Herb Gilbert

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Herb Gilbert
Full name Herbert Richmond Gilbert
Date of birth (1888-09-18)18 September 1888[1]
Place of birth Gulgong, New South Wales[1]
Date of death 5 January 1972(1972-01-05) (aged 83)[1]
Place of death Bexley, New South Wales
Height 182 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Children Herb Jr, Jack, Bob
Occupation(s) Railways
Rugby league career
Position Centre three-quarter
Professional clubs
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1911–12, 1915
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Hull F.C.
Eastern Suburbs
Western Suburbs
St. George


State Representation
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1911–20 New South Wales 8 (9)
National teams
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1911–20 Australia 7 (8)
Teams coached
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1911–20 Australia 7 (8)
Teams coached
1921–24 St. George Dragons
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position wing,[1] Centre three-quarter
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team    
  South Sydney RU Club
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1910 New South Wales
National team(s)
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1910[1] Wallabies 3[1] (9)[1]

Herbert R. 'Herb' Gilbert (18 September 1888 – 5 January 1972) was an Australian rugby league and rugby union player – a dual-code international. He represented the Wallabies in 3 Tests in 1910 and the Kangaroos in 7 Tests from 1911 to 1920, his last two as Captain. The captain-coach of the St. George Dragons club in their inaugural season, he is considered one of the nation's finest footballers of the 20th century[2] His sons, Herb Gilbert, Jr and Jack Gilbert were also notable rugby league footballers.

Rugby union career[edit]

He was born in Gulgong, New South Wales and moved to Sydney, playing rugby union in the South Sydney district.

Gilbert was selected for New South Wales in 1910 against Queensland and then the New Zealand Māori. That same year he made his Wallaby Test debut playing in all three Tests against the All Blacks in 1910 in which the Wallabies were undefeated.

Tall and powerful for his era, Gilbert stood at 6 ft (182 cm) he weighed 13 st 7 lb (86 kg), and reputedly played his best football in the big games. He played Rugby Union for Metropolitan, New South Wales and Australia. He made his debut for New South Wales in 1910, aged 22, he played against Queensland and the New Zealand Native's Team. Gilbert learnt his football in the South Sydney District and went into the NSW and Australian teams in 1910 after ‘Dally’ Messenger defected to league. The pro-Rugby Union press boasted Gilbert was a greater asset to the Union than Dally Messenger had ever been.

Gilbert played twice for NSW in 1910, in his first season of representative football, figuring prominently in matches against Queensland and the NZ Maoris, and won a place in all three internationals against New Zealand, who won the series, played over only eight days, by two tests to one.

First representation for Australia – Rugby Union Herb Gilbert played three Tests for Australia – all against New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1910, scoring two tries in the 2nd test and one in the third.

1st Test – 25 June 1910 against New Zealand Australia 0 New Zealand (All Blacks ) 6 at Sydney Cricket Ground

2nd Test – 27 June 1910 against NZ Australia 11 All Blacks 0 Gilbert 2 Tries

3rd Test against NZ Australia 13 All Blacks 28 Gilbert I Try

Herb Gilbert was a fine winger for Australia he is remembered for his role in Australia’s win over New Zealand in the 2nd test in 1910. He scored two of Australia’s three tries with strong, hard running, positioning himself well at the end of sustained passing rushes.

Gilbert right with fellow Aussies Devereux & Darmody in Hull 1914

Rugby league career[edit]

Gilbert (c) of 1st St. George team 1921

Gilbert later crossed over to the professional code, joining the South Sydney Club in 1910. He represented for New South Wales in 1911 and was chosen for the 1911–12 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain. Gilbert made his International league début in the first Test at Newcastle in November 1911, becoming the 16th ever Australian dual code international. He played in all three Tests on tour, heading the tour's try-scoring list with 20 tries.

From 1912 to 1915 he played in England, he played Centre, i.e. number 4, and was captain in Hull's 6-0 victory over Wakefield Trinity in the 1914 Challenge Cup Final during the 1913–14 season at Thrum Hall, Halifax, in front of a crowd of 19,000.

After the outbreak of World War I, the three-quarter returned to Australia, where he rejoined South Sydney. In 1916, Gilbert joined Eastern Suburbs. He was a member of that club's City Cup winning side before joining the Western Suburbs Magpies in 1917. He played with them until 1920, helping to transfer them from a struggling side to a competitive outfit.

Gilbert returned to the Australian Test team as Captain in the 2nd Test of the Lions' 1920 tour of Australia. All four of Australia's illustrious three-quarter line of Dick Vest, Harold Horder, Viv Farnsworth and Gilbert scored tries in Australia's 21–8 victory.

With the Ashes already won, Australia lost to Great Britain in the 3rd Test of the series with Gilbert captaining his country for his 2nd and last occasion.

In 1921, at age 33, Gilbert signed on as foundation captain-coach of the newly formed St. George club. He retired as player at the end of that season but coached the club until 1924.

Post playing and accolades[edit]

He was awarded Life Membership of the St. George Dragons club in 1938. Herb Gilbert was a state and national selector from 1925 to 1937; his working career was with the New South Wales Railways; in his later years he was doorman at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Herb died in 1972 – aged 84.

In 2004 he was named by Souths in their South Sydney Dream Team,[3] consisting of 17 players and a coach representing the club from 1908 through to 2004.

In February 2008, Gilbert was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia.[4]


Three of Gilbert's sons all played for St. George with Herb Junior and Jack playing in the Dragons' maiden Grand Final victory in 1941. Two great grandsons were professional sportsmen – Sam Gilbert played AFL with St Kilda and Larry Davidson, was a basketballer who played in the NBL for the Wollongong Hawks.

Playing record[edit]

  • Club: Souths(1911–12 & 1915) 23 games, 6 tries, 3 goals; Hull, England 1912–1915; Easts (1916) 14 games, 6 tries; Wests (1917–1920) 50 games, 23 tries; St George (1921) 8 games, 1 try.
  • Representative: Australia (1911–12 & 1919–1920) 7 Tests, and New South Wales (1911–20) 8 appearances.


  • Whiticker, Alan (2004) Captaining the Kangaroos, New Holland, Sydney


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Scrum.com player profile of Herb Gilbert". Scrum.com. Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Century's Top 100 Players
  3. ^ South Sydney Dream Team from the official South Sydney website.
  4. ^ "Centenary of Rugby League – The Players". NRL & ARL. 23 February 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2008. 
Preceded by
Albert Johnston
Australian national rugby league captain
Succeeded by
Chook Fraser