Reg Gasnier

Club Appearances: 125

Club Debut Year: 1959

Club Final Year: 1967

Position: Centre

Club Points: 421

Club Tries: 127

Representative Honours:

  • NSW v Qld: 16
  • NSW v Int: 5
  • Australia: 39
Appearances breakdown:

  • St George: 125
Points breakdown:

  • St George: 421

The image of Reg Gasnier in full flight, head slightly back, remains one of the most glorious in Australian rugby league history. His career at the highest levels began in a rush — after initially being held back by cautious parents, he made his first-grade debut in round 4 of 1959, went back to the reserves for a week, came up again in round 6 and was picked for City Firsts three weeks later, having played five first-grade games.

‘The 20-year-old Gasnier gave another brilliant display of attacking football, with a touch of class,’

wrote veteran journalist Tom Goodman after the City-Country game.

‘His speed, and his variation of speed, confused the defence. He has the instinct for giving the pass at the right time. As he continues to gain in experience, wingers will relish playing outside him.’

Goodman’s analysis captured part of Gasnier’s ongoing greatness. He was, throughout his career, an unselfish footballer.

‘He made it very easy for me to score tries,’ said Johnny King,

who played outside him with much success from 1960 to 1967. Yet Gasnier would average a try a game himself at all levels. State and Test selection soon followed that initial representative call-up in May ’59 and though he missed that year’s Grand Final through injury, by season’s end he was established as the most exciting player in the competition. Following the 1959–60 Kangaroo tour, English commentator Eddie Waring, called Gasnier

‘the game’s No. 1 attraction’.

He might have been even better on his second tour, in 1963–64, when he scored a hat-trick in the first Test, at Wembley, and two more in the second, when Australia won 50–12 at Swinton to win an Ashes series away from home for the first time since 1911–12. Saints secretary Frank Facer rated him a ‘genius’. The great coach Warren Ryan, a lower-grader at St George in the ’60s, described Gasnier as

‘an absolute Rolls-Royce of centres’.

A product of the Renown United junior club, Gasnier missed two grand finals during Saints’ 11-year premiership, in 1959 and 1966, the latter when he out for almost the entire season because of a bad knee injury. This, plus the fact that his career ended at age 28 after he broke his leg when captain-coach on the 1967–68 Kangaroo tour, created a  misconception that he was not as durable as other champions; in fact, those major setbacks apart, he was remarkably resilient. He retired having played 39 Tests, at the time an Australian record. Fifty-three years later, he remains seventh on this honour roll, behind only Darren Lockyer, Cameron Smith, Mal Meninga, Petero Civoniceva, Graeme Langlands and Brad Fittler. From 1959 to 1965, he was absent from only one Test because of injury.  He was Australia’s youngest captain against Great Britain (23 years, 28 days, in the first Test of 1962).

‘He was just a phenomenal player,’ said Johnny Raper. ‘The best I played with.’

In 1968, Goodman would recall Gasnier’s ‘amazing reflexes, the electrifying speed off the mark [and] the brilliant individualism to snatch a victory, as he often did’. For St George, Gasnier scored 127 tries in 125 first-grade games. He was one of the original Immortals and a centre in the Australian Rugby League’s Team of the Century. Dave Hadfield, the fine English writer, reckoned he was

‘just about everybody’s idea of the perfect centre … strong and elusive, with silky ball skills [and] devastating turn of pace’.

His best tryscoring season for Saints was 1960, when he scored 25 tries in 17 games, one short of Tommy Ryan’s then club record. He scored four tries in a first-grade match on four occasions during his career and nine hat-tricks. In 28 first-grade games at Kogarah, he scored 34 tries and was on the winning side every time.