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Former Kangaroos five-eighth John Gleeson at the 2006 Tri-Nations Test between Australia and Great Britain at the SFS

Former Australian Test five-eighth and Queensland captain John Gleeson has passed away, just days before his 83rd birthday.

Gleeson, who was Kangaroo No.391, played 10 Tests for Australia and made another 22 appearances in the green-and-gold jersey during an illustrious career that earned his induction into the Queensland Sport Hall of Fame in 2013.

The diminutive playmaker, who was 170cm tall, played his entire career in Queensland with Chinchilla, Toowoomba All Whites, Wynnum-Manly, Toowoomba Souths and Brisbane Brothers, and was considered among the best players in the world at his peak.

He was the first player selected from Wynnum-Manly Seagulls for an end-of-season Kangaroos tour and was a member of the squad that won the Ashes in England for the first time in 1963-64, but did not make his Test debut until the following year against France.

Gleeson was selected on two Kangaroo tours, in 1963-64 and 1967-68, and he played alongside Arthur Beetson in the rugby league Immortal’s Test debut in 1966 against England at the SCG.

He captained Queensland on eight occasions during an interstate career that spanned from 1961 to 1967 and won two Brisbane premierships with Brothers in 1967 and 1968.

Beetson hits the ball up during his Test debut, when he set up two tries before half time to lay the platform for the Australian’s victory.
Beetson hits the ball up during his Test debut, when he set up two tries before half time to lay the platform for the Australian’s victory.

Arguably his greatest moment was in the Kangaroos jersey when Gleeson helped a depleted Australian team to a 17-11 victory in the second Test of the 1967-68 tour of Britain to keep the Ashes series alive after England had won the first Test.

Deputising for the injured Billy Smith, Gleeson filled in superbly at halfback to steer the Kangaroos to one of their greatest upset wins.

Smith returned for the third and deciding Test, and he and Gleeson combined to ensure the Kangaroos retained the Ashes with an 11-3 win.

Gleeson remained involved with the game after retirement and was president of the Chinchilla Bulldogs, where he began his career, until recent years.

In 2008, he was named on the bench in the Toowoomba and South West Team of the Century, chosen to honour the centenary of the game's founding in Australia.

John Gleeson

Born: December 28, 1938, Chinchilla, Queensland

Career overview

Club career 1959-68

Toowoomba All Whites 1959–62
Wynnum-Manly 1963-64
Toowoomba Souths 1965
Brisbane Brothers 1966-68

Representative career 1959-68

Toowoomba 1959-62, 1965 Games Tries Goals FGs Pts
Bulimba Cup 1959-62, 1965   16   5    -     - 15
v touring international teams 1960,1962     2   1      -     -    6
Total   18   6      -   - 21
Brisbane 1964, 1966-67 Games Tries Goals FGs Pts
Bulimba Cup 1963-64, 1966-67   12   2   -  -  6
v touring international teams 1964, 1966-67     3   2   -  -  6
Total   15   4   -  - 12
Queensland 1961-67 Games Tries Goals FGs Pts
v NSW 1961-67    20   2    -  -  6
v touring international teams 1963-64, 1966     5   1   -  -  3
Total    25   3   -  -  9
Australia 1963-68 Games Tries Goals FGs Pts
Tests 1964, 1966-67    10    2    -  -   6
Tour matches 1963-65, 1967-68    22    7    -  -  21
Total    32    9    -  -  27

 Source: David Middleton, League Information Services.

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