Dwayne Alan Vignes
“Accept the things to which fate binds you…” Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome 161-180 AD. The story of Dwayne Vignes necessitates such acceptance as few Wallabies have been promised so much, delivered so little and treated without due courtesy.
Born in Sydney, Vignes played his first rugby as a breakaway for the Greystanes’ U7s. He remained with the club throughout his formative years given that rugby league was the sport of choice at Holroyd High School. Vignes transitioned to the three-quarter line and although far from the quickest winger running around, he possessed another invaluable talent, the ability to read a game, one that set him apart from his contemporaries.
After graduation, Vignes left the city life for Coffs Harbour on the north coast of New South Wales. It didn’t take long for Vignes’ rugby to make an impression and just three weeks after his twenty-first birthday he debuted for New South Wales Country against Argentina in Narrabri (L 3-46).
Two years later, in 1985, Vignes toured to Europe, the U.K. and Singapore with Country before he won the first of 27 New South Wales caps in the 18-26 loss to Queensland at Ballymore. Vignes then found his groove when he twice faced the touring Canadians in just four days. Vignes scored a try for the Waratahs (W 31-6) and then fifteen points in Country’s 31-23 win at Gosford however Peter Grigg and Matt Burke won the nod for both Tests.
The following year Vignes scored the decisive try as New South Wales upset Queensland 18-12 in the first interstate clash at Concord before he bagged a double in the Tahs’ 24-38 loss in the return match at Ballymore. A week later Wallaby coach Alan Jones and Vignes independently attended a Small Business Association gathering in Coffs Harbour. Jones saw Vignes in the crowd and asked him to stand. Jones then announced to the room that Vignes would, the very next day in fact, be selected to play for Australia against France. Unfortunately, fate intervened. The following day Brett Papworth, the Wallabies’ incumbent inside centre, injured his ankle in a club match. With Roger Gould already sidelined by a right hamstring strain, Jones baulked at the prospect of naming two debutantes to play the Five Nation’s champions. Instead, the coach shifted David Campese to fullback, promoted Matt Burke from the reserves to the right wing, handed Queensland’s Michael Cook a first Test cap at #12 and brought the uncapped Andrew Leeds onto the bench. The hits didn’t end there as Vignes, due to the birth of his daughter, was unavailable for the subsequent history making tour to New Zealand.
In 1987 Vignes narrowly missed a spot in the Wallabies’ inaugural Rugby World Cup squad however his luck soon changed when Anthony Herbert, due to influenza, withdrew from the six-man reserves bench to face New Zealand in the one-off Bledisloe Cup defence. Despite being asked to warm-up on several occasions, Vignes did not make it onto the field for an elusive Test debut. Six weeks after relinquishing the trophy the selectors picked a squad to tour Argentina. Vignes name was not among the 26-man squad, one that included a little-known Queensland winger named Paul Carozza. Vignes was not provided with any explanation for his glaring omission. Some years later Jones confessed that Vignes non-selection was due to the incorrect presumption he had been injured.
The most infamous moment of Vignes’ career, ‘courtesy of the unorthodox genius’ of former Wallaby coach Daryl Haberecht, occurred in 1989 when NSW Country played the British Lions in Newcastle. Vignes was the lead act in the now infamous “Gallipoli”, over-the-top scrum move. A mid-field scrum win saw half Rob Long pass the ball to Vignes who leapt onto the back of his own forward pack and then ‘bounded across a startled Lions’ pack’. The visitors were far from impressed. Vignes later said, "When I got to the other side, they caught me and did a barn dance on my head. David Kennedy was the referee. He was aware of the move. I still got penalised but then he reversed it after the treatment I received." The Lions won 72-13 however the match will always be remembered for Haberecht's outlandish tactical ploy.
Vignes continued to ply his rugby trade on the mid-North Coast before he finally hung up the boots in 2001. He returned to coach the Southern Cross University Marlins in 2017 and that same year guided the club to their first top grade premiership victory.
1987 Vignes was an unused replacement against New Zealand at Concord Oval (L 16-30)