Geoffrey Victor Bland
- 257Wallaby Number
Geoff Bland was a rugged and mobile lock forward who developed into a specialist line-out option for the Wallabies in the late 1920s / early 1930s. ‘A fine specimen of Australian manhood’ at 6ft. and 13st., Bland was also a star surf life saver with the North Steyne Surf Life Saving Club on Sydney’s Manly Beach. One of the best juniors that club ever possessed, Bland was said to be ‘almost invincible in surf and belt races’ and one of the best sweep oarsman in the state. So fond of the surf was Bland that he played his junior rugby with the North Steyne Surf XV from where he graduated to the Manly first grade side in 1925.
Two years later Bland was chosen to play for New South Wales ‘3’ in the trials ahead of the momentous Waratahs tour to North Hemisphere at the end of the year. When the squad for the tour was announced only 28 of the expected 29 names were released. In one of the more stunning selections, Bland secured the final spot when most experts thought that a flanker would be chosen. Nonetheless Bland was viewed a player who would perform ‘valiant service as a relieving man in the second row.’ Although he only played six games on tour, including two in Canada on the way home, Bland returned home a far better player for the experience.
The following season he was one of just three 27/28 Waratahs who were chosen to tour to New Zealand after no fewer than 13 players had either retired or ruled themselves unavailable, predominantly due to financial reasons, for consideration. Bland was chosen for the tour opener against Auckland only to break his nose and miss four matches including the first (two) ‘Tests’. He returned to play Southland and from there was selected for the third game against New Zealand in Christchurch which, some 66 years later, would be confirmed as his Test debut. That match was one of 34 that were retrospectively elevated to Test status by the ARU in order to recognise all New South Wales fixtures played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals had been granted Test status in 1986).
A week later Bland ran out against the Maori and although he would never know of it, he now had two Test caps. Incredibly Bland did not play another international for almost four years when he was recalled for each of the home series against New Zealand. His performances over those three Tests earned him a spot on the much-prized and inaugural Wallaby tour to South Africa in 1933. Bland played 15 matches, including four of the five Tests. In the second international at Durban he was chosen at No.8 in an all-Manly back-row that included Aub Hodgson and Bob Loudon. Australia won 21-6 to hand the Springboks their biggest home defeat on record and one that stood until the Lions’ 28-9 victory in 1974.
After the tour Bland announced his retirement from representative rugby and made his way to the United Kingdom where he sold insurance, coached and refereed in Glasgow, Scotland. Bland served as a lieutenant in the Irish Guards during World War II and saw action in both North Africa and Italy.
Geoff Bland played nine Tests for Australia in a six-year international career.
Bland won his first Test cap at lock in combination with Jack O’Connor in the 3rd Test, 11-8 victory over New Zealand at Lancaster Park. He picked up a second cap, this time at No.8 in the 8-9 loss to the Maori at Athletic Park.
Bland partnered Queensland’s Graham Cooke in the middle row for each of the three home defeats to New Zealand.
He played in four of the five Tests on the tour of South Africa however only two were played at lock. Bland started at flanker in the 1st Test 3-17 defeat at Newlands and at No.8 in the 21-6 victory at Durban. He missed a spot for the 3rd Test in Johannesburg but returned at lock for the final two internationals after Cooke was ruled out with an ankle injury.