Mark Edward Loane
- 560Wallaby Number
Mark Loane is universally held to be the premier number eight in Australian rugby history. Well-built, solid and fast, Loane exuded power. He strode onto the field like a colossus. His performances were 80 minute displays of sheer speed and strength. Somewhat of a perfectionist, he had certain obsessive qualities, an obvious single-minded commitment and exceptional self-discipline. Although a fiercely determined competitor he was always scrupulously fair. Loane was the focal point of Queensland and Australian rugby’s renaissance in the late 1970’s.
Born in Ipswich, Loane attended Christian Brothers College, Gympie before he was sent to Nudgee College as a boarder. It did not take him long to fit into the rugby ethos of the school. Loane gravitated to The University of Queensland Rugby Club, largely because that was where he studied, and came under the influence of Jules Guerassimoff (Wallaby #490) and former captain ‘Chilla’ Wilson (Wallaby #424).
In May of 1973 he made his debut for Queensland against Sydney. His subsequent performance against New South Wales was so impressive that within six weeks, and still shy of this 19th birthday, Loane became the youngest Australian forward to make his Test debut since Frank Hutchison (Wallaby #294) in 1936 when chosen to face Tonga in Sydney. Australia won quite convincingly however the second Test in Brisbane became memorable for all the wrong reasons as the Wallabies were sensationally beaten 11-16 in one of the great all-time upsets. Before the match Loane was told that he was to remain in the scrum until it had broken up. As a result the Tongans exploited him, not once, but twice. Journalist Evan Whitton inferred that Loane would never be capped again. Loane later said that was the last time he took notice of anyone on how to play his position. Both he and coach Bob Templeton were sacked in the wake of the loss however Loane only missed two Tests while Templeton was not given another look in for eight seasons.
Loane returned for the opening Test against New Zealand in 1974 where he played ‘like a train with no station’ however a broken hand forced him to miss the rest of a series in which the Wallabies regained much of their recently lost respectability.
Loane toured with the Sixth Wallabies in 1975/76 before a hamstring injury saw him miss six weeks and two internationals. Unfortunately a severely damaged hamstring then cruelled him for much of his first tour to New Zealand in 1978. The following year he was honoured with the captaincy and led Australia to its first Bledisloe Cup win since 1949. After the end of season tour to Argentina, Loane left for South Africa, ostensibly to gain medical experience and play a little rugby. He captained both Natal, where he played in an all-Wallaby backrow with Gary Pearse and Dick Cocks, and the South African Barbarians against the British Lions.
Loane was made a Junior Springbok and looked set to play Test rugby for South Africa when he returned to Australia in order to secure a spot on the Seventh Wallabies tour of Britain. Loane was arguably at the peak of his powers on that tour, played a remarkable 17 of the 23 matches, including all Tests, and captained against England at Twickenham. Loane signed off on his rugby career in 1982 when he led Australia to a record 33-9 defeat of Scotland in Sydney.
Mark Loane played 28 Tests for Australia, six as captain, in a 10-year international career. A medical career and a desire to test himself against the best in South Africa while they were in isolation impacted those statistics. Nonetheless during his time in Wallaby gold, Mark Loane was almost without peer.
He was inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame in 2007.
Loane won his first Test cap at No.8 alongside Peter Sullivan and Dick Cocks in the 1st Test, 30-12 victory over Tonga in Sydney. That backrow was retained for the 2nd Test, 11-6 loss at Ballymore.
Loane played at No.8 in combination with two debutants - Ray Price and John Lambie - in the 1st Test, 6-11 loss to New Zealand at the S.C.G. A broken hand ruled him out of the final two Tests in that series.
He partnered Price and Tony Shaw in both home wins against England and scored his first Test try in the 16-9 win at the S.C.G. Loane also started at No.8 in the two Test victories over Japan.
A hamstring injury forced him to miss the Scotland and Wales Tests on the Sixth Wallabies tour of the U.K. however he returned with Shaw and Greg Cornelsen for the 6-23 loss to England, and then Shaw and Gary Pearse for the 20-10 victory over Ireland.
Loane, Pearse and Shaw were the back row for each of the three home wins against Fiji. He was also capped in both away losses to France.
The Wallabies did not play a Test match in 1977.
Loane played No.8 in the two home victories over Five Nations Champions Wales however a severely damaged hamstring saw him return home from his first tour to New Zealand without playing a Test.
Loane, Cornelsen and Shaw played in both home losses to Ireland. He was then named as the 55th Wallaby to captain his country when he led Australia to a 12-6 victory over New Zealand at the S.C.G. and win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 1949. Loane also captained the side on the inaugural tour to Argentina where the two match series was split.
Loane, in combination with Shaw and Simon Poidevin, was capped at No.8 in the two home series wins against France.
Loane started at No.8 with Cornelsen and Poidevin his flankers, in each of the four Tests against the Home Nations.
In his final season of international rugby Loane, as captain, partnered Chris Roche and Shaw in the two home Tests against Scotland. Loane was then one of nine Queenslanders to withdraw from the subsequent tour to New Zealand due to financial reasons.