Gary Edward Gainsford
Gary Gainsford, a diminutive and courageous half-back, was plucked from Sydney’s second tier club competition and became part of history as Australia won the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 30 years.
A loyal servant of Sydney’s St. George club and a long term first selection for the Australian Barbarians, Gainsford played his first rugby aged eight for the Oatley Rugby Club. With rugby not played at Hurstville Boys’ High School, Gainsford remained with Oatley for a decade although he did play four seasons of rugby league with his schoolmates.
In 1974, Gainsford won selection for St. George’s first-grade Colts side and from there was chosen for New South Wales Colts. The following season he moved into the senior grades and in quick time had found his way into first-grade. Gainsford’s star continued to shine when that first-grade debut was quickly followed by an invitation to play for Tony ‘Slaggy’ Miller’s XV, a match that kicked off his career with the Australian Baa Baas.
Unfortunately, the presence of Peter Carson, Gary Grey and David Forsythe meant that the opportunity for further representative honours were limited. Nonetheless, Gainsford was in the match day squads for several notable victories in the late 1970s, notably in 1978 - as a reserve behind Carson - when Laurie Monaghan banged over a ‘monumental’ dropped goal for Sydney to upset Wales 18-16 and in 1979 - again as back-up to Carson - when Sydney inflicted Ireland’s only loss on their eight-match tour.
That same season a confluence of circumstances saw Gainsford become a Wallaby when New Zealand came to Australia for a one-off Bledisloe Cup test. Rod Hauser was initially selected as the halfback reserve to Carson however the Queensland number nine advised selectors that he would be unable to join the team. Manly’s Phil Cox was drafted in to replace the unavailable Hauser but failed to pass a medical examination on a bruised knee suffered in a club match against Gordon. With game day fast approaching, Gainsford rather than NSW Country’s Forsythe was the “shock” call-up to the reserves bench. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Brian Mossop wrote: “The shock move rockets Gainsford out of the relative obscurity of second division and on to the fringe of battle against one of the world's top Rugby sides." In a tryless fixture, one in which Gainsford was left unused on the bench, the Wallabies edged New Zealand 12-6 to win the cup on home soil for the first time since 1934.
In 1980 Gainsford trained with the Wallaby squad before he made the difficult decision to retire from representative rugby. It wasn’t that he did not possess the ability or the desire to do so but being in the match day squad, and often left on the bench, meant that Gainsford was not permitted to play club rugby. His love for the game and a desire to help St. George climb out of second division ultimately usurped further opportunities to play at the highest level.
Two knee reconstructions, a move to South Australia, a season with Gordon before a return to Oatley as captain coach followed before the second of the knee surgeries saw Gainsford retire from the game 1987.
Gary Gainsford played more than 100 first grade games for St. George, two matches for Sydney and represented South Australia in the 1983 Southern States Cup.
Gainsford was an unused reserve for Australia in the one-off, 12-6 Bledisloe Cup win over New Zealand at the S.C.G.