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 5’ 10” 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 tour of Great Britain and North America with the first Wallabies. Born in Dublin, Flanagan returned to Australia after the tour and continued to play Rugby, but he spent the latter part of his life in California.
Peter Flanagan was born in Dublin in 1886, but it is unclear when he immigrated to Australia with his family. Although he had been a British Association (Soccer) player in his early life, he attended St Joseph’s college Gregory Terrace where he learnt to play the Rugby code. His upbringing in the round ball game served him well throughout his Rugby career as he was remembered as being particularly good with the ball at his feet.
Upon leaving school Flanagan joined a number of other Terrace Old boys including the Dore Brothers at the North Brisbane Rugby Club. The young forward’s performances for North Brisbane in club Rugby saw him selected to represent Queensland against the touring English side in 1904 even tough he was only in his eighteenth year. Flanagan began the 1905 season in the forwards for North Brisbane’s 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 Fihelley and the Carmichael brothers Vince and Joe; Phil remained at South Brisbane. The shift in clubs did not affect Flanagan’s play and he was selected to play for Queensland again during the 1906 season but the side lost all four interstate clashes because Queensland “lacked big fast forwards”. 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 play 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 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 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 sides 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 USA.
Following the Wallabies tour, Flanagan returned to Australia. It is unclear whether he returned to rugby in capacity. There are records of a “M. Flanagan” playing in the forwards for the Christian Brothers club against Valley for the 1909 Brisbane club Rugby Hospital Cup. Whether this is a typographical error or a different player is unclear as there is a paucity of evidence. Rugby historian Jack Pollard says that Flanagan moved to the Philippines and then later to California where he was a boxing promoter. It was in California that Flanagan died in 1952.