Peter Stanley Johnston
Peter Johnston, a loyal clubman of Sydney’s Northern Suburbs, went agonisingly close to winning his first Wallaby cap on one of the darkest days in Australian rugby history.
Tall for a prop forward of his era yet with excellent technical skills, Johnston never took a backward step, revelled in scrum practice, and always put the team before the individual. He played his first rugby for the Northbridge U11s on Sydney’s lower north shore. He attended Newington College and in his final year (1963) played in The W.S. Corr Cup, premiership winning 2nd XV.
After school Johnston joined Northern Suburbs where he spent two seasons in the club’s U21s. In the first of those two years, 1964, Norths were premiers and in the second Johnston participated in the trial matches for the New South Wales U21s tour to New Zealand.
In 1966 Johnston made his first-grade debut and a year later he played his first senior representative match, for Sydney against Australian Services at Chatswood Oval (W 21-11). In 1969 Johnston took another step when he came off the bench to debut for New South Wales in their hard fought 6-5 victory over Fiji in Sydney. With the Wallabies on tour in South Africa, Johnston was then selected as a reserve (unused) for the unofficial ‘Test’ of the tour - the “Australian XV” vs. Fiji match in Brisbane.
Unfortunately, the presence of Jake Howard, Ron Graham and Roy Prosser limited Johnston’s further opportunities at state level until 1973 when he made his run-on debut, against Queensland at Ballymore (L 19-27). A strong 1975 season, one in which Norths went on to secure the Shute Shield for the first time since 1964, propelled Johnston into the main trial for the Sixth Wallabies tour of the U.K., Ireland and U.S.A. however Graham, John Meadows, Steve Finnane and Stuart Macdougall secured the four front row selections.
The following year Meadows withdrew from the second Test side to play Fiji. David Dunworth moved into the run-on side and Johnston was brought into the squad as a reserve. A week later Johnston was again on the bench for match day, one that will live long in the memories of those who were in attendance. Fourteen minutes into the second half and following three “wild brawls” involving a dozen or more players each time, Fijian tighthead Jo Sovau was sent off by referee Warwick Cooney for kicking. The decision saw the Fijians stage a walk-off only to return after the team’s manager Mesake Biumaiwai met them at the gate to the Member’s Stand and told them to go back on the field. At one point during the fracas, Australian coach Dave Brockhoff instructed Johnston to go to the gate however loosehead prop John Meadows - who in a Sydney Morning Herald photo the next day looked as though he had been in nasty car accident - refused to leave the field after having a cut under his left eye stitched. Meadows returned to the fray and Johnston’s Test debut was denied. Toward the end of that domestic season, Johnston was selected for Australia vs. The Rest in the final trial ahead of the Wallaby tour to France and Italy but withdrew due to injury.
Johnston toured to the U.K, Japan, Russia and Canada with Sydney in 1977 and with New South Wales to New Zealand in 1978 before he retired to run a property company in New Zealand. Fortunately, Johnston was not lost to Australian rugby. He held various executive positions with Norths and with the Australian Barbarians (1991-2015). Johnston also coached junior rugby at the Mosman Whales, Norths and Newington College.
Over the course of his 13-year senior rugby career Johnston played 197 first grade matches for Norths, 27 matches for Sydney and 12 matches for New South Wales.
Johnston was an unused reserve for both the second and the third Tests of the home series against Fiji