Peter George Johnson
- 453Wallaby Number
Peter Johnson enjoyed a phenomenal 13-year Wallaby career and was arguably Australia’s best ever hooker. Known for his lightning quick strike and backrow-like mobility, Johnson revolutionised the role of hooker in Test rugby. With John Thornett and Jon White, Johnson was part of one of the great Wallaby front-rows and with them he enjoyed some of Australian rugby’s greatest triumphs.
Born in Sydney, Johnson showed enough academic potential that he gained entrance to Sydney Boys’ High School. In his final year he made the GPS 2nd XV and from there played his club rugby at Eastern Suburbs. He moved to Randwick only to be confronted by the fact that the First Grade hooker, Jim Brown, was also the Wallaby hooker. Johnson then played for the University of Sydney as that was where he studied economics. Eventually he was cajoled back to Randwick by the great Col Windon.
In 1957, and while still in second grade, Johnson was unexpectedly selected to participate in the trials for the 1957-58 Wallabies tour. Brown retired in 1958 and Johnson made the step up to higher honours. Two good games against the Maori earned him a spot on the tour to New Zealand however he did not play in the Tests. The following year he played in the New South Wales team that defeated the British Lions 18-14 and following that performance earned a Test debut, in Brisbane. From that debut, Johnson played 39 consecutive Tests through to the end of 1968. In 1962, when Jim Lenehan withdrew from the 1st Test against New Zealand, Johnson became the 47th Wallaby to captain his country.
Johnson also played in some of Australia’s greatest ever victories during that run including the two away wins against South Africa in 1963, the first time the Springboks had lost back-to-back Tests all century; the 20-5 defeat of New Zealand in 1964, the largest loss at home in All Black history; the 2-0 home series victory over South Africa in 1965; and the Wallabies first ever victory over Wales in 1967.
In 2016, Johnson was inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
Peter Johnson played 42 Tests for Australia, a record at that time, and captained in five Tests, during a remarkable 13-year international career.
Johnson won his first Test cap at hooker, propped by Keith Ellis and Peter Dunn, in the 1st Test, 6-17 loss to the British Lions at the Exhibition Ground. That same front row trio combined for the 2nd Test, 3-24 defeat in Sydney.
The Wallabies did not play any Test rugby in 1960.
Johnson started all six Tests, against Fiji (3) with Tony Miller and Jon White, South Africa (2) and France (1).
Johnson played the two home Tests against New Zealand in combination with Miller and White and captained the side in the 1st Test, 6-20 loss in Brisbane. He partnered John Freedman and White in the three away Tests on the return tour to New Zealand.
Johnson earned five caps, each alongside White, against England (1) and South Africa (4). John Thornett started at tighthead prop in the final three Tests of the away series to South Africa.
Thornett, Johnson and White combined in all three away Tests against New Zealand.
In what was White’s final series, he, Johnson and Thornett were the front row for both home Test wins against South Africa.
Miller returned to the front row alongside Johnson and Thornett for the two home losses to the British Lions.
Johnson played all five Tests on the Fifth Wallabies tour, against Wales, Scotland, England, Ireland and France.
Roy Prosser, Johnson and Miller packed down in the only two Tests of the years, the 5-11 loss to Ireland in Sydney and the 9-29 defeat to New Zealand at Athletic Park.
Johnson, Prosser and Jim Roxburgh started in the front row in the two home losses to New Zealand. Johnson captained Australia in the controversial 2nd Test, 18-19 loss at Ballymore. He then captained the side in the one-off home Test against France and also on the short tour to Ireland and Scotland.
Johnson was uncapped after he declared his unavailability for the tour to South Africa.
Johnson started in Australia’s only Test of the year, the 23-3 victory over Scotland at the S.C.G.
In his final season of international rugby, Johnson won four caps against South Africa (2) and France (2). In the 2nd Test, 9-18 loss to France in Paris, Johnson played his 42nd international to break Tony Miller’s all-time cap record set in 1967. Johnson’s record stood until 1987.