Desmond Michael Connor
- 429Wallaby Number
Des Connor was one of the finest scrum halves to ever play for Australia and he had the distinction of being the only Wallaby to become a test capped All Black. Connor possessed a fast, long pass and a great kicking game, ran strongly from the scrum, and had a keen tactical mind. He also perfected a reverse pass which bamboozled many an opposition loose forward.
Born in Brisbane, Connor was educated at Marist Brothers College where he played three years in the 1st XV (1951-53). On leaving Ashgrove he linked with the Brothers club and in his first year out of school debuted for Queensland against New South Wales. Over the course of the next three years Connor played against touring sides from Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand but sat in shadow of incumbent Wallaby halfbacks Cyril Burke and Brian Cox.
In 1957 the All Blacks toured Australia and so impressed were they with Connor that coach Dick Everest allegedly told the Wallaby selectors that they were ‘mad if they did not take this kid to Britain’. Not surprisingly Connor was chosen for the Fourth Wallabies tour to the British Isles, France, and North America and made his debut in the opening international against Wales. Connor went on to form one of the great halves combinations with Arthur Summons, who would move on to further fame in rugby league. The following year against the touring Maori, Connor became the 43rd Wallaby to captain his country and then played so well on the tour of New Zealand that he was chosen as one of the "Five players of the Year" by the New Zealand Rugby Almanack.
A school teacher by profession, Connor considered heading to the UK as the 1960s dawned, but instead moved to New Zealand and took up a position at Takapuna Grammar. He played rugby for the Marist club, won selection for Auckland and in 1961 made his All Blacks debut against France having fulfilled the short-term residency requirement in force at the time. Connor toured Australia with the All Blacks in 1962 and played against the Wallabies again in 1964.
In total he played 12 Tests for the All Blacks, was vice captain in all 12, and tasted defeat just once.
In 1969, the celebrated New Zealand critic Morrie Mackenzie wrote of Connor: “The best halfback in the world from 1958 to 1961 and also the best I ever saw with the exception of (South African) Danie Craven.”
Connor took over as Australian coach in 1968 for the home series against the All Blacks and unveiled to the world the tactic of playing with a shortened lineout. He also took the Wallabies to South Africa in 1969 and guided them through a controversial home series with the Springboks in 1971.
In 1999, Connor was named captain of Queensland’s Team of the Century and in 2008 he was inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
Des Connor played 12 Tests for Australia in a two-year Wallaby career.
Connor won his first Test cap at halfback alongside Arthur Summons in the 3-9 loss to Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. That halves pairing started the next three internationals against Ireland, England and Scotland before a bruised thigh ruled Summons out of the final Test against France.
Connor captained Australia in the final two Tests against the Maori. He and Summons combined in all three away Tests against New Zealand.
Summons and Connor partnered in their final two Tests, the home losses to the British Lions.