John Gallagher

John Gallagher

3 stars

  • Available For Corporate Engagements & Sporting Dinners

John Gallagher was born on 29 Jan 1964 in London. On pure rugby ability John Gallagher is up there among the best of All Black fullbacks. He took over the position during the 1987 World Cup and over the next three seasons in 18 tests became an automatic selection in the position and in those years was close to being the world’s best.

John Gallagher represented The All Blacks despite not being born in New Zealand, or indeed even being educated in New Zealand, a somewhat unusual feat. John’s parents were Irish and although born in London, as a teenager made his way “down under” to New Zealand to play for the Oriental-Rongotai club in Wellington with no real further ambitions.

His hidden talent and potential, though, was evident and he had no sooner arrived in this country than he was in the Wellington representative side.Tall, naturally athletic and with blinding pace, Gallagher impressed as a superb attacking back and among his feats for Wellington was to play in the side which under the coaching of Earle Kirton won the 1986 national provincial championship.

By then Gallagher had moved to fullback, where he was an even more lethal attacker and showed, too, that he was a powerful kicker, totalling 185 points for Wellington in the 1986 season.

At the end of 1986, having had three seasons in New Zealand, Gallagher was chosen in the All Black team for the short tour to France. International eligibility regulations then were virtually non existent but Gallagher had never played for England, or Ireland, at any level and he seemed committed to New Zealand on a permanent basis, having become a police officer.

Following in the footsteps of Jamie Salmon who was also English and went onto represent The All Blacks, Gallagher went on to become the second young Englishman in the 1980s to become an All Black, Gallagher eventually returned to Britain. But few would have anticipated this from the whole hearted way he threw himself into his All Black career.

The following year, 1987 he was selected for the 26-man squad for the World Cup and though Crowley was also included he became the first choice fullback. In both the tournament and in the subsequent Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney Gallagher was at his sparkling best. He scored four tries in the pool match against Fiji, along with wing Craig Green equalling the New Zealand test record, and scored another in the quarterfinal win over Scotland.

During 1987-1989 he toured Japan, Australia and Wales/Ireland, this was followed “Down Under” by tests against Wales, Argentina, Australia and France. The All Blacks in that period were beyond argument the best team in the world and Gallagher was a key contributor. He was a huge attacking threat out wide along with wing John Kirwan and he and his Wellington team-mate John Schuster, when he became the second five eighths in the 1988 season, formed an effective combination. In just 18 tests Gallagher scored 13 tries, including three against Argentina in Dunedin in 1989. But while he often scored heavily in games other than the tests the presence of Fox meant he was never used as a kicker at international level.

Gallagher seemed assured of a long stay as All Black fullback when early in the 1990 season, after having played 88 games for Wellington and appearing in the All Black trials, he made a shock move to the British league club, Leeds. In switching to the rugby league format he was followed in quick order by Frano Botica, Matthew Ridge, Schuster and leading provincial players Daryl Halligan and Brett Iti. It was a clear indication of the dissatisfaction with the amateurism regulations then in force and which a few seasons later led to an acceptance of full blown professionalism. Surprisingly, of this group Gallagher made one of the less successful conversions to league and within a couple of seasons had returned to rugby but to nothing like his former glory.

John is available for after dinner speaking engagements at Sportsmans Dinners and Corporate Events.