David Anthony Dunworth
b Brisbane 1946
Australia (5 Tests)
David Anthony Dunworth was an aggressive, fiery prop who played a combative style of rugby during his school, club, and representative career. Dunworth was described by rugby historian Jack Pollard in his seminal work Australian Rugby: The Game and the Players as a big strong lad who liked to throw his wide shoulders around and was wholeheartedly committed to the game at all level.1 The Brisbane born Prop made a significant contribution to the re-establishment of Brothers as a formidable rugby club and also to the establishment of Queensland as the world’s top rugby province in the 1970s.
During his school career Dunworth played an incredible 99 games for Terrace (eight for the First XV) and his prodigious appearances at GPS level was replicated during his senior career when he appeared in 50 matches for Queensland between 1969 and 1976.2 After Terrace, Dunworth joined Brothers’ front row.3 Although from its formation Brothers had been a powerful club, it took the emergence of players such as Dunworth to create an infectious winning ethic within the club that would last for years.4 Dunworth played for Brothers between 1969 and 1976, winning Brisbane club Rugby Premiership titles in 1971, 73, 74 and 75. He was a member of the unstoppable Brothers team that won the Welsby Cup, Horsley Cup and A Grade Premiership in 1971, 73, and 74 and almost took the trifecta again in 1975, failing to secure only the Welsby Cup.5 Brothers produced a plethora of players for Queensland during this time; it was the ‘re-birth’ of the club that saw it make a major contribution to the revival of rugby in Queensland. During the 1971 and 72 season sixteen Brothers players wore the maroon jersey.6
Dunworth made his debut for Queensland against New South Wales in 1969, in a match the home side lost 17-11. He then played in an exciting and controversial match against Scotland at Ballymore on 31 May 1970 beating the Scots 16-13. The Queensland pack refused to collapse before the Scottish onslaught; putting in a stunning performance and the Reds eventually secured a famous 16-13 victory against the touring Scots. It was the first win by Queensland against an international side since 1899.7 A crowd of 11,000 watched the Maroons humble the Scots in a ‘breathlessly exciting’ match, according to journalist Frank Callaghan. Regrettably, Dunworth was sent off for dangerous play with only three minutes remaining in the match.8
Despite their form against Scotland, Queensland had to be content with having only one player selected in the Australian team in a reflection of the dominance New South Wales had exerted over the game in Australia during the 1960s. The Wallabies would play only one international in 1970; against Scotland where they repeated Queensland’s effort winning with the match by record test match margin, 23-3.9 Sadly for Dunworth, his dismissal ruined his chances for selection in the Test and he would have to wait until 1971 for selection as a Wallaby.
Despite his suspension the Queensland selectors kept faith with the young prop forward and he was named in the Reds squad to tour New Zealand later that year. Ironically Dunworth served his suspension for dangerous play in the international against Scotland during opening week of the Reds tour.10 This tour was a resounding success for the Reds. Queensland lost only two of its seven games in New Zealand against a host of formidable county and representative teams and the performance of the side belied the Wallabies’ selectors lack of faith in players from north of the border.11
To open the 1971 representative season the Maroons, including ten Brothers players, faced up against the British Lions on 24 May 1971 and pulled off a remarkable 15-11victory. This would be the only defeat the Lions would suffer on their tour at state or provincial level and was one made even sweeter by the Lion schedule which saw them tour Australia only every twelve years.12 Coach Bob Templeton believed that the match was a turning point in Queensland rugby as it generated a new-found confidence and belief in their ability as a team that would allow them to take on the New South Welshmen and a host of visitors and teams from around the Pacific.13 Although he was outstanding in the Queensland scrum throughout the 1971 season, Dunworth was forced to miss the Queensland match against the Springboks later that year due to a knee injury.14
As a reward for his play for the Reds, Dunworth and three of his Brothers team mates were selected to tour France with the Wallabies in 1971 for a short eight match tour. It was during this tour that Dunworth made his international debut for Australia. This was the first time the Wallabies had come to Europe specifically to tour France15 and upon their arrival in France the Wallabies found that their accommodation left a lot to be desired. After their second tour match and in the lead-up to the first Test, the Wallabies believed they were to be accommodated at an Olympic Training venue. The venue, however, turned out to be a disused mental asylum, with bare floors, no showers or toilets and few towels. Manager Joe French protested to the liaison officer about the appalling conditions only to be told that there was nothing they could do about it. After threatening to fly home the next day, the situation was rectified and the Wallabies only had to spend one night in the asylum.16
The first Test on 20 November was extremely violent. Captain Greg Davis had his nose broken and hooker Peter Johnson was knocked unconscious. The Wallabies climbed back from an 11-0 deficit to win 13-11 and rugby correspondent for The Times, Peter West likened the match to “living on the edge of a volcano. There were two flaming eruptions, one in each half, to make it, in retrospect, a thoroughly unpleasant match”. West, a non-partisan observer, believed “the French were more sinned against than sinning”. Russell Fairfax however, also in his international debut, said the French were “bloodthirsty” and the match was a “free-for-all”.17 After the match West described Dunworth as a “husky and combatant new prop, who looked as if he had been spoiling for a fight” exchanging Muhammad Ali style punches to the face of French rival Azaret in the first on-field explosion. The second explosion ignited when Australian Captain, Davis was penalized and according to West, Dunworth needed “little inducement to start mixing it again”. He and fellow forwards did, however, provide “rock solid scrummaging and magnificent defence”, laying the base for the Wallabies’ second half comeback.18
It was believed that referee, Air Commodore Larry Lamb of England, would take a hard line in the second Test in Paris. Peter West suggested that both teams needed to decide whether they wanted to fight or play rugby. France went into the match favourites, after making wholesale changes to their team, even discarding their entire front row. Australia made no changes to their fit and determined line up.19 In stark contrast to the first Test, the second was a lacklustre affair as referee Lamb kept a firm hold on the match with a “concerto performance on the whistle”, according to West.20 With a hearty respect for Australia’s covering powers and tackling, the French basically played safe, ten-man, rugby which disgusted the French crowd who gave them “the bird”. Although winning 18-9, the boring style of rugby adopted by the French won no plaudits from their fans.21
Dunworth was selected to play for Australia against France on their nine match return tour of Australia in 1972 – the two Tests would prove to be as violent as the first Test in France the year before. The Sun-Herald reported the first Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 17 June 1972 as a wild brawl featuring vicious late tackles, many aimed at the young Russell Fairfax the stunning back who would go on to be a dual international after crossing to Rugby League a number of years later.22 Fairfax, at one stage, was stretchered from the field after a late tackle and returned clearly concussed to complete the match. Dunworth was also stretchered from the match with a suspected broken jaw after being hit from behind; an incident that triggered and all-in brawl. The Brothers prop was unable to return to the field and was replaced by Jake Howard.23 The two touch judges were also pushed and jostled by French players when they tried to stop one of them souveniring the ball after the match.24 Before an unexpectedly big crowd of 31,694 the Test ended in a 14-all draw that included, according to contemporary reports, two very doubtful French tries.25 Journalist Jim Webster credited the Wallabies with a magnificent performance especially the forwards who played with “tremendous aggression, winning the vast majority of the rucks and more than their share of lineouts”.26 Webster believed the ‘bad blood’ between the teams came to a head during the match and although a draw, he believed Australia were moral victors.
In what can only be described as a remarkable recovery, Dunworth was cleared to play for Queensland against the French a few days later. The match at Ballymore, in continuous rain before a small crowd of just 5,000 on 21 June, was another vicious affair. The French not only romped through the Ballymore mud but also through the Reds, defeating them 37-3. Frank O’Callaghan, in the Courier Mail, believed that while the Queenslanders performance was as dismal as the weather, supporters should be proud of forwards Skinner and Dunworth who battled bravely for the ball in the trying conditions against the touring international side.27 An ugly scrap led to Dunworth leaving the field again after being kicked in the groin.28
The Australian team to play the French at Ballymore was unchanged. Another nasty match ensued with France the victors 16-15. Had the match been played the previous year, the Wallabies would have won 15-13, however, a new international Rugby Union law, lifting the points for a try from three to four, ensured a French victory. Frank O’Callaghan thought the Wallabies the aggressors in the Test with frequent use of the fist and boot.29 Again Webster, of the Sun Herald, believed the second Test to be the most vicious Rugby Union Test in Australia for years, saying “rugby was the loser here today, as it was the most spiteful of nearly 30 Tests that I have covered. The man and not the ball was target.”30 Unfortunately, Dunworth withdrew from the side after the Test and he was unable to tour New Zealand with the Wallabies.
Dunworth did not play another Test until 1976 but he remained an important part of Queensland rugby during these intervening years; playing matches against international sides such as Japan, New Zealand, England and Fiji and provincial sides such as New England and Canterbury. He was a fundamental component in Queensland’s battles against the Blues, always playing in a tough, uncompromising manner. It was during this period that the Queensland side began its long climb to the top of the international Provincial Rugby tree.
The 1976 Queensland side, which included Dunworth and fellow Terrace boy Tony Shaw, is considered to have helped Queensland rugby come of age when it destroyed New South Wales 42-4 at Ballymore on 29 May. The season had begun well with Queensland defeating New England 37-10 then Sydney 39-16. Queensland was rid of its inferiority complex, according to Ian Diehm, and realized a sense of history after the great win over the Blues. In the pivotal match against the Waratahs stellar performances were recorded all Queensland players but props Dunworth and Stan Pilecki were credited with refusing to allow the Blues’ scrum to dominate. Spectators chanted “Red, Red, Red” as Queensland trounced New South Wales by the widest margin in the history of the interstate series, dating back to 1882. The rise of Queensland rugby precipitated the emergence of Australia as a major force on the international scene, according to Bret Harris in Marauding Maroons.
Dunworth played for both Queensland and Australia against the Fijians on their tour of Australia in 1976. Queensland defeated the Fijians 28-16 but had to work hard to so against a tough Fijian side. Dunworth’s performance saw him recalled to the Test side for the first Test against Fiji on 19 June 1976 at Ballymore, where the Wallabies defeated the Fijians 21-9. Unfortunately this would be Dunworth’s last Test for the Wallabies.
David Anthony Dunworth represented Australia in five Tests. He was a hard, physical player, who contributed to Queensland’s reputation as the best provincial rugby union team in the world. Dunworth played a key role in the success of Brothers Club in the early 1970s helping the side win multiple trophies and premierships in the early years of the decade. Aggressive and fiery, he never backed away from a melee and remained a player dedicated to rugby and his club, Brothers. As a sign of his commitment to Brother, Dunworth has served as President of Brothers Old Boys Rugby Club in recent years.
1. Jack Pollard, ed. David O’Neill. Australian Rugby: The Game and the Players. (Chippendale, Sydney: Ironbark, 1994), 143.
2. Brave and Game: Player Register 2007 Edition, (St Josephs College Gregory Terrace, Brisbane, 2007), 46.
3. Pollard, Australian Rugby, 215.
4. Peter Meares, and Maxwell Howell with Lingyu Xie. Wallaby Legends, (Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian Pty Ltd, 2005), 91.
5. Ian Diehm, Red, Red, Red : The Story of Queensland Rugby, (Sydney: Playright Publishing, 1997), 197; “Honour Board”, Brothers’ Old Boys’ Rugby Club, http://www.brothersrugby.com/honour_board.html#province, (accessed 12 April 2008).
6. John Druery and Anthony McDermott, “Brothers History”, Brothers’ Old Boys’ Rugby Club, http://www.brothersrugby.com/history.html, (accessed 27 November 2007).
7. Maxwell L. Howell, Lingyu Xie, Paul Neazor, and Bensely Wilkes. They Came to Conquer: International Rugby Union Tours to Australia 1884-2002, ( Edgecliff, N.S.W.: Focus Publishing, 2003), 57.
8. Frank O’Callaghan, ‘Battered Q’Land Union Side Humbled Scotland 16-13, Courier Mail (Brisbane), Monday, June 1, 1970.
9. Peter Jenkins, Wallaby Gold: 100 Years of Australian Test Rugby. (Sydney, NSW, Random House, 1999), 14.
10. Frank O’Callaghan, ‘Battered Q’Land Union Side Humbled Scotland 16-13, Courier Mail (Brisbane), Monday, June 1, 1970.
11. Diehm, Red, Red, Red, 195.
12. Diehm, Red, Red, Red, 196.
13. Bob Templeton quoted in Diehm, Red, Red, Red, 196.
14. Diehm, Red, Red, Red, 196.
15. The Times (London), Wednesday, November 3, 1971, p8.
16. Jenkins, Wallaby Gold, 219.
17. Peter West, ‘Changes for France after Collapse at Toulouse’, The Times (London), Monday, November 22, 1971, p15; Jenkins, Wallaby Gold, 220.
18. West, ‘Changes for France after Collapse at Toulouse’, p15.
19. Peter West, ‘Increased forward strength gives French creativity the edge’, The Times (London), Saturday, November 27, 1971, p17.
20. Peter West, ‘French need thought for home internationals’, The Times (London), Monday, November 29, 1971, p15.
21. West, ‘French need thought for home internationals’, p15.
22. Sun-Herald (Sydney), Monday, June 18, 1971, p61.
23. Jenkins, Wallaby Gold, 222; Jim Webster, ‘Tie, but morally Australia’s Test’, Sun-Herald (Sydney), June 18, 1972, p68.
24. Jim Webster, ‘Tie, but morally Australia’s Test’, Sun-Herald (Sydney), June 18, 1972, p68.
25. Howell, They Came to Conquer, 88.
26. Jim Webster, ‘Tie, but morally Australia’s Test’, Sun-Herald (Sydney), June 18, 1972, p68.
27. Frank O’Callaghan, ‘Ballymore mud suited French’, Courier Mail (Brisbane), Thursday, June 22, 1972.
28. Diehm, Red, Red, Red, 201.
29. Frank O’Callaghan, ‘Rule averted farce’, Courier Mail (Brisbane), Monday, June 26, 1971, p13.
30. Jim Webster, ‘France finish tour unbeaten’, Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, June 26, 1971, p11.
31. Diehm, Red, Red, Red, 214.
32. Bret Harris. Marauding Maroons: The rise of Queensland Rugby, (Cammeray, NSW.: Castle Books, 1982), p3
33. Diehm, Red, Red, Red, 211.
34. Harris, Marauding Maroons, 1.
35. Howell, They Came to Conquer, 140.
36. Queensland Rugby Union 1998 Annual Report, p5, 33.
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Harris, Bret. Marauding Maroons: The rise of Queensland Rugby. Cammeray, NSW.: Castle Books, 1982.
“Honour Board”, Brothers’ Old Boys’ Rugby Club, http://www.brothersrugby.com/honour_board.html#province.
Howell, Maxwell L., Lingyu Xie, Bensley Wilkes. The Wallabies : a definitive history of Australian Test Rugby. Norman Park, Qld.: GAP Publishing, 2000
Howell, Maxwell L., Lingyu Xie, Paul Neazor, and Bensely Wilkes. They Came to Conquer: International Rugby Union Tours to Australia 1884-2002, Vol. I. Edgecliff, N.S.W.: Focus Publishing, 2003.
Howell, Maxwell, Lingyu Xie, and Peter Horton. Bledisloe Magic. Auckland: Rugby Publishing, 1995.
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Meares, Peter and Maxwell Howell with Lingyu Xie. Wallaby Legends. Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian Pty Ltd, 2005.
Pollard, Jack, ed. David O’Neill. Australian Rugby: The Game and the Players. Chippendale, Sydney: Ironbark, 1994.
Queensland Rugby Union 1998 Annual Report (Queensland Rugby Union Ltd 1998).
Courier Mail (Brisbane)
The Sun-Herald (Sydney)
The Sydney Morning Herald
The Times (London)