Russell Fairfax by Barry Ross
Russell Fairfax was a super star in both Rugbys during the 1970s. He played 8 Tests for the Wallabies from 1971 to 1973 and when he changed to Rugby League with Eastern Suburbs in 1974, won two Premierships, a World Club Challenge and represented NSW in three matches.
Born in March 1952, Russell played Aussie Rules while growing up in Sorrento, Victoria where his father was in the army. Later the family moved to Ipswich where he took up Rugby League. After moving to Sydney when he was about 16, Russell finished his last two years of schooling at Matraville High, which was a Rugby Union school. He toured South Africa with the 1969 Australian Schools team and New Zealand with the 1970 Australian Schools side.
That same year he began with Randwick’s lower grade teams and before the season had finished, he was in the first grade team. When Arthur McGill was injured the day before the 1970 Scottish touring team were due to play Sydney at the old Sports Ground, Russell, just 18 years of age, was called in as a late replacement. At first the Matraville High headmaster refused to give him permission to play in the midweek match, but after discussing the matter with his mother, the Headmaster gave the blond headed fullback the green light.
Although Sydney were beaten 27-12, Russell did well. The next year he was a member of the Randwick first grade Premiership winning team and later that year was selected in the Australian team for the short tour of France. He made his Test debut at Toulouse in Australia’s 13-11 win on 20 November 1971, while still just 19 years of age. Russell played the last of his eight Tests at London’s Twickenham against England on 17 November 1973.
Six of his eight Tests were overseas and he scored 27 points for his country from eight penalty goals and a dropped goal. Russell played four Tests against France, plus one each against England, Fiji, Wales and New Zealand.
In February 1974, he signed a five year deal with the Roosters for a reported $40,000. He was an instant success and soon became of our game’s Superstars. That first year he was a member of Easts’ Premiership winning team, coached by Jack Gibson, who beat Canterbury 19-4 in the Grand Final. Russell also played the first of his three matches for NSW in 1974, in the 13-9 win over the touring Great Britain team at the SCG on 29 June. A broken leg in an August 1975 midweek Amco Cup game prevented him playing in another winning Grand Final side, but he had already scored seven tries in Premiership football before the injury. Although he was one of Easts and Rugby League’s biggest names in the mid 1970s, he was banned from Easts Leagues Club because of his long hair.
The next year Easts played British club champions, St. Helens at the SCG on 29 June 1976, in the first ever World Club Challenge fixture. Easts won this easily by 25-2 and Russell, from fullback had the honour of scoring the first ever try in a World Club Challenge game. His last year with Easts was in 1980 and in these seven seasons, he played 115 first grade games and scored 184 points. He finished his Sydney playing career with Souths in 1981, but because of injury, only played four top grade games. He worked as a captain/coach around the Cooma area for a couple of seasons before joining the media. He spent 25 years at Fox Sports and in 2014, he was the Waratahs Media and Special Projects Manager.
At the moment Russell is having some health issues and everyone connected with the Men of League wishes him a speedy recovery.