John Noel Brian Hipwell
- 519Wallaby Number
John Hipwell was yet another in the long line of world-class halfbacks to emerge from the Newcastle region. Hipwell had no deficiencies in his game. He possessed a sharp, long pass, remarkable strength and was arguably the greatest and most effective cover defender of all-time. Squat with a heavily muscled lower body that was simply perfect for his position, Hipwell’s remarkable record is highlighted by extraordinary longevity. His career of great honour and devotion in Wallaby gold extended over a period of 15 years.
Born in Mayfield, Newcastle, Hipwell was educated at Wallsend High School. He burst onto the scene in 1966 when he represented New South Wales Country against the British Lions at Canberra. Hipwell had his front teeth knocked out but battled on in what was a narrow 3-6 loss. At the end of the year he was chosen for the Fifth Wallabies tour to the British Isles, France and Canada. The tour was not overly successful, however Hipwell played in 10 matches for nine victories. In 1968 New Zealand toured and Hipwell earned his first cap in the opening Test of the two-match series in the most unfortunate of circumstances. In a terrible incident All Black great Colin Meads attempted to pull Ken Catchpole out of a ruck.
Unfortunately the Australian captain was trapped, Meads twisted his leg, and caused severe muscular and ligament damage. Catchpole never played representative rugby again. Hipwell played the next 12 Tests in succession and toured Ireland and Scotland 1968, South Africa in 1969, and France and North America 1971 before injury intervened and he somewhat fortuitously missed both the 1972 tour to New Zealand and the 1973 2nd Test loss to Tonga. He returned for the nine-game, short tour of England, Wales and Italy, under Peter Sullivan. When Sullivan withdrew from the England international due to a knee injury, Hipwell became the 52nd Wallaby to captain his country in a Test. He went on to lead the Wallabies against England and Japan in 1975, and to Britain with the Sixth Wallabies in 1975/76.
On that tour Hipwell damaged the cruciate ligaments in his knee in the uncapped match against North-East Counties and was forced to miss not just the final three Tests but all of the following year. Hipwell returned to the national side in 1978 when he was a controversial call up to join the tour of New Zealand. He was not originally selected, the two halves picked were Peter Carson and Rod Hauser, however when management requested a replacement for injured fullback Roger Gould, a third halfback was sent. Although Hipwell only played in five of the 13 matches, three of those were the Tests, and he was on deck for Australia’s record 30-16, 3rd Test victory in Auckland. Unavailable for much of the next two seasons, Hipwell played against France in 1981 and won selection for an incredible third Wallabies tour to Britain in 1981/82.
John Hipwell played 36 Tests for Australia, nine as captain, in a wonderful 15-year international career.
Hipwell won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Ken Catchpole at halfback in the 1st Test, 11-27 loss to New Zealand in Sydney. A week later he made his run-on XV debut inside of John Ballesty in the 2nd Test, 18-19 loss. He earned three more caps, all alongside Ballesty, in the 11-10 win over France at the S.C.G., the 3-10 loss to Ireland in Dublin, and the 3-9 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.
Hipwell played in all five Wallaby Tests. He partnered Ballesty in the 16-19 loss to Wales, and the second and fourth Test losses against South Africa. Rupert Rosenblum was his fly half in the first and third Test defeats to the Springboks.
Hipwell and Rosenblum were the halves for the 23-3 victory over Scotland at the S.C.G.
Hipwell started the first two home Tests against South Africa but was forced to undergo surgery for a calcification on his thigh. As a result Mick Barry earned his first Test cap in the third and final international in Sydney. Hipwell returned in combination with Russell Fairfax for the two Test away series with France.
He combined with Fairfax for both Tests against France but then dislocated his left collarbone in a club game and withdrew from the tour to New Zealand.
Hipwell and Geoff Richardson were partnered for the 30-12, 1st Test victory over Tonga however Hipwell then suffered a foot injury to be somewhat fortuitously ruled out of the second Test loss at Ballymore. He returned to start with Richardson in the 0-24 loss to Wales at Cardiff Arms Park and then alongside Peter Rowles in the 3-20 defeat to England at Twickenham. With tour captain Peter Sullivan out with a knee injury Hipwell was appointed captain for the England international and became the 52nd Wallaby to captain his country in a Test.
Paul McLean was the fly half outside of captain Hipwell for all three Bledisloe Cup Tests.
Hipwell captained in three of the four home Tests against England (2) and Japan (1) but missed the 2nd Test, 50-25 victory over Japan due to injury.
Hipwell captained from halfback against Scotland and Wales, both alongside Jim Hindmarsh, but he was replaced in Cardiff due to a knee injury he had first suffered in the uncapped match against North-East Counties.
The Wallabies did not play a Test match in 1977.
Hipwell started in all three Tests against New Zealand, the first two in combination with Ken Wright and the third when paired with Tony Melrose.
Hipwell played both home Tests against France, the first with Paul McLean and the second inside of Mark Ella.
He earned his final three caps on the Seventh Wallabies tour to Britain. Hipwell and McLean were the halves for the 16-12 win over Ireland and the 13-18 loss to Wales however Hipwell was replaced in Cardiff due to a torn hamstring. He played his last Test alongside Mark Ella in the 11-15 loss to England at Twickenham.