Jack Gibson (rugby league)

Jack Gibson (rugby league)

Infobox rugby league biography
playername = Jack Gibson
fullname = Jack Arthur Gibson
nickname = The Supercoach

caption =
country =
position = Prop
currentclub =
dateofbirth = birth date|1929|2|27|df=y
placeofbirth = Kiama, New South Wales
countryofbirth = Australia
dateofdeath = death date and age|2008|5|9|1929|2|27|df=y
placeofdeath = Waterfall, New South Wales
countryofdeath = Australia
height =
weight =
club1 = Eastern Suburbs
year1start = 1953
year1end = 1961
appearances1 = 123
tries1 = 26
goals1 = 0
fieldgoals1 = 0
points1 = 78
club2 = Newtown Jets
year2start = 1962
year2end =
appearances2 = 12
tries2 = 4
goals2 = 0
fieldgoals2 = 0
points2 = 12
club3 = Western Suburbs
year3start = 1963
year3end = 1965
appearances3 = 19
tries3 = 1
goals3 = 0
fieldgoals3 = 0
points3 = 3
teamA = New South Wales
yearAstart = 1954
yearAend =
appearancesA = 1
triesA = 0
goalsA = 0
fieldgoalsA = 0
pointsA = 0
coachteam1 = Eastern Suburbs
coachyear1start = 1967
coachyear1end = 1968
coachgames1 = 46
coachwins1 = 27
coachdraws1 = 3
coachlosses1 = 16
coachteam2 = St. George Dragons
coachyear2start = 1970
coachyear2end = 1971
coachgames2 = 49
coachwins2 = 33
coachdraws2 = 1
coachlosses2 = 15
coachteam3 = Newtown Jets
coachyear3start = 1973
coachyear3end =
coachgames3 = 26
coachwins3 = 16
coachdraws3 = 1
coachlosses3 = 9
coachteam4 = Eastern Suburbs
coachyear4start = 1974
coachyear4end = 1976
coachgames4 = 73
coachwins4 = 56
coachdraws4 = 1
coachlosses4 = 16
coachteam5 = South Sydney
coachyear5start = 1978
coachyear5end = 1979
coachgames5 = 44
coachwins5 = 21
coachdraws5 = 1
coachlosses5 = 22
coachteam6 = Parramatta Eels
coachyear6start = 1981
coachyear6end = 1983
coachgames6 = 84
coachwins6 = 61
coachdraws6 = 1
coachlosses6 = 22
coachteamA = New South Wales
coachyearAstart = 1989
coachyearAend = 1990
coachgamesA = 6
coachwinsA = 2
coachdrawsA = 0
coachlossesA = 0
source = [ NRL Stats]

Jack Arthur Gibson OAM (27 February 1929 – 9 May 2008) was an Australian rugby league identity - a player, commentator and most notably a coach. He played and coached in Australia's top grade competition, the New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership, and earned the tag 'Supercoach' after guiding Eastern Suburbs to premierships in 1974 and 1975 and later the Parramatta Eels to three successive premierships from 1981 to 1983.

Gibson was highly regarded not only for his coaching record but also for his thirst for innovation. He introduced new coaching and training methods into the sport in the 1970s and 1980s, when first-grade rugby league was then still played and coached on a semi-professional basis.

Early life

Born in Kiama, New South Wales Gibson's family relocated to Sydney in his youth. He played third-grade rugby league at St. George in 1950 before joining a social side in the Eastern Suburbs A-grade competition called Taylor's Celebrity Club. Gibson worked as a bouncer for Joe Taylor at the sly drinking and gambling outlet Thommo's Two-Up School as well as other Sydney nightclubs that Taylor owned.

Playing career


Gibson was graded with Eastern Suburbs in 1953. He debuted in first grade and represented for New South Wales that same year. In 1954 he also represented for Sydney but spent the second-half of the season in the country at Grenfell, New South Wales following some work troubles.

Returning to Easts in 1955 Gibson went on to play 152 first grade games for the club primarily at prop or second-row. He made a further Sydney representative appearance in 1958 and captained the Roosters in the 1960 Grand final loss to St. George. He left Easts at the end of 1961.

Newtown & Wests

Gibson spent the 1962 season with Newtown and was set for retirement until the club put him on open contract at the end of 1962. He was snapped up by Wests; playing out his career in the 1963 and 1964 seasons, including their 1963 Grand final loss.


Gibson also played first-grade cricket for the Waverley club in Sydney, taking 92 wickets as a fast bowler.


Early coaching years

Jack Gibson began his first-grade NSWRL coaching career at Eastern Suburbs in 1967. In 1966 the club had not won a match, but Gibson took them to the semi-finals that first year. Gibson's tactics of having a mobile, hard-working forward pack combined with a fast-moving defensive line that stifled their opposition saw Easts build the best defensive record in the competition. In 1968 the team finished with a defensive record second only to eventual premiers South Sydney and again made the semi-finals, then were knocked out in week one by St. George.

Gibson then left Easts to join St George, taking all three grades at the club to the 1971 Grand Final. On leaving the Dragons he linked up with Newtown where he enjoyed immediate success, taking out the Wills Cup pre-season tournament, helping the foundation club to its only club championship and a berth in the preliminary final where they were knocked out by Cronulla. Tellingly the following year after Gibson had left, the Jets slipped back and finished the season in 7th place.

Roosters premierships

In the 1973 the high-rolling Eastern Suburbs Leagues Club at Bondi Junction announced a phenomenal $600,000 profit. The club set about to regain premiership honours that they hadn't seen since 1945 and bought Souths Test hooker Elwyn Walters to add to their experienced forwards in Arthur Beetson and Ron Coote and made a headline-grabbing buy in rugby union international Russell Fairfax to add to their already strong and fast backline. Securing former club-captain and coach Gibson put all the pieces in place.


Easts dominated the 1974 season winning 19 of 22 matches to finish eight points ahead of their nearest rivals. When they were surprisingly beaten by Canterbury in the major semi-final, Gibson launched a scathing attack on referee Keith Page claiming "if Page has the final I may as well not send a team out." [Haddan quote p191] Over the next ten years, Gibson would turn the highly popular coaching techinique of blaming the referee for his side's losses into an art form.

On Grand final day Eastern Suburbs were simply too good for a courageous Canterbury outfit in spite of suffering 12-3 penalty count after 59 minutes. Gibson had won his first premiership and the Roosters their first in 29 years.


In season 1975 after losing consecutive matches in rounds 2 and 3, the Roosters juggernaut rolled on and they posted 19 consecutive wins to close out the regular season; a streak than ran from round 4 to round 22 and remains the record for the most consecutive wins in premiership history. The Roosters dominated St. George on Grand Final day with a punishing 6 try haul in the second-half and an emphatic 38-0 victory. In addition to the back-to-back premiership titles, Gibson also steered the club that season to victory in the mid-week Amco Cup and to a rightful claim as the best club team in the world in defeating English champions, St Helens RFC in the inaugural World Club Challenge.

By 1976 a number of other clubs, notably Parramatta and Manly had caught up with the high standards that Gibson had fostered at Easts; the club's dominance ended and he moved onto greener (and red) pastures. There at South Sydney Gibson endured the leanest spell of his career failing to get as far as the semi-finals in his two seasons with the club of 1978 and 1979.

Parramatta premierships

Gibson then linked with Parramatta leading them to the most successful era in their history taking out three consecutive premierships from 1981 to 1983.


In club Chief-Executive Denis Fitzgerald Gibson found an ally in his remorseless approach to sledging referees and applying pressure via the media. On April 5 1981, Gibson dared the Referees Appointments Board to give Greg Hartley another Eels match after they lost 12-8 to Canterbury. The following week Gibson sent a personal letter to Kevin Roberts complimenting him for his handling of the Parramatta-Souths match which the Eels won 39-5. [Haddan p218] Come finals time, Gibson continued to apply pressure when he publicly criticised the appointment of Hartley to control the Eels major semi-final clash with Eastern Suburbs. The tactic may have proved effective - Parramatta beat Easts 12-8 when Hartley awarded Parramatta two vital penalties in extra time which Mick Cronin converted. But nonetheless the better team still won on the day [Haddan p219]

On Grand final day 1981 Parramatta found themselves up against rank outsiders Newtown playing in their first premiership decider in 26 years. Parramatta were still looking for their first title ever and their old hands in Edge, Price, Hilditch and O'Reilly along with the explosive young backline of Kenny, Cronin, Sterling, Grothe and Ella all masterfully mentored by Gibson took the premiership glory. Later back at the packed Parramatta Leagues Club auditorium, Gibson had just six words for the club faithful: "Ding, dong, the witch is dead," he said before the thunderous chants of the success-starved blue and gold army of fans who in their zeal later that night burned the old Cumberland Oval grandstand to the ground. After the win a more gracious Parramatta management submitted an official apology to the NSWRFL over the Gibson-Hartley feud.


Under Gibson the nucleus of that side was kept together and the Eels went on to win the competition in the next two years - season 1982 and season 1983.

Manly were comfortable pre-match favourites for the 1982 Grand Final having demolished Parramatta three times that season including a 20-0 drubbing in a spiteful major semi-final. Gibson, Fitzgerald and captain Ray Price again employed the tactic of publicly criticising referees and in the week leading up the the match John Gocher was the target of the pressure. When the Sea-Eagles scored first in the second minute it looked like the game was playing to expectations but things changed from there. Parramatta's forward pack began to dominate Manly's all international six and before half-time Brett Kenny crossed for two tries and set-up another three for Sterling, Ella and Neil Hunt to ensure a second title for the Eels.

That Parramatta could come back from the semi-final loss and defeat Easts 33-0 in the Final was testament to the skill of Gibson and the quality of the side. That they did the same to Manly the following week in the Grand Final is further evidence of the enormous self-belief that Gibson was able to generate in the team.


Claims that the week's rest for winning the major semi-final could work against a side surfaced again when Parramatta dismissed Manly 18-6 in the 1983 Grand Final. The Sea-Eagles trailled 12-0 after 29minutes and didn't score a point until the 45th minute. The champion Eels and their coach Gibson were indisputedly at the top of the football tree.

The 1983 title took Gibson's personal Grand Final win tally to five, then sharing with Ken Kearney jointly the title of the most successful coach in Australian premiership history. It would be over twenty years before Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, himself a great admirer of Gibson, beat that record with the Broncos' premiership win in National Rugby League season 2006.


Gibson's last club coaching role was with the Cronulla Sharks from 1985 to 1987. He had few big-name players to work with but did an admirable job in developing a pool of local junior talent and the club eventually made the semi-finals in the two immediate years following his departure.

State of Origin

Gibson was given the New South Wales Blues to coach in the 1989 State of Origin series. The team had previously lost five successive games and Gibson was brought in along with a number of sweeping player changes. However the new squad did no better and Gibson had to suffer the ignominy of a 3-0 whitewash to a Maroons side coached by his friend and protege Arthur Beetson. The following year in 1990 he had his revenge when his New South Wales side trumped Beetson's Queenslanders 2-1. Gibson quit while on top to take up a role back at the Roosters in 1991 as manager with former Test halfback Mark Murray as coach. He did this until 1994.

Coaching influences

Gibson studied coaching and training methods in other sports looking for innovations which could be incorporated into his rugby league coaching. In particular, he would often travel to the USA to watch NFL teams play and train. Gibson was a fan of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi and was influenced by Lombardi's coaching and management style.

The Cadigan reference reports that rugby league identity Terry Fearnley first introduced Gibson to the sayings and attitudes of Vince Lombardi via a 1971 sales and motivational film called The Second Effort which contained a Lombardi segment. Gibson's charges at St George had at that stage of the 1971 season won only four of their first eight games. After embracing the film and its messages and showing it to the entire St George playing roster, all three Dragons sides were unbeaten for the next seven weeks; lost just two of the remaining 14 matches; and all three grades of the club made it to their respective Grand finals that year.

He befriended San Francisco 49ers coach Dick Nolan at an NFL annual conference in 1972 and was invited to study and observe the operations of the 49ers team. From these trips came a number of methodologies that changed the Australian game.

Coaching innovations

* First to use a computer to evaluate player performance including being the first club coach to track and use individual player tackle counts.
* His teams were the first to train with sides from other codes - he trained his team alongside soccer players and used Australian Football specialists as kicking coaches.
* Introduced mascara under the eyes to reduce glare for night games under lights.
* First to use weights-machines such as the Nautilus exercise machines.
* First to use video extensively as a coaching device.
* First to have players' fitness scientifically tested in pre-season with the "pinch test" (skinfold method).
* First to insist upon his own integrated coaching team including assistant coach, fitness and injury treatment and rehabilitation.
* Made the up and under ("bomb") a potent attacking weapon used by both Easts and Parramatta under exponent John Peard.

Laconic wit

Gibson was also known for his notable and laconic quotes. Players, coaches and journalists in Australia would hang on every word he said and many of Gibson's quotes showed his great wisdom on the sport. His sardonic one-liners were embraced by Australian press looking to colour their sports pages and many of his quotes are still referred to within rugby league circles.


Gibson's esteem in Australian rugby league remained strong throughout his life. Up until he was incapacitated, past players, coaches and journalists still telephoned him for advice or a quote, even though he hadn't been actively involved in game for some time.

In 1988 Gibson was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia "for service to rugby league as a coach". In 2000 he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for being a five-time premiership winning coach.

On 17 April, 2008, Gibson was selected as Coach of Australian rugby league's "Team of the Century". Part of the code's centenary year celebrations in Australia, the elite team is the panel's majority choice for those considered to be the best of all time. [cite news|author=Todd Balym|publisher="Fox Sports Australia"|title=Johns, Meninga among Immortals |url=http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,23557351-23214,00.html |accessdate=2008-04-17|date=2008-04-17] [cite web|publisher="NRL & ARL"|title=Team of the Century Announced |url=http://www.centenaryofrugbyleague.com.au/site/news--reviews/media-releases/team-of-the-century-announced.aspx |accessdate=2008-04-17|date=2008-04-17]

Personal tragedy

In 1988 Gibson's eldest son Luke, who had struggled with schizophrenia, died of a drug overdose. Gibson and his wife Judy became fervent in their support of charities assisting research into schizophrenia and he donated the proceeds of four books he co-wrote with rugby league author, Ian Heads, to that cause.

Illness and death

Gibson was confined to a Sydney nursing home for two years before his death and required around-the-clock care as his condition deterioriated.

Gibson died at 6.32pm (AEST) on 9 May 2008, 90 minutes before rugby league's historic Centenary Test Match, after a two-year battle with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. [cite web|publisher=Fairfax Digital|title=League legend Gibson passes away|url=http://www.leaguehq.com.au/news/news/league-legend-jack-gibson-passes-away/2008/05/09/1210131260680.html |accessdate=2008-05-09|date=2008-05-09] His death was announced during the Centenary test by Peter Sterling on the Nine Network.


* Whiticker, Alan & Hudson, Glen (2006) "The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players", Gavin Allen Publishing, Sydney
* Andrews, Malcolm (2006) "The ABC of Rugby League" Austn Broadcasting Corpn, Sydney
* Jack Gibson (with Ian Heads) "The Last Word" ABC Books, Sydney ISBN 0 7333 1236 5
* Jack Gibson (with Ian Heads) "Played Strong, Done Fine : The Jack Gibson Collection" Lester-Townsend Publishing. Sydney. 1988
* Jack Gibson "Winning Starts on Monday: From the Jack Gibson Collection" Lester-Townsend Publishing. Sydney. 1989
* Neil Cadigan, Tribute Article, Sydney Daily Telegraph 10 May 2008
* Whiticker, Alan & Collis, Ian (2006) "The History of Rugby League Clubs", New Holland, Sydney
* Haddan, Steve (2007) "The Finals - 100 Years of National Rugby League Finals", Steve Haddan Publishing, Brisbane
* [http://www.sahof.org.au/hallOfFame/memberProfile/index.php?memberID=89&memberType=general Jack Gibson biography at Sport Australia Hall of Fame]
* [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/jack-gibson-greatest-ever-rugby-league-coach-826280.html Jack Gibson: 'Greatest ever' rugby league coach - Obituary by Dave Hadfield for "The Independent (London)" Monday, 12 May 2008]


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