David John Armstrong Clark
David Clark was a dependable, safe-as-a-house fullback who went agonisingly close to a Test debut before he embarked upon a storied career in coaching and administration.
Born in Toowoomba but educated at Brisbane Grammar, Clark played just two halves of rugby during his schooling, both in year nine, before he went back to Australian Rules Football.
After school, Clark’s father asked Robin Shaw, grandfather of Wallaby #820 Berrick Barnes, to take David down to GPS Old Boys Rugby Club. In his first year, aged just 17, Clark ran around in both ‘C’ grade and reserve grade at Jeeps however the following season, 1958, Clark moved into first grade.
In 1959 Clark played his first senior representative match at fly half, and outside of incumbent Australian halfback Des Connor, when chosen for Brisbane in their annual clash with Toowoomba. A year later Clark shifted to fullback where he remained for the rest of his career. In 1961 Clark won the first of 20 state caps when he debuted for Queensland, and kicked two penalty goals, in their narrow 12-15 loss to joint-Five Nations’ champions France at the Exhibition Ground.
Twelve months later Clark was described as “the hero” when a Connor-led New Zealand edged Queensland 15-5 four days out from the opening Test. Clark’s performance saw the selectors invite him to train with the Australian team and to bring his boots to the ground on game day in case an emergency replacement was required. Clark was then formally selected as a reserve for the second Test in Sydney. When Dick Marks withdrew due to illness the stars looked to have aligned for Clark to make his Test debut. Common thought held that Jim Lenehan would be moved to the centres as Marks’ replacement and Clark would come into the side at fullback. Instead, Rod Phelps - who had started in the first Test only to be then left out of the squad for the second - was recalled at outside centre and Lenehan returned from a knee injury to wear the #1 jersey.
In 1963, Queensland’s Australian selector Joe French told Clark that he was to be picked for the Wallaby tour of South Africa. French advised Clark to make plans with his employer to ensure time off was granted so that he could accept the pending selection. Unfortunately, Clark’s employer was not that way inclined and denied the young fullback the necessary leave to represent his country. As a result, Clark withdrew from consideration.
Early the following year, in a Queensland trial match. Clark tore his anterior cruciate ligament. The injury cost Clark several months on the sideline as well as a spot in the trials ahead of the outbound tour of New Zealand.
It was third time unlucky for Clark in 1968. Arthur McGill, the lone fullback selected for the short tour to Ireland and Scotland, badly tore the ligaments in his left knee late in the Wallabies match against Western Australia. Australian coach Des Connor asked the ARU to send Clark as a replacement however the request was denied, and Barry Honan shifted from the centres to fullback for both internationals.
Clark retired from club rugby in 1970 with 225 first grade games to his name but was not lost to rugby. He went on to become GPS coach (1970-75), Queensland U19 coach (1974), Queensland Sub-Districts coach (1975), Queensland Assistant coach and Queensland Rugby Director of Coaching (1976-86), Head Coach of the Australian institute of Sport rugby programme (1986-96), Head Coach of the Canadian Institute of Sport rugby programme (1996-2004), Assistant Coach of the Canadian National Men's team (1996-99), Head Coach of the Canadian National Men's team (1999-2003), Head Coach of Canada at the 2003 RWC, and Head Coach of the Sunshine Coast Stingrays 1st Grade team (2004-07). Clark was also involved in coaching and or administration with Australian Schools (1984-86, 1989-90) and the Australian U21s (1981-1996), and he was a member of the National Coaching panel from 1980 to 1996.
Clark was named alongside Jim Miller, Ken McMullen and Roy Prosser as a reserve for the second Test against New Zealand at the S.C.G.