Norman McLaurin Hughes
- 398Wallaby Number
‘Mac’ Hughes was a world-class loose forward who commanded automatic selection in the Wallaby backrow through the mid-to-late 1950s. A strapping flanker / No.8, Hughes was a menace in the tight, ran strongly and tackled aggressively. He was also a great source of ball at the back of the lineout.
Born in Albury, Hughes was introduced to rugby during his time at Sydney's Mosman Preparatory School. He then attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School (‘Shore’), where he was coached by future Wallaby mentor Bryan Palmer. Initially Hughes played in the backs however he shifted to the back of the scrum for his two seasons in the 1st XV (1949-50). After school he ran around for the University of Technology before a move to the University of Sydney in 1952.
During the 1953 Wallaby trials, Hughes caught the eye of the Wallaby selectors and was one of the bolters named for the tour to South Africa. It was expected that Hughes would serve an apprenticeship behind Col Windon, Brian Johnson, Keith Cross and Dave Brockhoff. Early in the tour that viewed appeared to be correct as Hughes received few opportunities but he was then named to make his debut as part of a very surprising backrow combination in the opening Test at Johannesburg. Hughes started all four Tests of the series and formed a very effective loose forward trio with Cross and Johnson. In Cape Town a Hughes win at the back of the lineout proved crucial in Garth Jones’ match winning try and an Australian victory that dealt the Springboks their first loss since 1938.
In 1955, Hughes toured to New Zealand and after the Wallabies had strongly contested the first two Test matches, they arrived at Eden Park with a point to prove. In a triumphant finale the Wallabies played some of the most attractive football ever seen in New Zealand. The loose forward trio of Cross, Hughes and Thornett was splendid in the tight. Hughes’ final tour was with the Fourth Wallabies where he played in all five Tests but then stayed on in the U.K. to further his architectural career. While there he linked up with the famous Blackheath Club, the oldest rugby club in the world.
‘Mac’ Hughes played 14 Tests for Australia in a six-year international career.
Hughes won his first Test cap at flanker alongside Jack Carroll and Keith Cross in the 1st Test, 3-25 loss to South Africa at Ellis Park. Brian Johnson came in for Carroll to join Hughes and Cross in the back row for each of the final three Tests of that series.
Fiji visited Australia however at that same time Hughes was on tour in New Zealand as captain of the Australian Universities team. With Hughes unavailable, Manly’s Jack Pashley played on the flank in both Tests.
Hughes started all three away Tests against New Zealand, the first two on the flank in partnership with Cross and Johnson and the final Test at No.8 with John Thornett on the side. He scored his first Test try in the 3rd Test, 8-3 victory at Eden Park.
Hughes played No.8 with Thornett and Cross as his flankers in the two home losses to South Africa.
Hughes was unavailable for the two home Tests against the All Blacks due to a pulled thigh muscle.
In his final year on international rugby, Hughes was capped in all five internationals on the Fourth Wallabies tour. He played No.8 against Wales, Ireland, Scotland and France but shifted to the flank at Twickenham when Kevin Ryan started at the back of the scrum.