Gary Albert Ella
- 625Wallaby Number
Gary Ella was an outside centre of few shortcomings who possessed great hands, an innate ability to set up his support and so underplayed his game that it was easy to overlook his significant contribution. Ella performed with both grace and ease, and he effortlessly glided through the narrowest of gaps using sharp acceleration and subtle footwork. Unfortunately a horrendous knee injury robbed him of a yard of pace and stole years from his rugby prime.
Born in Sydney and educated at Matraville High School, Ella was a member of the undefeated 1977/78 ‘Invincibles’ Australian Schools side. It is arguable that there has never been a better schoolboys backline than the one Australia fielded against Wales on that tour - 9. Dominic Vaughan; 10. Mark Ella; 11. Michael O’Connor; 12. Tony Melrose; 13. Gary Ella; 14. Michael Hawker; and 15. Glen Ella. Upon his return Gary and his brothers joined Randwick where they ran riot week in, week out in the Shute Shield competition until Gary was hurt.
Eight days before his 18th birthday Ella played in a challenge match between the leaders of the Sydney and ACT (Wests) competitions. In that match Ella tore the lateral and collateral ligaments in his knee. He missed the next seven months but never completely recovered. Worse still, ongoing issues led to several further surgeries in the ensuing years. In 1981 Gary made his debuts for Sydney against Victoria and for New South Wales against Manawatu. At the end of that season he was selected for the Seventh Wallabies on their tour of the U.K. and Ireland, and while not capped he gained immeasurably from the experience.
The three Ella brothers were named for the 1982 tour of New Zealand and Gary earned his Test debut in the first Test at Lancaster Park. Ella toured to Italy and France in 1983 and played in the two French Testsbefore ongoing knee issues and questionable selections saw him miss spots on the ‘Grand Slam’ tour and in the Wallaby squad for the inaugural Rugby World Cup.In 1988, and with Slack retired, Ella returned to the side and won his final two Test caps.
Gary Ella played six Tests for Australia in a seven-year, three season international career.
Represented Australian Schools against Japanese Schools, Ireland Schools, Wales Schools, England Schools and Dutch Youth
Represented Australian U21s against New Zealand U21s
Ella won his first Test cap at outside centre with Michael Hawker on his inside in the 1st Test, 16-23 loss to New Zealand at Lancaster Park. He and Hawker retained their spots for the 2nd Test, 19-16 victory in Wellington.
Andrew Slack played alongside Hawker in the four domestic Tests and in the one-off Test against Italy in Rovigo before Slack was replaced by Ella for the 1st Test, 15-15 draw against France at Clermont-Ferrand. Ella held his spot for the 6-15, 2nd Test loss in Paris.
More than four-and-a-half years after his fourth cap Ella picked up his fifth and sixth caps outside Michael Cook in the 2nd Test, 28-8 victory over England in Sydney and the 1st Test, 7-32 loss to New Zealand at Concord.