Mark Gordon Ella
- 616Wallaby Number
Mark Ella, the second Indigenous Australian to captain the country in any sport after the legendary Arthur Beetson, was one of world rugby’s all-time greats. Gloriously instinctive, Ella often did things on the playing field that smacked of pure genius and left the opposition and spectators alike simply in awe of his talents. He was the Stradivarius of the ‘the flat attack’ and provided a new dimension to the running game. Ella possessed a near-telepathic reading of a game, an uncanny ability to ‘keep the ball alive’ and near faultless positional play when in support. He was also a beautifully balanced runner, blessed with a superb change of pace, who ghosted his way around the field to set up countless memorable tries.
Once described by the London Observer as ‘the detonator which explodes the brilliance of the Australian backs at critical moments’, Ella was at the core of Australia’s rugby success during the early 1980s. When Mark and his brothers attended Matraville Boys’ High School in Sydney’s east they came to the attention of Geoff Mould, who coached them at the school and later with the record-breaking 1977/78 Australian Schools side. By 1979 Mark had debuted for both Sydney and New South Wales but it was in 1980 when he came into his own, firstly for Sydney in their stunning 13-13 draw with the All Blacks and then in the tight 4-12 loss for New South Wales.
Not long after his 21st birthday he made his Test debut against New Zealand in Sydney. Despite having played a prominent role in Australia’s first ever successful defence of the Bledisloe Cup, Ella shared the No.10 jersey with Paul McLean through to the end of the 1982 home series against Scotland. Immediately upon McLean’s retirement Ella was selected to captain Australia on the tour to New Zealand. He was also named Young Australian of the Year.
In 1984 Ella was named a Member of the Order of Australia before new Wallaby coach Alan Jones awarded the captaincy to Andrew Slack after Slack’s Queensland won the interstate series. At the end of that same year Ella toured with the Eighth Wallabies to Britain where they became the first Australian team to defeat all four Home Nations on a single tour. Ella created his own piece of history on the ‘Grand Slam’ tour when he scored a try in each of the four Tests.
Then, aged 25 and just as he had reached a new pinnacle in the sport, Ella stunned the rugby world and announced his retirement. Mark Ella played 25 Tests for Australia, 10 as captain, in a glorious five-year international career. In 1997 Ella was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame and in 2005 Ella he one of the original five inductees into the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
Ella won his first Test cap at fly half outside Phillip Cox in the 1st Test of the Bledisloe Cup series against New Zealand at the S.C.G. He partnered Cox in the 2nd Test, 9-12 loss in Brisbane and Peter Carson in the 3rd Test, 26-10 series winning victory in Sydney. Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
Paul McLean was selected at No.10 for the 1st Test against France in Brisbane but was then moved to fullback and Ella reinstated at fly half for the 2nd Test, 24-14 win in Sydney. Ella was selected on the Seventh Wallabies tour to Britain where he won caps against Scotland and England.
Ella played fly half in the 1st Test 7-12 loss to Scotland in Brisbane. McLean was recalled for what would be his final international, the 2nd Test, 33-9 victory in Sydney. With McLean now retired Ella became the 57th Wallaby to captain his country when appointed for the three Test Bledisloe Cup series in New Zealand. Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
Ella captained from fly half in all seven Wallaby Tests, five alongside Dom Vaughan and two with Tony Parker, and scored his first Test try in the 29-7 defeat of Italy in Rovigo. Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
In his final season of international rugby, and with Andrew Slack appointed as captain, Ella started at No.10 in all eight Tests and became the only player to score a try in each Test against the four Home Nations during the Grand Slam tour. Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.