The Australian and New South Wales Rugby community is mourning the loss of former New South Wales and Wallabies flanker, Denis O’Callaghan, who passed away earlier this week, aged 77.
Though O’Callaghan never received an official Wallabies cap from playing in an international Test match, he played sixteen non-Test matches during the Wallabies’ 1966/67 Spring/Summer tour of Britain, Ireland, France and Canada which included five Tests and 31 minor tour matches.
Hailing from Nyngan in central NSW, O’Callaghan moved to Sydney in 1961 where he began playing for Randwick Rugby Club. After starting out playing centre and flyhalf, O’Callaghan found the most success when he transitioned into the forward pack, becoming known as a highly skilful breakaway.
>From 1961-67, O’Callaghan played 68 club games for Randwick, scoring twenty tries and contributing to two premiership victories in 1965 and 1966. His form saw him selected to play for NSW in 1963 in the side that played the Wallabies team that had just toured South Africa. NSW won the bout, 20-18, and O’Callaghan was a key contributor, scoring one of NSW’s tries. He then played for NSW against Queensland twice in 1966, before being called into the Wallabies’ 31-man touring squad for the 1966/67 Spring/Summer Tour.
His first match in Wallabies colours was against Midland Counties (Leicester), where Australia lost 9-17. During the tour, O’Callaghan’s most notable performances came against Cardiff, London Counties, South-Western Counties, Languedoc-Roussillon, and South-West France.
After the 1966/67 tour, O’Callaghan began playing rugby league for St George, however, remained involved with rugby later in life, coaching in Tamworth where his son played for the Tamworth Pirates Rugby Club.
Classic Wallabies Manager, Stephen Hoiles said: “Denis will be remembered as an extremely modest and talented bloke from the country, who made many lifelong friends through rugby.
“On behalf of all Wallabies, past and present and the entire Rugby community, we pass on our sincere condolences to the entire O’Callaghan family.”