Douglas Holcombe Keller

  • 6Caps
  • 347Wallaby Number
PositionLoosehead Prop/ Flanker
Date Of Birth17 June 1922
Place Of BirthWee Waa, NSW
SchoolSydney Grammar School
Other ClubsUniversity (Sydney), London Scottish (ENG), Guy's Hospital (ENG), Eastwood
ProvinceNSW
Other ProvinceWellington (NZ)
Died19 March 2004
Debut Test Match1947 Wallabies v New Zealand, 1st Test Brisbane
Final Test Match1948 Wallabies v France, Paris

Biography

Doug Keller, a virile, hard-rucking forward, was the sixth Wallaby to play Test rugby for two countries. A crunching defender of magnificent physique, Keller was among the fittest Australian forwards of the post-WW2 era. Incredibly Keller started his representative rugby as a prop before he developed into an outstanding loose forward. Born in north west New South Wales at Wee Waa, Keller was educated at Sydney Grammar School before he graduated to the University Of Sydney. Keller received ‘Blues’ from University in 1942, 1944 and 1945, and captained the 1945 team to the Premiership. He graduated as a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and shifted clubs to Drummoyne in 1946.

The following season Keller debuted off the bench for New South Wales against Toowoomba and then gave a ‘magnificent display’ at prop in the third interstate match where ‘his tackling, backing up, and surprising speed constantly baffled the opposition.’ As a consequence Keller was called up for his maiden Test, against New Zealand in Brisbane, and then won a spot on the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. and Europe. Injuries to Bill McLean (broken leg), ‘Arch’ Winning (groin) and John Fuller (sprained ankle) left the Wallabies’ flanker cupboard somewhat thin so the selectors rolled the dice and and picked Keller on the side of the scrum against Cambridge University. An ‘outstanding display’ against Hampshire and Sussex sealed his spot in the back row with Col Windon and Arthur Buchan for the first international of the tour, against Scotland at Murrayfield where, it was written ”Keller shone in his role of emergency spoiling breakaway.’ Keller started at flanker in all five Tests however after the North American leg of tour he returned to the U.K. to continue his medical studies. Keller undertook his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons degree at Guy’s Hospital and played rugby for Guy’s in the hope of be becoming a Scottish international.

In early 1949 Keller was chosen to captain Scotland against The Rest at Murrayfield, a decision that drew sharp criticism from the English press. The Manchester Guardian's rugby correspondent wrote: "The selectors have descended to a new level of self-abasement by choosing as captain of Scotland for its final trial D. H. Keller, who played for Australia last season against England. It is repugnant to good taste that a man should play against a country of which he is a citizen." The comment failed to recognise that Keller was eligible to play for Scotland as it was the birthplace of his maternal grandmother. In his first Test Keller led Scotland to an 8-0 win over France and followed that with a memorable 6-5 defeat of Wales. He went on to be selected for the Barbarians’ annual Easter tour of Wales and was included among the 10 outstanding players of the season by the 1949-50 English Rugby annual. In March, 1950 the Rugby Union International Board voted to ban from British international teams any player who had previously represented the Dominions. Keller returned to Australia in 1952 where he linked up with Drummoyne but retired mid-season. Doug Keller played six Tests for Australia, and seven for Scotland, in a four year international career.

Highlights

1947

Keller won his first Test cap in the front row alongside fellow debutant Ken Kearney and ‘Wallaby Bob’ McMaster in the 1st Test, 5-13 loss to New Zealand in Brisbane.

1947/48

He was switched to flanker for the opening Test on the Third Wallabies tour, the 16-7 win over Scotland in Edinburgh. Keller, Col Windon and Arthur Buchan were retained in the back row for the remaining four internationals of the tour.

Douglas Holcombe Keller