Background. Mark Ella was the best Rugby player I ever saw. He was retiring after this match because, like most people, he despised the so-called coach, Alan Jones, now a Sydney radio ranter. To achieve a Grand Slam, a team has to beat England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.
EDINBURGH, SUNDAY: In the fifty-fourth minute of this long farewell to all his greatness, Mark Ella took Roger Gould’s inside pass, scuttled through the channel, and flopped over the line. As he placed the ball, he said to himself: “I’m not going to smile; I’m not.” But when he got up: “I found I was giggling, and then I was laughing, and I couldn’t stop.”
And why not? It was the hammer blow that stretched Australia’s lead from 18-12 to 24-12, finally sank a gallant Scots XV and made certain of the Slam that has eluded Australia since Dr Paddy Moran’s First Wallabies crossed the water seventy-six years ago.
It seems absurd that Ella at 25, and at the very height of his powers, has renounced forever the game of which he is the principal adornment.
But we mustn’t be greedy. He has given countless thousands nearly as much pleasure as the game has to offer in the six years since he and his brothers astonished us all in their first club appearance in Sydney.
Nor was it any the less appropriate that it was Gould who saw the gap for Ella on the inside, and put him over. After a relatively shaky start, the fullback came right in the fifth match, against Swansea, and has been in towering form in the internationals.
Quite properly, the taking of the Slam wasn’t at all a snack. The day before, trudging in dripping rain and a stiff breeze up to the brooding presence of Edinburgh Castle, the grandest sight in the finest city in the British Isles, I wondered if the gods might be preparing to cheat the Eighth Wallabies of their dream.
The Band of the lst Battalion of the Royal Scots didn’t help either: it slid through Waltzing Matilda half an hour before the start, while the Australians were out on the adjoining field, and played Scotland the Brave at them when they took the field.
At the end of this historic match, I was left with a nice snapshot memory, and I hope some lensman had recorded it. By chance, the two heroic figures, Gould and Ella, met at the entrance of the tunnel to the dressing room.
Gould threw an arm around Ella’s shoulders and the happy warriors exchanged a moment of, what? Perhaps the knowledge of what they and the others of this greatest of our teams had achieved, after all those terrible years of drought, for all those hapless souls who take an interest in Australian Rugby.
6 December 1984 From Amazing Scenes: Adventures of a Reptile of the Press