John Aloysius O'Connor
- 248Wallaby Number
‘Jack’ O’Connor was a consistent, solidly built lock forward who enjoyed a brief international career in the wake of the Waratahs’ momentous tour to the Northern Hemisphere in 1927/28 and prior to the reformation of the Queensland Rugby Union in 1929. Born in Sydney and educated at Waverley College, O’Connor was also a top class swimmer and water polo player. As a member of the Sydney Amateur Swimming Club O’Connor reached three successive finals (1925-27) of the 220 yards breaststroke event at the New South Wales championships and won the silver medal in 1927.
He won selection in the New South Wales water polo team in 1925 and captained the side in 1928. O’Connor played his club rugby for Randwick, made his first grade debut in 1925 and went on to tally 131 matches over his ten year career. In 1926 he made his first representative appearance, for a Metropolitan XV on their tour of regional New South Wales, and a year later debuted for New South Wales against Victoria. Although O’Connor was not chosen for the Waratahs his big chance emerged when 13 members of that tour had either retired or made themselves unavailable, predominantly due to financial reasons, for the 1928 trip to New Zealand.
When the squad was announced it included three locks - Geoff Bland, ‘Mac’ Lamb and O’Connor. He started in eight of the 10 matches, the third of which was played against Hawkes Bay. New South Wales had never won in Napier and as such the 19-6 victory was regarded as something of an upset. The win was even more noteworthy for the fact that the visitors played almost half of the match with just 14 men after O'Connor was ordered from the field. He was cautioned for tackling a man after he had claimed a mark, and, unknown to him, a free kick was awarded. O’Connor stood on the mark, and the same player who had claimed the mark took the kick.
O’Connor, still thinking he could charge the mark, did so and was ordered off. It was an unusual incident, and nothing more than a misunderstanding. O’Connor was most upset, thinking he had been ordered off for dirty play. 'Think of the disgrace! What will my people think of me when they receive the news?' was his remark. O’Connor was later exonerated when the facts were fully explained. Four days later O’Connor was back for the 1st ‘Test’ against New Zealand in Wellington. Although he did not know it at the time that match was O’Connor’s official Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986).
In 1929 O’Connor played in all three state matches against Queensland however the Australian selectors opted for the added bulk of the Maroon’s Harry Hamalainen to partner ‘Huck’ Finlay for the home series against New Zealand. The following year he enjoyed a most memorable final representative match when New South Wales humbled the British Lions by 28-3. O’Connor went on to captain Randwick for four seasons (1931-34) however an ankle injury prevented him from leading the team which defeated Manly 13-12 to win the 1934 grand final. He announced his retirement early in 1935 and later took up refereeing where it was said he made “an excellent job of it”. ‘Jack’ O’Connor played four Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.
O’Connor won his first Test cap at lock, partnered with ‘Mac’ Lamb, in the 1st Test, 12-15 loss to New Zealand at Athletic Park. He also earned caps in the final two Tests of that series as well as the 8-9 defeat to the Maori at Palmerston North.