Rodney James Kelleher
- 531Wallaby Number
Rod Kelleher was a New Zealand-born, raw-boned and courageous flanker who overcame a career threatening injury to play Test rugby. McDonald attended Wellington’s Mana College before he played club rugby for Titahi Bay and Wellington. McDonald then moved to Auckland where he played for Old Maristonians alongside Des Connor (Wallaby #429 and All Black #617).
Aged just 19, Kelleher badly injured his back in a car accident and was told he would never again play rugby. As a consequence he left New Zealand for some rest and relaxation in Brisbane however at Connor’s suggestion, he joined the Brothers’ Club for the 1968 season. In July of that same year Kelleher made his Queensland debut under Jules Geurassimoff against New South Wales County at Cootamundra.
Less than twelve months later Kellaher was selected to play in the pre-Wallaby tour trial matches and it was in those matches that he followed Brothers’ coach Jim Kenny’s sage advice to tape both knees, wear a headguard and “chase everything” so as to engage the attention of the national selectors. Kelleher was more than just noticed and he was picked alongside five of his Brothers’ teammates on the senior tour to South Africa. When Peter Reilly was moved from the flank into the middle row for the 2nd Test at King’s Park, Kelleher came into the team to make his Test debut. He played with distinction in Durban and again in Cape Town however a dislocated shoulder and an aggravation of his back injury ended Kelleher’s international career.
Kelleher won his first Test cap at flanker in partnership with Hugh Rose and Greg Davis in the 2nd Test , 9-16 loss to South Africa in Durban. All three players were retained in the back row for the 3rd Test, 3-11 loss at Newlands.