Donald Charles Furness
- 341Wallaby Number
Don Furness was a colourful yet luckless hooker who forged a rugby career both as a player and an official. It remains undisputed that Furness was the finest technical hooker in the country during the 1940s. He was undoubtedly the quickest striker for the ball in the game however the greater mobility of rivals Wal Dawon and Ken Kearney proved to be a decisive factor when representative teams came to be selected.
A loyal servant of the Randwick RUFC, and who later became a prominent referee, Furness was born in Sydney but raised in Melbourne before he returned to complete his education at Marcellin College. He played first grade at Randwick in 1941 but then joined the 2nd Australian Imperial Force.
He reappeared on the rugby scene in 1945 when chosen for Combined Services against Metropolitan and emerged as international Alby Stone's rival for the New South Wales side to play Queensland. The following year, after many outstanding performances, Furness gained recognition with selection in the NSW squad to practise for state selection. At the time Furness was rated by Cyril Towers as Australia's best hooker however he never had a chance to oppose his two main rivals - Dawson and Queensland’s Kevin Hodda - so it was no surprise when he missed a spot on the Australian tour to New Zealand.
Unfortunately the Wallabies were struck down by injury, Hodda hurt his knee in the opening match against North Auckland, and Furness was called in as a replacement. He played three matches, the last of which was against the Maori at Hamilton three days before the final Test. Although he did not know it at the time that match against the Maori was his Test debut. The following year Furness out-hooked Hodda and then, on debut for New South Wales, New Zealand’s Eric Catley. Catley later said he had been beaten only once previously in his career, by South Africa’s Jan Lotz during the 1937 Springbok tour. Remarkably Furness was not only overlooked for Kearney in the first Test team but missed a spot on the reserves to Hodda. Further disappointment followed when, to the astonishment of the All Blacks, Furness failed to make the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. and Europe.
The following year Furness humbled Dawson 27-6 in the scrums when South defeated North 22-11 in the state trial match and he then beat Queensland’s Nev Cottrell 22-13 in the fourth interstate game. Unfortunately fate worked against Furness yet again as Australia did not play any Tests that year after the English and French internationals in January. In 1949 Furness played his 100th match for Randwick and earned a second Wallaby tour, again to New Zealand, however Cottrell started in both Tests.
Furness retired upon his return to Australia and turned his attention to refereeing with immediate success. He was quickly promoted to regular first grade and in 1952 officiated both home Tests against the flying Fijians. In later years he became the president of Randwick and was rewarded with life membership for his years of loyal and devoted service.
Don Furness played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #341.
Furness won his first Test cap at hooker propped by Ernie Freeman and ‘Wallaby Bob’ McMaster in the 0-20 loss to the Maori at Rugby Park.