Russell Dale Tulloch
Russ Tulloch holds a unique place in Australian rugby. Tulloch was the first player to successfully cross codes from senior Australian Rules football to become a Wallaby. While that transition happened somewhat by accident, Tulloch’s drive, determination as well as his all-round sporting ability were major contributing factors.
In the early 1960s Tulloch was making his way in the Victorian Football League where he played half a dozen matches for South Melbourne when he damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. In those days accurate ACL tear diagnosis was sub-optimal and as a result most reconstructive surgery was far from a surety. Tulloch made the decision to travel the world with the hope, in time, that the knee would recover.
While in London, Tulloch was introduced to rugby and joined the famous Wasps club. In his first season (1964/65) he went from never having seen a game of rugby, to progressing through the grades and winning selection in first grade for the Easter tour to Devon and Cornwall.
Tulloch returned to Australia in 1966 but could not have been further off the beaten rugby track as he had to endure a 400-mile round trip from Horsham every week just to play for his Melbourne club. Nonetheless that sort of dedication saw Tulloch quickly make his mark and he was rewarded with selection for Victoria when they gave the British Lions a close run for their money despite going down 14-24. That performance saw Tulloch and two fellow Victorians, Paul Gibbs and Dick Webb, chosen for the final trial - Possibles v. Probables - ahead of the prized Fifth Wallabies tour to the British Isles, France and Canada.
In a stunning development all three Victorians were named in the 30-man touring squad and Tulloch returned to where his rugby career had begun, only this time as an Australian international player. Although he did not play a Test - the competition from Greg Davis, Jules Guerassimoff and John O'Gorman was more than formidable - Tulloch secured plenty of on-field time during the long tour. In total, he played 15 matches and gave sterling service throughout. One of Tulloch’s finest matches was in the narrow 9-3 victory over Leinster. Peter Johnson, when writing his memoirs, noted that Tulloch developed on tour from a marauder to a ball-playing linkman who was well worth his place in the side.
After the tour Tulloch moved to Sydney and joined Northern Suburbs Rugby Football Club. At Northern Suburbs he played over 100 1st XV games, was a premiership winning Captain (1973 2nd XV), and became the inaugural Club Captain, then President and Life Member.
Tulloch played for the winning Sydney team against Ireland in 1967 and Sydney, New South Wales, and the Junior Wallabies against the 1968 All Blacks. In the 1969 season he broke a thumb just prior to the Wallaby trials for the South African tour and this brought an end to his representative career. Nonetheless, his love of the game remained intact and he coached and played in lower grade games and was an active participant in Golden Oldies games well into his 40s.
His love of rugby continues through to his grandsons, with Nathan playing in the 1st XV for St Augustine’s College and Rocky playing in the foundation team of Cape Byron Crusaders.