Kevin John O'Hara
Kevin O’Hara was a strapping outside back whose kicking prowess almost propelled him to a Test debut. O’Hara, solidly built at more than 6ft and 14 stone and with sharp pace, was a sight to behold on the end of Sydney University’s backline in the early 1970s.
O’Hara’s kicking skills were developed in his early school days playing Australian Rules Football. Prolific with the placed kick, O’Hara also mastered the torpedo, the punt and the dropped kick. Over seven seasons with University, and not always as first choice kick, he scored 539 first-grade points and led club scoring table in three separate years (1973 1974 and 1977).
Despite his undoubted talent O’Hara credited Rupert Rosenblum, for the opportunities he enjoyed playing alongside the University and Wallaby fly half. O’Hara described Rosenblum as “brilliant to play outside of” and whether it be through hands or off the foot “when the wingers got the ball it was perfect”. O’Hara believed that several University outside backs of the late 60s and early 70s owe much of their rugby success to the oft maligned Rosenblum.
O’Hara played his first rugby in the U11s for Royals in Canberra before four seasons at St. Edmunds College. He was also a member of the South Canberra Athletics Club. O’Hara represented ACT U14s rugby before he completed secondary school at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill. O’Hara won the U17 GPS long jump and was a non-playing member of the SJC 1st XV in 1969 before he enjoyed two seasons (1970-71) in the school’s prestigious 1st XV. In his final year O’Hara won selection for both the GPS and NSW Schools 1st XVs.
After graduation O’Hara enrolled in a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) at the University of Sydney. O’Hara’s debut rugby season stalled after he broke a bone in his left foot during a trial game however, he recovered to win a first-grade debut in just the fourth competition round, at home against Eastwood. The press of the day wrote that University had “laboured for some time without a recognised goal-kicker” and O’Hara’s inclusion would be most welcomed. O’Hara didn’t let his side down. The great Jim Webster’s article in The Sun-Herald was titled “New Union Star Begins To Shine”. Webster wrote: “University paraded a skilful new Rugby Union star in 18-year-old Kevin O’Hara during their no risks win over Eastwood. O’Hara….racked up 19 of his team’s  points, with the only try of the match and five penalty goals…..the man of the moment was undoubtedly young O’Hara. Seldom have players entered first grade with such gusto.” To top off the debut O’Hara picked up three points in The Sun-Herald best-and-fairest competition for his efforts. Incredibly, just three days later, O’Hara played for The Rest against Sydney in a representative trial at Manly Oval. Disappointingly, the season ended on a sour personal note when a shoulder injury forced O’Hara to miss the 10-6 Shute Shield victory over Gordon. That match was to be Uni’s last grand final appearance for 27 years.
Further representative opportunities proved elusive given the fact that O’Hara had to compete with Wallabies John Cole, Owen Stephens, Rod Batterham, Laurie Monaghan and Arthur McGill merely to earn a run for Sydney, let alone New South Wales. That situation changed in 1974, one in which O’Hara played for Sydney U23 against NSW Country. After Jeff McLean was dropped following the first Test loss to New Zealand the selectors surprised when they overlooked the seasoned veteran Arthur McGill and chose O’Hara to be Paul McLean’s back-up as goal-kicker for the final two Tests. Unfortunately for O’Hara the opportunity to make his Test debut was foiled as McLean played all eighty minutes of both matches.
Unfortunately, a run of injury, including multiple dislocated shoulders, hampered O’Hara’s career progression. Worse was to come when, warming up for a game of touch footy, O’Hara keeled over after he exploded a disc and pinched a nerve in his back. In 1977 O’Hara played his sixth and final season with University before a year with The Wanderers in the Newcastle competition preceded his retirement from the game.
O’Hara was an unused reserve for both the second and third Tests against New Zealand.