The Brumbies’ history is littered with legends: Gregan, Roff, Smith and Larkham, but away from the spotlight, there has been a constant presence equally responsible for the on-field success.
Aways there in the background was the team’s assistant manager, Garry Quinlivan.
He was the voice of reason.
He was the team’s moral compass and played a crucial role in establishing the club’s culture, ultimately laying the platform for the Brumbies’ enormous success.
It is why there has been an outpouring of emotion from the playing group, past and present, and the wider rugby community in the wake of news that the man affectionately known as ‘Quinzo’ had passed away at home at the age of 86.
Having known Quinzo for over 30 years through various rugby teams in the ACT, I discovered his decades-long involvement flowed from a single passion: he loved the players.
And the banter.
In one of our recent conversations, he expanded on his love for the team.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the players develop individually and as a team,” said Quinzo. “I love the daily banter we have and the friendships we share.”
In more recent years, those conversations became less in word usage after he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
He communicated through a voice box.
He missed the entire 2013 season as he battled the illness.
Despite his cancer, he was the first to arrive and the last to leave as he prepared for the day ahead: getting gear ready for training, transporting everything on his mini tractor before packing it up and doing it all again the following day.
It is hard to imagine any other volunteer or paid worker having the capacity – or the tireless passion – to fulfil this role in the future.
The players had effectively become his second family, and he treated them as such.
From day one, the admiration went both ways, with the players always at peace with him around.
Many players had no inkling that he was a volunteer, such was his influence and input on the team. If the players needed something, nothing was too much trouble.
Proof of the playing group’s affection for Quinzo came in 1999 when the Brumbies players in the Wallabies squad paid for his airfare to the UK for the World Cup.
He was in tears as Steve Larkham kicked a long-range field goal against the Springboks in the semi-final.
Joe Roff presented Quinzo with his jumper from that game. He was in tears again.
He received plenty of accolades over the years, including the Spirit of Rugby Award in 2020, Life Membership of the ACT and Southern NSW Rugby Union and the Brumbies Service to Rugby Award is named in his honour.
As the Brumbies prepare for another off-field battle, with Rugby Australia seeking to take control, Quinzo’s passing brings back memories of simpler times when we rejoiced in the unbridled nature of the game on the field while off the field the likes of Garry Quinlivan ensured it happened with a minimum of fuss.
Those were the days before egos and politics took centre stage.
As rugby struggles to find its place, we need the Quinzos of the world now more than ever.