George Musarurwa Gregan
- 717Wallaby Number
George Gregan’s middle name is Musarurwa. In essence it means ‘The Chosen One’ and Gregan was just that, given he represented Australia in a record 139 Tests. A brilliant on-field general, Gregan was resolute, determined, and fiercely dedicated. He was near-impregnable, tactically astute and an exceptional defender. Gregan was the Wallabies’ talisman.
A diminutive halfback, Gregan was born in Lusaka, Zambia. At ten months of age, his family moved back to Australia and settled in the ACT. Gregan played rugby league until he started his school days at St Edmund's College. He was an exceptional sportsman who earned a single-figure handicap in golf and played representative cricket. In 1992 he was offered and accepted a rugby scholarship to the Institute of Sport. That same year he represented Australia at U19s level and in 1993 he played U21s and debuted for the ACT.
In 1994 Gregan made his Test debut against Italy in Brisbane. Three matches into his international career Gregan became a household name after he left an indelible mark on Australian rugby. In the one-off Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney, and with only a few minutes left on the clock, Australia clung to a 20-16 lead. The All Blacks were on attack and winger Jeff Wilson received the ball some 30 metres out from the Wallaby line. Wilson stepped inside Damian Smith, evaded the tackle of David Wilson, stepped inside David Campese and was all but over the line to score what would have been the equalising try when he was corner-flagged by Gregan and dropped the ball. Australia hung on for a dramatic win.
From that point on Gregan was a near permanent selection in the team. He missed just 17 Tests across 14 seasons. Chris Whitaker, who was Gregan’s deputy for much of his tenure, spent 48 full Tests patiently warming the bench behind him. Gregan played in four Rugby World Cups, winning the 1999 title. He won the Bledisloe Cup twice and retained it for four years. He also won two Tri Nations titles and two Super Rugby championships. In 2004 Gregan was appointed to the Order of Australia for his services to rugby and in 2013 he was inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame.
Gregan played a record 139 Tests for Australia and was captain for a record 59 matches in a decorated 14-year international career.
Represented Australian U19s against New Zealand U19s. The Australian side included fellow future Wallabies Dan Herbert, Pat Howard, Brendan Cannon and Fletcher Dyson.
Represented Australian U21s
Gregan warmed the bench for the two home Tests against Ireland before he won his first Test cap in the run-on XV at No.9 in the 23-20, 1st Test win over Italy in Brisbane. He scored his first Test try in the 73-3 victory against Western Samoa in Sydney. Gregan finished the season with four caps, the last of which was earned in the one-off 20-16 Bledisloe Cup-winning Test against New Zealand in Sydney.
Gregan started both Tests against Argentina and was selected to his first Rugby World Cup. He played in all four matches but came off the bench in the pool game against Canada. Following Australia’s disappointing performance in South Africa the Wallaby selectors chose near-unknown Singleton halfback Steve Merrick for the two Bledisloe Cup matches.
Gregan played eight Tests, seven as the run-on halfback however he did cede the No.9 jersey to Sam Payne for three successive matches - Wales in Sydney, Canada in Brisbane and New Zealand in Wellington.
Gregan started all 12 Tests at halfback in 12 Tests
Gregan played No.9 in 12 of the 13 Wallaby internationals. He was rested for the Rugby World Cup qualifier against Tonga in Canberra.
Gregan was capped in 12 Tests and was selected to his second Rugby World Cup. He won his 50th Test cap in the 57-9 pool game win over Romania in Belfast. Gregan played in five of Australia’s six matches and his inside flick pass to flanker Owen Finegan in the final against France set up the title-sealing try for Australia.
Gregan started in each of the three domestic Tests and all four Tri Nations matches but did not go on the Sprint Tour due to nerve damage in his neck.
He was selected in all 11 Wallaby Tests of 2001. Gregan played every minute of three high-octane encounters against the British & Irish Lions. Following the retirement of John Eales, Gregan became the 70th Wallaby to captain his country when he led Australia against Spain in Madrid.
Gregan captained Australia in all 10 Tests of 2002.
He led the Wallabies in 13 of their 14 internationals (Chris Whitaker captained the side against Namibia in Adelaide) and was selected to his third Rugby World Cup.
Gregan was captain in all but one of the 12 Tests played during the year. He missed the 1st Test, 7-16 loss to New Zealand in Wellington after he injured his AC joint in the Pacific Islanders’ Test in Adelaide. When Gregan led Australia out for the 2nd Test, 23-18 defeat of New Zealand in Sydney he broke John Eales’ Australian record of 32 matches as captain. He played his 100th Test in the 30-26, 1st Test victory over South Africa in Perth.
Gregan did not play in the opening Test against Samoa but captained from halfback in each of the final 12 internationals.
He won caps in each of the opening nine Tests, eight as captain, but was rested for the end-of-season Spring Tour after a recurrence of his nerve injury from 2000.
In his final season of international rugby Gregan won 12 caps, started in nine Tests, and won selection to his fourth Rugby World Cup. His final match as captain was the 55-12 pool game win over Fiji in Montpellier.