Donald John Strachan
- 413Wallaby Number
Don Strachan was one of the finest footballers to emerge from the Orange district in New South Wales. Wiry, raw-boned and tough, Strachan was a true sportsman with a deep love of the game. A wonderfully fit, powerful and versatile forward, he revelled in tight forward play and hard scrummaging.
Born in Orange, Strachan attended Hurlstone Agricultural School. He started his senior rugby career with the Orange Emus and in 1952 was chosen for the first of his five years as captain of Combined New South Wales Country. A year later he represented Central West when they toured the southern states and in 1954 made his first international tour, to New Zealand, with NSW Country. At the end of that very successful tour, one in which Country lost just two of their 11 matches, the side returned home and defeated a strong Metropolitan XV, one that contained no less than nine Wallabies, by 19-17. Strong personal performances in that match earned Strachan and Ron Harvey their state debuts in 1955. Strachan played three solid games for New South Wales and, somewhat helped by the absence from representative football that year of incumbent Wallaby tighthead prop Col Forbes, was then chosen for his first Wallaby tour, to New Zealand.
While Neil Adams and Nick Shehadie started in the Australian front row for the first Test, Strachan was actually bracketed with specialist rake Jim Cross to play in the middle of the front row due to the extremely heavy nature of the pitch. Team management was of the belief that the Wallabies needed their largest possible eight on the paddock in order to take on the Blacks. However, in the best interests of the team, and in an entirely selfless decision, Strachan informed the hierarchy that he had never played a single game as hooker even though he was considered an above average loose head who specialised in hooking the ball from the open side.
Two weeks later, and with his good mate Adams out with injury, Strachan earned a Test debut at loosehead in Dunedin.
In 1956, Strachan played for Central West when they became Country Rugby Union champions and Caldwell Cup holders for the first time. In the final Central West defeated the ACT 17-6 and it was written that Strachan’s ‘international experience was a tremendous influence in the winning pack.’ He was also vice captain for Country in their match against the touring Springboks.
The following season Strachan made the most difficult decision of his rugby career after Australian selectors Jock Blackwood and Tom Pauling offered him the chance to captain the Fourth Wallabies to England. A tour to the U.K. was Strachan’s lifelong ambition however he informed Blackwood and Pauling that he couldn’t go as his dad had retired and he held the responsibility for the family farm in his hands.
Strachan then gave the game away in order to focus on the land however he was coaxed out of retirement in 1958 to play his final representative match, as captain, for Central West against the Maori in his hometown. In an exciting fixture a late John Stanbrook try secured Central West a thoroughly deserved 18-15 victory and inflicted just the second loss, from the eventual 12 matches played, on a very good Maori side.
Don Strachan played two Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.
Strachan won his first Test cap at tighthead prop alongside Jim Cross and Nick Shehadie in the 0-8, 2nd Test loss to New Zealand in Dunedin. That same front three were retained for the 3rd Test, 8-3 victory at Eden Park.