Ralph Lindsay Garner
- 368Wallaby Number
Ralph Garner was a winger of great speed and a deceptive change of pace who played a key part in Australia’s first ever series victory in New Zealand. Born in Yass, Garner received his grounding in football from the well regarded Brother Damian at De La Salle College, Armidale. He starred for De La Salle when they defeated The Armidale School to win the 1944 Schools and Colleges’ Association Rugby Union competitIon premiership. The following year Garner entered the University of Sydney but did not play any rugby for three seasons.
In 1948 the University appointed Harold Masters as coach and it was he who convinced Garner to return to rugby, a decision that was vindicated when the winger immediately won a first grade spot following the trials. That same year Garner played in the University side that won the national Inter-University Rugby Championship and in 1949 represented Australian Universities on their tour of New Zealand. Upon his return home Garner earned a state debut in the final trial ahead of the Wallaby tour of New Zealand and scored three tries. That ‘brilliant display’ earned him a ticket to the Dominion where he hit the ground running with two tries to win the match against Wairarapa-Bush and ‘a great 70-yards try in the first minute’ in the defeat of Manawatu-Horowhenua.
Not surprisingly Garner earned his Test debut in Wellington where he ‘used pace and swerve to beat the defence’ and score not one but two crucial tries. Australia went on to claim the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 1934 and Garner, alongside fellow Wallabies Trevor Allan and Rex Mossop, was named by the New Zealand "Rugby Almanack" as one of the five players of the year.
In 1950 Garner announced his intention to step away from the domestic representative rugby as he wished to study for his fifth-year medical examinations however he did play one interstate match prior to selection for NSW against the touring British Lions. A ‘pathetically weak’ state side was soundly beaten 6-22 by a Lions side reduced to just 13 men and numerous reputations were permanently tarnished as they also proved to be during the subsequent Test series. Garner was overlooked for the two Test Lions’ series but continued to play good rugby for the University, highlighted by a ‘superb’ hat-trick in the 1951 Shute Shield grand final victory over Easts. Two years later Garner was considered a possibility for the Wallaby tour to South Africa after he scored tries for NSW v. QLD and for the Probables vs. Possibles however Garth Jones, Eddie Stapleton and Rex Horsley received the selectors’ nod.
In 1954 Garner moved to the Riverina in order to pursue his medical career. While there he helped to form the West Wyalong Rugby Football Club and was appointed captain coach in their inaugural season. Ralph Garner played two Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.
Garner won his first Test cap at wing in partnership with Clarrie Davis for the 1st Test, 11-6 victory over New Zealand at Athletic Park. He scored a try in that match to become the 33rd Wallaby to score a Test try on debut. Following an injury to Davis in the uncapped match against Southland, Garner was joined by John Solomon on the flanks for the 2nd Test, 16-9 win at Eden Park.