Ella: The Definitive Biography
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The definitive authorised biography of a rugby legend.
This new biography of Mark Ella traces the inspirational life of one of Australia’s greatest sporting champions from the squalor of an Aboriginal community in Sydney’s La Perouse to international fame as a Wallaby and one of the best players ever to play rugby union.
Mark was raised among 12 children in a tumbledown shack and he attributes his extraordinary success to the influence of his parents, his family, and enlightened teachers and coaches who nurtured his amazing talent. Along with twin brother Glen and younger brother Gary, Mark virtually re-invented the game of rugby, playing an exciting brand of running rugby that thrilled crowds around the world.
The magical Ella brothers first became front page news when they starred on the 1977/78 Australian Schoolboys’ undefeated tour of Japan and Europe. The ‘Invincibles’ featured future Wallabies Michael Hawker, Tony Melrose, Chris Roche and Tony D’Arcy, dual international Michael O’Connor and rugby league legend Wally Lewis, who later described Mark as the best player he ever played with or against.
The Ellas joined the famous Randwick club in Sydney and played a key role in the Galloping Greens winning five consecutive premierships from 1978 to 1982. During this time all three Ellas graduated to representative rugby, playing for Sydney, NSW Waratahs and the Wallabies with Mark becoming Test captain in 1982. Mark was undoubtedly the star of the trio and earned 25 Test caps in a six-year international career from 1979 to 1984.
But when Alan Jones replaced Bob Dwyer as Wallabies coach in 1984 Mark lost the captaincy to Queenslander Andrew Slack. While he was no longer captain, Mark was the dominant influence on the Wallabies’ historic Grand Slam tour of the UK and Ireland, scoring a try in each of the four Tests against England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Mark then stunned the world of rugby by retiring at just 25 years of age, citing Jones as one of the reasons. He also turned down an offer from St George Dragons, which would have made him the highest paid player in the rival rugby league code.
Since retiring Mark has continued to succeed off the field in coaching, administration, business and as a highly respected rugby columnist. He also married his childhood sweetheart Kim and started his own family.
In 1988 Mark, a talented cricketer in his schooldays, was the manager of the Aboriginal cricket team’s tour of England, which commemorated the historic 1868 Aboriginal tour. A brief comeback with Randwick in 1989 led to an enquiry by restored Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer as to whether Mark wanted to return to Test rugby. Instead, Mark played at Milan in 1989 with his former Wallabies team-mate and kindred spirit David Campese and then coached the team for three years, winning two Italian national championships.
In 1995, the year rugby union went professional and the Wallabies failed to defend the World Cup in South Africa, Mark received the great honour of being among the inaugural fifteen players inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame, confirming his status as one of the all time greats of the game. He was later one of the first five players inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame. Mark’s main involvement with rugby over the last years has been as a columnist with The Australian newspaper. Mark has strong opinions on how the game is played and administered and has controversial views about star players and coaches.