Conrad James Primmer
- 380Wallaby Number
Con Primmer was a hard and uncompromising tight forward who saw active service in the navy, played Test rugby for Australia and established a distinguished career in medicine.
Tall and rangy, both ideal characteristics for the lock position, Primmer was born in Brisbane and attended the Brisbane Grammar School but left school after the Junior Public Examination. Aged just 17 Primmer enlisted in the Navy and had only been posted to the Flinders Naval Depot for a month when news broke that his brother Jack was killed when the the disguised German raider HSK Kormoran sank the HMAS Sydney in the Indian Ocean.
After he was demobilised in 1946, Primmer joined the GPS Rugby Club. It was at Jeeps that he caught the attention of then Wallaby skipper Bill McLean who identified the big lock’s potential and instructed him in the key skills that saw Primmer become an expert lineout jumper. At that time he also sat for various matriculation exams until accepted into the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland. Primmer played in a few college rugby matches and as a result decided to join the Queensland University Rugby Club.
In 1951 he made his senior representative debut for Queensland against New South Wales where he ‘showed up well’ against the talented trio of Rex Mossop, Alan Cameron and Nick Shehadie. Despite an ‘outstanding’ interstate series Primmer’s surprise omission from the team to play the 1st Test against the All Blacks in Sydney was said to be ‘one of the rawest deals the Australian Rugby Union selectors have handed out to Queensland in recent years’. Order was restored when Primmer was called up to make his Test debut after back rower Keith Cross withdrew due to a badly bruised shoulder.
The following year Primmer was ‘regarded as a certainty to play against Fiji and later to tour New Zealand’ but chose not to play because he could not afford time away from his fifth-year studies. Primmer returned to rugby in 1953 however again declared himself unavailable, due to studies, for the tour to South Africa. Unfortunately Primmer badly injured his knee in a University college game and was forced to retire from all rugby.
After he graduated from medicine, Dr. Primmer set off to England for postgraduate studies at Northampton Hospital where he worked under fellow Wallaby Dr. Gordon Sturtridge. Following his return to Australia Primmer helped form the Australian Country Hospital Heritage Association, an institution dedicated to the preservation and heritage of country hospitals. In 1994 he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal “For service to the community”.
Con Primmer played two Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.
Primmer won his first Test cap at lock alongside Alan Cameron in the 1st Test, 0-8 loss to New Zealand at the S.C.G. He then withdrew from the second Test team because he was not granted leave from his University studies in order to train. Primmer returned for the final international, again in partnership with Cameron, for the 6-16 defeat at the Brisbane Cricket Ground.