John Allan Francis
John Francis was one of the eight star-studded Randwick clubmen who dominated the Fifth Wallabies squad to the U.K. et al in 1966/67. Francis joined Ken Catchpole, Peter Johnson, Phil Hawthorne, Phil Smith, John Brass, Tony Moore and Denis O’Callaghan in the touring party however a cruel injury, suffered before a ball had been kicked in anger, thwarted his Test ambitions.
Born and raised at Kempsey, on the mid-north coast region of New South Wales, Francis played rugby league as a five-eighth during his years at Kempsey High School.
Francis’ first exposure to rugby union came during his time at Sydney Teachers' College where he studied Physical Education Teaching. While at STC he earned selection in a strong College side and learned much from the experience due to the influence of teammates, and future Wallabies, Len Diett and Jimmy Lisle.
In 1960 Francis joined Randwick where he was initially graded as a fullback and then, in first grade, on the wing. Francis spent the 1963 season in Wagga Wagga due to a teaching post and while there he captained Wagga City to a premiership victory. He also represented Riverina in the annual Country Week championship and played at inside centre in a side which contained several Wallabies including Beres Ellwood, Jim Lenehan and Ken McMullen.
On his return to Randwick in 1964, Francis regained his first-grade spot, won two successive Shute Shield grand finals (1965-66), and played in several Wallaby trial matches. The first of those Wallaby trials came in 1964 when Francis was called into Ken Catchpole’s XV for the second fixture after an ankle sprain forced Beres Ellwood to withdraw. Francis scored a try in the 28-9 win however Ellwood returned for the final Australia vs. The Rest trial. Two years later Francis made his state debut against Queensland, in a match which doubled as a national trial, and scored a crucial try in the 16-16 draw. His performance that day earned Francis a spot on the Fifth Wallabies tour.
Training at Durham, following his selection in the opening match against North-Eastern Counties, Francis tore his left hamstring. The injury occurred after Francis sprinted the line-side of a scrum and Catchpole threw the ball out just a step ahead of his centre. In stretching forward to take the ball, Francis’ hamstring tore. A local doctor and Wallaby flanker John O’Gorman both agreed that the injury would take anywhere from four to six weeks to heal with the possibility of eight weeks if the tear was severe.
Unfortunately, the worst case scenario played out and Francis missed eight weeks and 20 matches, three of which were Tests, before he finally got back on the field for his Australian debut, against Cornwall & Devon at Camborne (W 11-6).
Despite the lingering impact from that hamstring injury Francis won a third consecutive Shute Shield in 1967. However, with 98 first grade games to his credit, Francis elected to withstand the temptation of becoming a 100-gamer and chose to retire in order to complete his Commerce studies at UNSW.
In retirement Francis coached Hunters Hill in the Sydney sub-district competition. He led the club to victories in the 1971 John Barraclough Cup (Division II), and the 1972 Kentwell Cup (Division I) competitions. A year later he coached Sydney Sub-Districts to a win over Brisbane Sub-Districts in the curtain raiser to one of international rugby’s great upsets - Tonga’s 16-11 victory over Australia at Ballymore.
Francis played five matches on the Fifth Wallabies tour – vs. Cornwall & Devon; vs. Midland Counties (West) at Moseley (L 9-17); vs. Western Counties at Bristol (L 0-9); vs. South-West France at Bordeaux (W 11-9); and vs. University of British Columbia at Vancouver (W 11-6)