(Dublin California 1952)
Australia 2 tests
Queensland 16 Matches
A prodigious talent on the Rugby field Peter Flanagan remains an enigma of Australian and Queensland Rugby Union. An athletic loose forward who played often with the equally athletic Tom Richards in the back row for Queensland, Flanagan played only two tests for Australia before his career was ended by a freakish accident during the 1908 Australian Rugby Union tour of Great Britain and North America with the first Wallabies. Born in Dublin, Flanagan returned to Australia after the tour but spent the latter part of his life in overseas in the Philippines and California.
Peter Flanagan was born in Dublin in 1886 Flanagan joined a host of other Irish immigrants to St Joseph’s college Gregory Terrace. Upon leaving school Flanagan joined a number of other Terrace Old boys including the Dore Brothers at the North Brisbane Rugby Club. By the opening round of the 1904 season Flanagan was in the Brother’s first XV alongside both Dore brothers for their clash with the powerful Valley Football club. The young forward’s performances in club Rugby saw him selected in the Queensland second XV for a trial match against the first XV in the lead up to the annual interstate series. Flanagan’s play in the trial match saw him elevated into the Queensland team to met New South Wales at the Exhibition ground two weekends later. Despite Queensland’ loss to the Waratahs, Flanagan was chosen in the Brisbane A side to met the Country A side at the conclusion of the Queensland Rugby Union’s annual country week. The highlight of Flanagan’s representative achievements for the 1904 season came when he played for Queensland against the touring English side in 1904 even though he was only in his eighteenth year.
Flanagan began the 1905 season in the forwards for North Brisbane in the club’s opening match against Christian Brothers. Flanagan was joined in the team by Mick Dore and his play in the opening match saw him retain his place for the following week’s fixture with the strong South Brisbane side. Flanagan’s rise to representative football was meteoric. He was named in the Queensland side to play the visiting New South Welshmen in the season’s first interstate match for the 1905 season at the Brisbane exhibition grounds. Queensland broke a five match home losing steak against the visitors by winning a tight contest 8-6. Injuries unsettled the Queensland forward pack and this forced the selectors to include no less than 5 loose forwards in the return match; Flanagan among them. The New South Welshmen were able to re-group and defeated the Queenslander 15-3 in front of 800 spectators at the Exhibition grounds. Like many other Queensland sides of the time, Flanagan was joined by a number of other Terrace Old Boys, including Mick Dore, Phil Carmichael, and Jack Fihelly. The form of the big red headed loose forward was enough for him to be selected in the Queensland side to tour New South Wales for the return matches. Queensland was defeated heavily in both return matches by scores of 24-9 and 22-6.
Prior to the 1906 season Flanagan joined a number of other former Terrace Old Boys in shifting to the Christian Brother’s club including Jack Fihelly and the Carmichael brothers. The shift in clubs did not affect Flanagan’s play. He was named in the Brisbane team to meet country in the conclusion to the 1906 Country Week alongside a host of other Terrace alumni including Phil Carmichael, Mick Dore, Anselm ‘Voy’ Oxenham, Jack Fihelly, and William Canniffe. The Metropolitan team won 48-0. As a consequence Flanagan was selected for Queensland again during the 1906 season but the side lost all four interstate clashes because Queensland “lacked big fast forwards”. With the addition of a number of other former Terrace old boys the Christian Brothers team defeated South Brisbane 25-3 in the final game of the 1906 club rugby season.
Flanagan’s form continued in 1907 and he was again rewarded with selection in the Queensland side for both the interstate games and the state side’s match against the visiting All Blacks. While Queensland was defeated in both matches against the visitors from New Zealand, the play for the forwards saw six Queenslanders selected in the Australian scrum, with Flanagan named to make his test debut at the Sydney Cricket ground on 20 July 1907. Despite the sides 26-6 defeat at the hands of the All-Blacks, Flanagan was retained for the second test. These were to be the only two tests the Irish born Flanagan played for Australia, but it did not end his representative Rugby career. At a club level Flanagan tasted success with the Christian Brothers club winning the Brisbane premiership in 1907.
With the advent of the 1908 season Flanagan’s stellar rise continued. He was chosen as the captain of the Brisbane side to meet the powerful Tom Richards led country side at the conclusion of the annual country week. Despite the Country side’s victory Flanagan was also named captain of the State team to met New South Wales during 1908. The New South Wales side was dominant again and the 1908 Wallabies touring side to Great Britain that was chosen during the interstate series featured only four Queenslanders, Tom Richards, Phil Carmichael, C. Esmond Parkinson, and Peter Flanagan. Before leaving on the tour Flanagan was able to help Christian Brothers into the Hospital cup final against Valley where they were unsuccessful.
The only non-Australian Wallaby on the national team’s first tour of England in 1908 Flanagan’s athletic style and soccer background made him a valuable addition to the tourists. However, his tour ended after the third match. During the side’s match against Cornwall Flanagan offered to act as the touch judge when the appointed official was unwell. During the play his teammate ‘Boxer’ Russell was tackled over the sidelined where he landed on Flanagan’s leg and broke it badly. Flanagan did not play a match on tour. Although he took no further part in the tour in a playing capacity, Flanagan stayed in England with the team and visited relatives in Ireland before the Wallabies left for the United States of America.
Following the Wallabies tour, Flanagan returned to Australia. He played for a number of years for the Christian Brothers club. When he left club Rugby is unclear as there are records of an M Flanagan playing for Brothers at the same time. What is certain is that at the conclusion of the 1913 club Rugby season Flanagan took the field in a Veterans match in aid of the Brisbane Hospital. A deal heavier than his playing days, Flanagan weighed in at 15 stone 10 and was in the victorious team alongside fellow Wallabies tourist Phil Carmichael and Queensland Rugby legend Austin Gralton. A former amateur middleweight Boxing Champion of Queensland it was rumored Flanagan spent some time as boxing promoter in the Philippines. From here his nomadic life continued and he moved to California where he died in 1952 after many years in boxing promotions.