Owen George Stephens
- 562Wallaby Number
Owen Stephens was a fast, enterprising and elusive winger who holds a unique place in Australian Rugby. He is just the third player, after Ted Jessep (Wallaby #290) and the great Des Connor (Wallaby #429), to play Test rugby for both Australia and New Zealand. Born at Paeroa, New Zealand and educated at Tauranga Boys' College, Stephens played provincial rugby for Bay Of Plenty in 1966. That same year he was picked for the Junior All Blacks and also nominated as one of the five most promising players by the NZ Rugby Almanack. Stephens moved to Wellington in 1967 and won selection in the trial for the Jubilee Test against Australia.
In 1968 he was again named in the Junior All Blacks, played for North Island against South Island, and was chosen as a reserve for the second Test against France. With outside centre Ian MacRae injured, Grahame Thorne was shifted to No.13 for the third Test and Stephens brought in on the wing for his international debut at Eden Park. When Stephens was not selected for the 1970 tour to South Africa he took up an opportunity to move to Australia through his work as an insurance representative in early 1971.
A desire to test himself in rugby league game saw Stephens trial with the St.George Dragons. Although they were keen to sign him, a $6,000 transfer fee placed on him by the NZRL stymied those plans. Stephens applied for reinstatement to rugby however the Sydney Rugby Union placed a 12-month suspension on him for dabbling with the professionals despite the fact that he accepted no money.
Stephens joined the St.George Rugby Club for the 1972 season and within a year earned a debut for Sydney against ACT, a game in which he scored two tries. A week later he nabbed another double against Auckland. The next step was selection for New South Wales against Tonga, where he scored two more tries. Stephens scoring exploits played him into a Wallaby jersey for the first Tongan Test in Sydney where he produced ‘several paralysing bursts down the left flank’ to bag another brace of tries.
When New Zealand came to town in 1974, Stephens created his own slice of history as he played in the final two internationals of that series. Stephens then switched codes to play rugby league for the Parramatta Eels.
Stephens played five Tests in his two-year Wallaby career.
Stephens won his first Test cap on the left wing in the 1st Test, 30-12 victory over Tonga at the S.C.G. He scored his first Test tries to become the 47th Wallaby to score a try on debut. He retained his spot for the next two internationals, the 2nd Test, 11-16 loss in Brisbane and the 0-24 defeat to Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. Stephens suffered bruising to the thighs and a swollen knee in the Welsh test and was unavailable for the England Test at Twickenham.
Stephens started on the bench for the opening Test against New Zealand in Sydney but was called into the starting side for the 16-16 draw at Ballymore and held his spot for the 6-16, 3rd Test loss at the S.C.G.