Dave Gilbank – an Aussie Exile's Masters Story

3rd January 2017, 09:31


Dave Gilbank – an Aussie Exile's Masters Story

"I would never imagined at the beginning of 2016 that I would be playing for Australia."

There have been many individual Masters stories throughout 2016 including Jimmy Airnes deciding to continue playing in his 82nd year: Amazing!

Neil Gavaghan finally playing Masters with his father, Dave, as he reached 35 years old. Wonderful!

However, one story tops the pile this year - and it has an international twist!

This is the story of exiled Aussies, Dave Gilbank from in Queensland who arrived in Yorkshire in 1991. I will let Dave tell his 2016 story in his own words...

"My journey into the amazing world of Masters Rugby League started in the summer of 2016. For months my mate, Adam Lincoln, had been pestering me to pull the boots on to play for Birkenshaw Blue Dogs Masters team.

He knew I'd played Rugby League in Australia but I was reluctant. I finally relented and rocked up to play Eastmoor one July evening. It certainly didn't take long for me to get back into the groove and to put it simply, I loved it!

I was struck by the good-natured banter between the two teams during the game and competitive on a personal level it was played in very good spirit.

And that was that… or so I thought.

Having a post-match beer I was collared by Masters mad referee Paul Field who, having heard my accent, asked me if I fancied helping out Australia Masters Tourists during August. I said OK and thought nothing more of it…

Until the day I was called on to play for Australia v Wigan St Judes!

Nothing can describe the surreal feeling of pulling on the Australian shirt and running onto the field. Again, the game was fast but there was some great laughter to be had.

It was during this game that I began to understand intricacies, tactics and strategies for Masters: gold shorts players were key…Goldies essentially play Touch and by spreading them out across the field this can cleverly snuff out the opposition attack... It was also in this game that I met my good mate, John Connell, the first Castleford-born Australian I ever met?!

After the game, Aussie skipper, Paul Webb, asked if I wanted to play in the International match the next Sunday… a Test match! So I went along to Heworth in York on a beautiful summer day to play against Great Britain Masters.

Another surreal experience… I would never imagined at the beginning of 2016 that I would be playing for Australia.

Dave Gilbank is now a Masters Rugby League international

Masters RL referee Paul Field

I wanted to do my country proud. I'm not a great player by any means, but I was determined not to drop the ball or miss a tackle. And I didn't - although I was met on the charge by Pommie Paul 'Fester' Royston, who has since become a good mate.

I played two more games for Australia: at Leeds Masters (great lads on and off the field!) and at Medway Dragons at London Broncos.

After that game I was honoured to be given a Master of the Tour award by the Aussies Tour Manager, the legendary Malcolm Duncan.

I was deeply touched by this accolade and will always be grateful to Malcolm and Webby for the way they welcomed me to the tour.

Having been bitten firmly by the bug, I have joined the Leeds Masters, managed by the amazing Kath Wilson.

You can probably tell by now that I love playing Masters Rugby League.

I've made some good friends all over the country and back home in Australia. Playing Masters Rugby League is an outlet that helps me to forget about the stresses of business - I can now spend time playing Rugby League for, and against, mates!

Come and join the family."