John Edward Francis Coolican
- 624Wallaby Number
John Coolican was a strongly built, staunch and rugged specialist loosehead prop forward who, like many front row forwards, served a lengthy apprenticeship before he was finally rewarded with Wallaby selection. It was a credit to Coolican that he earned Test capped status given Australia had no shortage of expert front-rowers in the late 1970s / early 1980s.
Born in Sydney, Coolican was educated at Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview where he played three years in the 1st XV. After graduation Coolican studied Dentistry at the University of Sydney and made his First Grade rugby debut in 1975.
His first taste of representative rugby came in 1976 for Sydney against Australian Services. A year later he made his New South Wales debut against Queensland at Ballymore and in 1978 Coolican played for Sydney when they upset reigning five nations’ champions Wales. The following year he performed strongly for NSW against both the Maori and Ireland, and was duly rewarded with a late call up for the first of his four Wallaby tours. With lock and lineout specialist Keith Besomo unavailable due to suspension, coach Bob Templeton called upon Coolican for the tour to Argentina after he studied the Pumas recent performances against New Zealand. Coolican’s strength and technique were thoroughly tested by the powerful Argentine scrummaging. While he did not play in either of the Tests, Coolican returned home a far better player for the experience.
In 1982 ten Wallabies, including props Tony D’Arcy and Stan Pilecki, made themselves unavailable for the Wallaby tour of New Zealand. Coolican went on the tour and when the team for the opening Test in Christchurch was announced there were three debutants - Andy McIntyre, Bruce Malouf, and Coolican - selected in the front row for the first time since 1946. Despite a strong second half fightback, from 3-19 at the break, Australia were beaten 16-23. Coach Bob Dwyer made two front-row changes for Wellington and John Meadows returned for the rest of the series. Coolican was also chosen for the 1983 tour to Italy and France, where he played in each of the three Tests, however a year later Enrique Rodriguez moved to Australia and secured the No.1 jersey through to the end of the 1987 season.
In 2021, Coolican was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia "for significant service to dentistry in the field of orthodontics, and to rugby union."
John Coolican played four Tests for Australia in a two-year international career.
Coolican won his first Test cap at loosehead prop in the 1st Test 16-23 loss to New Zealand at Lancaster Park.
Stan Pilecki and John Meadows dominated the front row selection for the domestic Tests however Coolican started at loosehead for each of the three Tests - Italy (1) and France (2) on the end of season tour to the northern hemisphere.