Russell Lance Fairfax
- 546Wallaby Number
Russell Fairfax was a wonderfully precocious talent who played his first representative rugby while still at school and then be lost to rugby league when in his rugby prime. A spindly, long blond-haired fullback / fly half, Fairfax exuded brilliance as a silken runner with good pace and a classic swerve. He was safe under the highball, tackled well above his weight and had the ability to create both time and space for his outside supports.
Born in Sydney, Fairfax spent most of his early childhood in Sorrento, Victoria, where his father was stationed in the Army. There he played Australian Rules. When his father was transferred to Ipswich in Queensland, he played rugby league. The family then moved to Sydney and he completed his education at Matraville High School. It was at Matraville HS that he was coached by Geoff Mould who moved him from fly half to fullback so that he had a better chance of making the Australian Schools tour of South Africa in 1969. He did and he was a sensation. Mould, who later coached the Ella brothers, regarded Fairfax as the best player he had ever coached. Mould said that whereas there were three Ellas and the whole was greater than the three parts, there was only one Fairfax.
In 1970 he played grade rugby at Randwick and soon found himself in First Grade. When Fairfax was selected at fullback for Sydney against the touring Scottish team that year, the 18-year-old sixth former had to seek the Headmaster’s permission for leave to play. When the Springboks arrived for the ‘Demonstration Tour’ in 1971, Fairfax was plucked from grade to play for the Junior Wallabies against the tourists in a mid-week match at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground. At the end of the year, Fairfax was selected as a utility back in the Wallaby team to tour France under new coach, Bob Templeton. Selected at fly half, Fairfax was such a revelation and played with so much flair that he replaced Geoff Richardson who had started against South Africa.
Unfortunately, Fairfax was hampered by a recurring groin injury in 1972 and through the early part of the following year before he toured to Wales, England and Italy. Speculation that Fairfax would switch to league refused to go away and it was no surprise when he announced that he had signed with Eastern Suburbs for the 1974 season.
Russell Fairfax played eight Tests for Australia in an all-too-brief three-year international career.
Represented Australian Schools on their tour of South Africa.
Represented Australian Schools on their tour of New Zealand.
Fairfax won his first Test cap at fly half in partnership with John Hipwell in the 1st Test, 13-11 victory over France in Toulouse. The same halves pairing was retained for the 2nd Test, 9-81 loss in Paris.
Fairfax and Hipwell combined for both home Tests against France. In the 2nd Test, 15-16 loss in Brisbane, Fairfax equalled Arthur McGill’s individual point scoring record in a single Test with 15 (5PG). He toured New Zealand and played in the first Test loss in Wellington before his injured groin saw him miss the final two internationals. On the way home Fairfax played fullback in the 21-19 victory over Fiji in Suva.
Fairfax missed the two home Tests against Tonga before he returned at fullback for the short tour at the end of the year. He played in both internationals against Wales and England.