John Ellis Brass
- 499Wallaby Number
John Brass was a classy centre renowned for his great handling skills and brick-wall defence. Deceptively tough, Brass had the priceless gift of being able to straighten an attack. Fast with a good step, Brass was simply brilliant in the mid-filed. He could make the inside break and unload or create a half-gap and provide countless opportunities for the men on his outside. One man who arguably profited more than any other from Brass was his close mate Phil Smith. They were the Horan and Little of the 1960s.
Born in Sydney and educated at Sydney Boys High School, Brass and Smith played together from the U13s through to the 1st XV and starred when High won the GPS premiership for the first time in 1963. Aged 19, Brass made his debut for New South Wales against Queensland in 1966 and nine days later fronted up for his state to play the British Lions. Unfortunately, Brass was hit glaringly late by a stiff arm from Irish centre Jerry Walsh and had to be taken from the field with concussion. As a result he was not picked for the first Test just seven days later but came in to replace Beres Ellwood and make his Test debut in Brisbane. In that match injuries to wingers Alan Cardy and George Ruebner left the backline defence in tatters and Australia were overrun in the second half to lose 0-31.
Brass was then chosen for his first tour, the Fifth Wallabies to Britain in 1966/67. He proved to be something of an iron man as he played 32 of the 36 matches, including all four Tests. In 1967 Brass delivered one of his greatest performances in Sydney’s crushing 30-8 win over Ireland. Brass was simply magnificent, broke the line at will and sent Smith over for three tries. Smith should have scored five tries but twice lost the ball over the line.
The following year, and after a disappointing team performance on the short tour to Ireland and Scotland, Brass announced he was turning professional. He switched codes on a record $30,000 contract to play with Eastern Suburbs. In 1970 he became a dual international when selected for the series against Great Britain. Brass was regarded as one of the most successful union to league converts of the modern era. John Brass played 12 Tests for Australia in a three-year international career.
Brass won his first Test cap at outside centre alongside Rick Trivett in the 2nd Test, 0-31 loss to the British Lions at Lang Park.
Brass, at inside centre, partnered Dick Marks in all five internationals of the Fifth Wallabies tour to the British Isles, France and Canada. He scored his first Test try in the 5-11 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield.
Brass and Marks were paired in the centres for the 5-11 loss to Ireland at the S.C.G. Brass was joined by Phil Smith for the 9-29 defeat to New Zealand at Athletic Park.
He played alongside Smith in the 1st Test, 11-27 loss to New Zealand in Sydney but broke his collarbone and was therefore unavailable for the 2nd Test a week later. Brass returned to partner Smith in the 11-10 victory over France at the S.C.G, the 3-10 defeat to Ireland at Lansdowne Road and the 3-9 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield.