- 490Wallaby Number
Jules Guerassimoff was a charismatic, ‘pugnaciously aggressive’, no-nonsense flanker who was part of a glorious period for Australian rugby. A relentless, dynamic and punishing tackler, Guerassimoff and his erstwhile partner Greg Davis terrorised inside backs across the globe. Guerassimoff possessed superlative fitness, speed off the mark and the skills to be a perfect linkman between the tight forwards and the backline.
His grandparents were white Russians who used falsified documents to leave Siberia and escape the oppression of the Communist government in the late 1920s. They jumped a Japanese ship and bribed the sailors to let them ashore at Hokkaido. The couple eventually found their way to Canada, then back to Japan, where Guerassimoff’s father met his mother and were married. In 1940 the family moved to Cape York in far north of Queensland and ten days later Jules was born.
Guerassimoff received his education at Rockhampton Grammar School and while there played rugby league. In 1958 he was accepted into the University of Queensland on a Commonwealth Scholarship and undertook a degree in Agricultural Science. Guerassimoff played his first rugby for the University and that same year made his debut in First Grade.
Guerassimoff then waited until 1962 before he played his first senior representative match, for Queensland against New Zealand at the Exhibition Ground. The following year he won selection for the Wallaby trials ahead of the tour to South Africa and in the Possibles v. Probables game his captain was rival NSW flanker Geoff Chapman. When Rupert Rosenblum was forced from the field with a bad concussion, Chapman shifted Guerassimoff to the unfamiliar environs of fly half. Remarkably he scored two unbelievable tries in just five minutes and when the squad was named Guerassimoff, and not Chapman, had clinched a back-row spot alongside Greg Davis, John O’Gorman, Dallas O’Neill, Ted Heinrich and David Shepherd. Guerassimoff was used sparingly in the opening matches however when given the opportunity ahead of the second Test, against a Rhodesian XV and then Rhodesia, he excelled. As a result Guerassimoff was rewarded with a Test debut at Newlands. Australia pulled off a shock 9-5 victory, South Africa’s first loss in 16 Tests, and his performance that day cemented Guerassimoff’s place in future Wallaby teams.
He played in 11 of the Wallabies’ next 14 Tests and in 1964 was accorded a rare achievement when selected as one of the greatest players of the year in the almanacs of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. Guerassimoff was chosen for the Fifth Wallabies tour to the British Isles, France and Canada in 1966/67, and played in three of the five Tests. He was an outspoken critic of the treatment handed out to hooker Ross Cullen who had been sent home for a biting incident in the uncapped match against Oxford and, rather suspiciously, was never again invited to play for Australia.
Jules Guerassimoff played 12 Tests for Australia in a five-year international career.
Guerassimoff won his first Test cap at flanker alongside Greg Davis and John O’Gorman in the 2nd Test, 9-5 win over South Africa in Cape Town. That backrow trio were retained for the final two Tests of that series.
Dallas O’Neill played No.8 in combination with Davis and Guerassimoff in the first two Tests of the away series against New Zealand. David Shepherd came in for O’Neill in the 3rd Test, 20-5 victory at Athletic Park where “Guerassimoff was undoubtedly Australia’s finest forward. His covering and crash tackles racked New Zealand time and again and he was also a driving force in broken play.”
Guerassimoff was unavailable for the first Test against South Africa due to a knee injury. He returned to the side of the scrum for the 2nd Test, 12-8 victory at Lang Park when Greg Davis was ruled out with a knee injury.
Shepherd, Davis and Guerassimoff formed the back row in both losses to the British Lions.
In his final international matches, Guerassimoff played three Tests on the flank against England, France and Ireland.