John Gordon Bain

Date Of BirthSeptember 17, 1927
Place of BirthSydney
SchoolSydney Grammar School
Debut ClubEastwood
DiedJuly 2, 2013
CapsUncapped on 1953 tour to South Africa


Born in Sydney in 1927, John Bain went to Sydney Grammar School, and joined the fledgling Eastwood Club after graduation. Allan Wilson wrote of Bain in Those Magnificent Men, the history of the Eastwood Club, of which he was their first Wallaby: “John Bain's close second placing in the Greater Public Schools' mile event at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1945 was described by the school magazine at the time as ‘an achievement of great determination’.“

While his whole-hearted effort did not immediately suggest that he could well be the first person to break the magical four-minute-mile barrier, that same determination to succeed would be later rewarded on the football field when he realised the dream of every Rugby player in this country – to be a Wallaby. At Sydney Grammar School, Bain played as a loose-head prop but was considered too small for representative selection.

After leaving school, he joined the Eastwood Juniors and was taken under the wing of coach Bert Gunns who advised him to switch to the hooking role.   It was wise counsel. An appearance with the Combined Western Districts junior team in 1946 was to be the first of many representative commitments during a long Rugby career. He moved into Eastwood's grade ranks in 1947 and played several matches with the reserves before becoming a regular first grade member from 1948. At an end-of-season dinner speech in 1948, Eastwood's coach, Tiger Broadhead, predicted that John Bain would play for Australia within five years. Tiger was uncannily accurate: generally regarded for some time as the fastest striker in the game, Bain was selected as a member of John Solomon's Wallaby side for its 1953 visit to South Africa.

He became Eastwood's first Australian representative. Although he failed to win a Test spot in any of the four internationals, Bain was an essential part of a team which engaged in a gruelling three-month , twenty-six match tour.

In his latter playing years with the club, he was captain-coach of a youthful fourth grade side for several seasons, when his presence was inspirational to the ‘nursery’ team. At various times, he was also club captain, first grade coach, selector, treasurer of the Management Committee, a licensed club committeeman, a director of VRG and Eastwood's delegate to the Sydney Rugby Union.

He was appointed an Australian selector in 1968 and was chairman of the three-man panel from 1974 until 1990. His administrative skills were acknowledged in 1976 when he was assigned to manage the Australian touring team to France. In tandem with the club he served so well, John Gordon Bain's association with Eastwood has spanned fifty years.

Three awards he highly values are honorary life memberships of the Eastwood DRUFC and the Australian Rugby Union and the Order of Australia Medal, bestowed upon him in 1993 ‘for his services to Rugby’.

When Bain went to Eastwood, there was a surfeit of hookers practising their craft:   Phil Mooney, Nev Cottrell, Don Furness, Wal Dawson, Keith Ellis and Jim Walsh. Despite various challenges, John Bain was selected as the 'second string' hooker in John Solomon's 1953 tour to South Africa. He had been selected after four trials. Wylie Breckenridge was a manager as was the legendary centre/winger Johnny Wallace.

There were eighteen caps in the team: Tom Sweeney, Saxon White, Gavan Horsley, Johnny Bosler, 'Mac' Hughes, Ned Morey and Bob Outterside, as well as Bain. Jim Walsh would be the Test hooker. At the time of his selection Bain was 25 years of age, 5 ft 8 inches in height and 190 pounds in weight. As Ian Diehm wrote in Giants In Green And Gold: “At no time did the Wallabies match a South African forward pack. Technique was missing.”

Bain did not play in a Test, but he was in 11 provincial matches, against Transvaal Universities (22-14), Transvaal XV (20-18), Rhodesia (8-8), Griqualand West (8-13), South Western Districts (34-11), Eastern Province 16-11), Border (9-6), Griqualand West (11-6), Western Province Universities (5-24), Border (24-13) and Eastern Province Country Districts (39-17).

The team in his initial non-Test match for Australia was Ray Colbert, Saxon White, Jim Phipps, Herb Barker, Garth Jones, 'Spanner' Brown, Cyril Burke, Max Elliott, John Bain, Bob Davidson, Dave Brockhoff, Alan Cameron, 'Nick' Shehadie (capt.), Bob Outterside and 'Mac' Hughes.

This South African trip was the highlight of his rugby playing career, with 11 matches, but he was to make an even greater contribution as an Australian selector and coach. Barry Want said of him: “John Bain's story is really a story of a rugby life, where the game took precedence over nearly every other aspect of his life..... John Bain was a true rugby son, the likes of which, in the now professional era, we are unlikely to see again.”

John Gordon Bain