste of representative football in 1935 when he played for New South Wales against Queensland and later that same season started all three matches with the Maori.
The following year Gibbons continued good run of form saw him selected for the Wallaby tour to New Zealand where he played in XXX matches including his Test debut in Wellington. Unfortunately his position as the incumbent Wallaby halfback was usurped by Rhodes Scholar Jan McShane, who had returned from three years at Oxford, for the home series against South Africa in 1937 and a year later Gordon Stone and wunderkind Cec Ramalli who were preferred for the three Tests against New Zealand. Undeterred Gibbons continued to ply his trade and set his focus on the Second Wallabies tour to Great Britain. Despite having not played a Test for almost three years, Gibbons captained The Rest v. Australia in the final tour trial and was then named as vice-captain, under Queensland’s Vay Wilson, for the tour.
England declared war with Germany two days after the team arrived in Plymouth and the tour was abandoned. Upon his return home Gibbons enlisted in the AIF. In April 1941 he mobilised with the 91st Australian Transport Platoon and spent 13 months in the Middle East. Back in Australia Gibbons resumed his playing career with Norths and in 1946, rather incredibly, was still deemed good enough to be one of just three players, alongside Ron Rankin and Keith Windon, that were ‘expected to be selected’ for the 1947/48 Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. ‘Mike Gibbons’ played three Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.
Gibbons won his first Test cap at halfback, in partnership with ‘Shirts’ Richards, in the 1st Test, 6-11 loss to New Zealand at Athletic Park. Gibbons was retained at halfback for the 2nd Test, 13-38 defeat at Carisbrook and picked up a third cap in the 31-6 victory over the Maori in Palmerston North.