Norman Peter Reilly
- 515Wallaby Number
Peter Reilly was one of the bright hopes who emerged at a time when Australian rugby was rebuilding in the wake of key retirements and defections to rugby league. Reilly was a fiery, fearless lock who played well above his weight and did not take a backward step.With a mop of brown hair that burst from a tight, broad headband, Reilly waded into the trenches in every game that he played. Mentally and physically tough, he trained hard and played the same way. Born in the outback Queensland town of Roma, Reilly was educated at St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace however he left the school in 1960 without playing in the 1st XV. He then joined the Brothers Old Boys Rugby Club under Jim Kenny.
When Mick Purcell and Ross Teitzel both became unavailable for representative rugby afterthe Fifth Wallabies tour to Britain in 1966/67, Queensland had a big vacancy to fill in the key middle row. One position looked certain to be filled by the promising Stuart Gregory who had come up through the U19s. The second lock position went to Reilly who made his debut for Queensland against New South Wales Country at Bally more in a 1968 Wallaby Trophy match. With just two Maroons caps to his name Reilly was thrust into the Junior Wallabies side against New Zealand. Despite the lopsided 3-43 score-line the selectors were impressed and Reilly was chosen to make his Test debut in Sydney.
His was a tough introduction to international rugby. New Zealand tight head prop ‘Jazz’ Muller broke his nose with a punch at the first line out however Reilly waded back into the fray and performed creditably against the team acknowledged as the best in the world. Later that season he played against France in what proved to be a thriller. A dropped goal from John Ballesty in the final quarter was the decisive score and Australia heldon to win 11-10. That proved to be the only Test match in which Reilly finished on the winning side. Reilly made himself unavailable for the three-month tour to South Africa in 1969 however a call from coach Des Connor convinced him to change his mind. It proved to be a good decision. Reilly was one of the success stories of the tour. He played in 18 of the 26 matches, a number only bettered by captain Greg Davis.
On his return to Australia, Reilly married and decided to switch codes and play rugby league for BrisbaneBrothers. Peter Reilly played 10 Tests for Australia in a two-year international career.
Reilly won his first Test cap at lock alongside Tony Abrahams in the 1st Test, 11-27 loss to New Zealand at the S.C.G. A week later he retained his spot but partnered Stu Gregory in the 2nd Test, 18-19 loss at Ballymore. He and Gregory locked the scrum for the next three Tests against France, Ireland and Scotland.
Reilly started all five Wallaby Tests of 1969. He combined with Abrahams in the 16-19 loss to Wales in Sydney but was shifted to the flank for the 1st Test, 11-30 loss to South Africa in Johannesburg. Reilly returned to lock for the final three internationals against the Springboks but had different lock partners - Owen Butler, Gregory and Alan Skinner - for each match.