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David Gallaher
New Zealand
player portrait
Full name David Gallaher
Born October 30, 1873, Ramelton
Died October 4, 1917, Gravenstafel (aged 43 years 339 days)
Major teams New Zealand
Position Wing-forward

Test career
Span Mat Start Sub Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop GfM Won Lost Draw %
All Tests 1903-1906 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 1 0 83.33

Career statistics
Test debut Australia v New Zealand at Sydney, Aug 15, 1903 match details
Last Test France v New Zealand at Parc des Princes, Jan 1, 1906 match details
Test Statsguru Main menu | Career summary | Match list | Tournament list
Profile

Dave Gallaher was the inspirational leader of the All Black "Originals" that toured the British Isles and France in 1905. Already assured his place within the annals of All Black history due to his prowess as a leader on that hugely successful and historic tour, Gallaher has passed into legend due to his tragic early death.

He was killed on October 4, 1917 whilst serving as a company sergeant major in the fighting at Passchendaele. He was 43. He was buried at Nine Elms military cemetery in Poperinge, with his headstone bearing the silver fern. A visit to the site of Gallaher's grave has become a fixture of All Black tours to France in recent years.

Gallaher was born in County Donegal, Ireland in 1873 and emigrated to Katikati in the Bay of Plenty with his parents at the age of 5. His parents eventually settled in Auckland, and it was here that Gallaher's career in rugby began to take shape.

He was unusually large for a player of that era, standing at 1.83m tall and weighing 84kg. His size was married to an astute and diligent rugby brain however, and his tactical awareness was second to none. Between 1896 and 1909 he played 26 representative matches for Auckland, including the first ever Ranfurly Shield match against Wellington.

His career at club level was interrupted by his service in the Boer War in 1901 and 1902 and also his lengthy absences with the national side, particularly during the 1905 season.

Gallaher began his playing career as a hooker, but migrated to the flank during the 1905 tour to Great Britain. His switch to the more combative and complex back-row position allowed the intelligent Gallaher to study back-row play and become an expert on the spoiling tactics employed by teams, especially England's merciless killing of second-phase ball.

Gallaher was handed the captaincy for the tour, but his appointment was met with derision by certain members of the side. He had not been included in the team for the previous tour of Australia, and there was also considerable anti-Auckland bias to contend with.

Gallaher resigned his post whilst on the boat journey to the UK, only for the matter to be put to a vote by the coaching staff. He won the vote by a slender margin, and proceeded to lead the tour with distinction.

Gallaher's side, the first to be known as the All Blacks, lost only once on tour to Britain and France. Their 3-0 loss to Wales in Cardiff still causes some controversy amongst scholars and fans over a disallowed All Black try.

Following the end of the tour Gallaher co-wrote a book called The Complete Rugby Footballer, in which he details many of his theories and ideas garnered from his playing career, served as Auckland selector between 1906-16 and national selector from 1907-14. He played only occasionally following his return to New Zealand.

Gallaher's age meant that he was exempt from conscription during the First World War, but following the death of two of his brothers in the fighting he falsified his age and joined up. Following his death his memory was honoured by Auckland in the shape of the Gallaher Shield, introduced as a competition for regional sides in 1922.

In 2005, his profile was raised even higher when Letterkenny RFC, the club closest to his birthplace, renamed their ground "Dave Gallaher Memorial Park". The opening was attended by the 2005 All Blacks, led by Tana Umaga.

Huw Baines

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Nov 18, 2006
The Dave Gallaher Trophy
The Dave Gallaher Trophy
©  Getty Images
Nov 6, 2000
The gravestone of Dave Gallaher
The gravestone of Dave Gallaher
©  Getty Images
Portrait of the former New Zealand captain, Dave Gallaher
Portrait of the former New Zealand captain, Dave Gallaher
©  New Zealand Rugby Museum
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