- 622Wallaby Number
Chris Roche may have been short in stature but he was definitely a giant-hearted performer. With his large mane of black hair tamed by a wide white-coloured headband, Roche was easily recognisable. He was a dynamic foraging open side flanker who played well above his weight and regularly put his body on the line for the sake of the team.
Born at Clifton on Queensland’s Darling Downs, Roche played rugby league at primary school but was inducted into rugby as a boarder at Downlands College in Toowoomba. While there, he won selection as a hooker in the Australian Schools team that toured New Zealand in 1975. When he returned home, Roche switched to flanker, left Downlands, moved to Brisbane State High School and earned a spot on the famous 1977/78 Australian Schools tour to the northern hemisphere.
Early in his senior career, Roche’s progress to the Queensland side was blocked by the brilliant loose forward trio of Mark Loane, Tony Shaw and Greg Cornelsen. That changed in 1980 when Loane ventured to South Africa and Cornelsen returned to the family property. Roche was picked on the Reds’ tour of New Zealand and made his debut against Manawatu. The following year Roche’s continued good form was rewarded with selection in the Wallaby team to tour Britain and Ireland although he did not play in any of the Tests.
In 1982 Queensland beat Scotland 18-7 and Roche’s outstanding performance was so compelling that he earned a Test debut three weeks later at Ballymore. Roche was not one of the nine Queenslanders who made themselves unavailable for the subsequent tour of New Zealand and he used that opportunity to cement his spot in the Test side. He was picked on the short tour to Fiji in early 1984 and was rewarded with the captaincy in the uncapped match against an Eastern Selection.
However, the arrival of Alan Jones as coach that season led to a change in strategy. While Roche played strongly in the Bledisloe Cup series and won a spot on the ‘Grand Slam’ tour, Jones opted for the 193cm David Codey on the flank in the opening international against England given he was a genuine fourth jumper option in the lineout. Australia won 19-3. Although Roche returned for the clash against Ireland, Codey played in the final two Tests against Wales and Scotland. In early 1985 Roche switched to rugby league when he signed with the Brothers club in Brisbane.
Chris Roche played 17 Tests for Australia in a three-year international career.
Represented Australian Schools against Ireland Schools, Wales Schools and England Schools.
Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
Roche won his first Test cap as a flanker alongside Tony Shaw and Mark Loane in the 1st Test, 7-12 loss to Scotland in Brisbane. He played in the 2nd Test of that series and in all three Bledisloe Cup Tests in New Zealand.
Roche played flanker in tandem with Simon Poidevin in all seven Wallaby Tests. He scored his first Test try in the 49-3 defeat of the U.S.A. at the S.C.G. Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
Roche started on the side of the scrum in the opening four Tests of the year - Fiji (1) and New Zealand (3) - before he picked up his final cap against Ireland in Dublin. Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.