Damien John Frawley
Born Rockhampton, 31 July 1962
Australia (10 Tests)
New South Wales
Eastern Suburbs (Sydney)
In a well travelled and varied career Damien Frawley stamped himself as a versatile forward who could play equally as effectively as a lock or No. 8. Born in Rockhampton, Frawley was a ‘raw-boned lock of good country stock’ who used his physical assets to great advantage during his playing career. An effective all-round, hard working forward, Frawley lacked the size of some of his competitors and so had to use his tremendous work ethic to secure his progression through the ranks of representative rugby. Frawley’s professional career played a big role in his on-field fortunes. His employment as a banker saw him posted to various locations both in Australia and overseas and due to these moves he achieved the rare distinction of playing 16 games for Queensland and 14 for their arch rivals New South Wales. During his career Frawley also represented the Australian Schoolboys and Australian Universities.
Damien Frawley attended Gregory Terrace between 1975 and 1980, playing 66 games, 24 of which were for the First XV. He also captained the 1980 side to an undefeated GPS Premiership and led the team to an impressive scoring record 206 points for and 23 against. This premiership was one of five straight the schools secured during what became remembered as a ‘golden age’ of Terrace Rugby. The young backrow forwards’ tremendous potential as a player was recognized while at Terrace with his selection to the Australian Schoolboys team in both 1979 and 1980. Frawley played alongside fellow Terrace mate Michael Cook in 1979 for both Terrace, and the Queensland and Australian Schoolboys sides. After the completion of his high schooling at Terrace, Frawley followed a well worn path and joined Brothers where was a member of three premiership winning teams. Along with Tom Lawton, Cameron Lillicrap, Greg Martin, Troy Coker and Bill Campbell, Frawley would play a vital role in the future of Queensland rugby during the early years of the 1980s.
Although Frawley did not make his international debut until 1986 he gained considerable international experience playing for Queensland, Queensland ‘B’, Brisbane and NSW ‘B’. He played for Queensland ‘B’ against New Zealand in 1984 and made his full provincial debut for Queensland in 1985 against North Auckland at Ballymore; the Reds were victorious 33-7. His play was outstanding. Frawley was subsequently selected for the match against the visiting Fijian on 20 July and the Reds continued on their winning ways with a 47-6. Showing the value of Terrace a ‘nursery’ for Queensland and Australian Rugby Union Frawley was one of three Terrace Old Boys who took the field for Queensland that day; Michael Cook and Mark McBain being the others, while Michael Lynagh missed the match through injury. The Maroons ran in eight tries to avenge their loss two years earlier. Despite the emphatic win, however, only three Queenslanders were selected in the Australian side and Frawley was not one of them.
In a further boost to his international experience, Frawley played for Brisbane against Italy in 1986 with former Terrace graduate, Michael Cook and Brendan Nasser. As a measure of the strength of Queensland, and Brisbane Rugby in particular, almost every player in this talented Brisbane that meet the Italians would go on to earn their full Wallabies cap. A dynamic Queensland side, including Michael Lynagh, Bill Campbell and Frawley, convincingly defeated Argentina at Ballymore 59-9 on 1 July 1986 with the Reds destroying the Pumas impressive scrummaging reputation that day. Along the way the pack secured eight tight-heads wins and scored ten unanswered tries. Later that year Frawley played 12 matches for Wanderers F.C. Rugby Club in Dublin while one an off season trip to Ireland to further his banking career.
Upon his return, Frawley’s play in the 1986 representative season saw him selected to tour New Zealand with the Australian Team. The 14 match tour would take with it the largest Wallaby support staff in the history of the Bledisloe Cup, with an assistant coach, doctor and physiotherapist joining the players, coach, and team manager. Frawley, however, would have to be content to be a ‘Wednesday boy’, not playing a Test on the tour but becoming instead a regular mid week player.
Although he did not manage to break into the full strength Wallaby team, Frawley was to make his test match debut later in 1986. Named as reserve for the Wallabies’ test against the visiting Argentina’s on 12 July 1986 an injury to fellow second rower Steve Tuynman saw Frawley take the field in his first international test match. Australia defeated the Pumas 26-0 and the former Terrace student and now full time banker began his ten test match career with a victory.
Despite his play, versatility, and renown as hard working backrower Frawley was overlooked for the Wallabies first World Cup side. In the lead-up to the World Cup Frawley found himself working in Sydney and he played in the New South Wales ‘B’ side narrowly defeating South Korea 34-33 at Waratah Stadium on 3 May. Both sides scored six tries in a fast paced game that saw the referee collapse from exhaustion and need to be replaced.
Following the Wallabies failed World Cup campaign, Frawley found himself back in favour with selectors and he was named to tour Argentina in 1987. This new found faith was amply rewarded; Frawley played in both Tests. Before a crowd upwards of 30,000 in Buenos Aires, the Wallabies drew 19-all in the first Test, although scoring three tries to one and leading 19-12 with only five minutes to go. Captain, Simon Poidevin suffered a broken hand in the first Test and prodigious five-eighth Michal Lynagh took over as captain for the second test. The match ended in a disappointing 27-19 loss and, to compound the frustration, Frawley broke his ankle.
Hoping to re-build from what had been a disastrous 1986 season the Wallabies began 1987 under the control of Coach Bob Dwyer who had been returned to his position following a board room overthrow of Alan Jones. The Wallabies played two Tests against the touring English in 1988, and Frawley played in both. The first Test against England at Ballymore drew a crowd of 17,000 on a sunny, still afternoon. Although the English scored more tries than the Wallabies, the Australian line-outs jumpers including Frawley secured a mass of possession and allowed Lynagh to kick six penalty goals, all of Australia’s points, to secure a 22-16 win. Frawley was credited as the most valuable player by sport journalist, Evan Whitton, who wrote,
The most valuable player for Australia was the second-rower Damien Frawley, who appears to have suddenly mastered the timed two-handed jump at No. 2. He had a large hand in Australia’s winning line-out margin of 12-9 in the first half and 11-6 in the second.
Whitton maintained that line-out dominance kept Australia in the game as England, with two intercept tries, and could have easily taken the match. Frawley, Steve Cutler, Carter and Julian Gardner became and solid line-out combination and by taking control of the re-starts, were able to offer good ball to Lynagh who kicked well, thereby capitalizing on penalty opportunities when the presented themselves. The second Test was played at Waratah Stadium before 18,109 with Australia defeating England 28-8 to secure an impressive 2-0 lead in the series and help somewhat to erase the painful memories of the 1986 season. Frawley also played against England for New South Wales at Waratah Stadium defeating England 23-12.
The 13-match All Black tour in 1988 included a game against Sydney’s Randwick Club. Frawley was selected to play lock for the Australian replacing Bill Campbell in all three Tests. It had been four years since the All Blacks had come to Australia and with the removal of Alan Jones and Bob Dwyer reinstatement as Wallabies Coach the Australian Rugby public was hopeful of an improved performance against the New Zealanders. Despite the optimism the first test provided little joy for Wallabies supporters. A capacity crowd at Waratah Stadium watched the All Blacks demolish the Wallabies 32-7 in the first Test, a record score by the All Blacks on Australian soil. Most critics at the time considered the All Blacks the world’s best team after their World Cup victory but Australian Coach, Bob Dwyer, blamed the loss on inconsistent refereeing.
The Wallabies were determined to resurrect some pride in the second Test and they did not disappoint their fans; the result was a 19-all draw that ended New Zealand’s ten Test winning streak. The press that had branded the Wallabies ‘losers’ and described Australian rugby as ‘a corpse’, now praised them as heroes. The press credited the Wallabies with dispelling the belief that the All Black side was invincible even in international competition. The match was a ‘thriller’ with Australia extending the New Zealanders to the ‘limit of their endurance in a fabulous 19-all draw’. Fans were on the edge of their seats and Australia was considered unlucky not to secure the win. Former Wallaby, Enrique Rodriguez reported in the Sun-Herald that ‘Australia’s credibility in international Rugby was restored’; the Sun-Herald’s Phil Wilkins reported that the assessment of Australian rugby as ‘a corpse’ had proved ‘somewhat premature’. Through their performance in this one test match the Wallabies had indeed resurrected pride with their valiant performance and it was believed the series could now be levelled in Sydney.
Sadly, however, the Wallabies were unable to reproduce their form from the second Test and were demolished 30-9 by a ‘bullet-proof’ New Zealand side. The capacity Concord Oval crowd was ‘rabidly pro-New Zealand’ and Coach Dwyer was furious with the lack of support for the Wallabies – when asked if a change to a larger venue would be helpful, Dwyer replied that a change in the immigration laws would be better. In between Tests, Frawley played for New South Wales against New Zealand at Concord Oval with the under strength New South Wales side succumbing 42-6 before a crowd of 9,200.
Frawley was then selected to tour England, Scotland and Italy with Nick Far-Jones’ Wallabies in 1988. While on tour Frawley played in two Tests, one against Scotland, in Edinburgh, and the other against Italy, in Rome. The tour began disastrously for the Wallabies losing three of their first four matches and the 22-19 loss against England in the first Test left the Wallabies shattered but determined not to repeat the result against Scotland. Prior to the Scotland Test, the Wallabies played Edinburgh at Myreside on 9 November and the Australian management fielded what amounted to a second XV side against Edinburgh but was not disappointed. The ‘second XV’ were victorious and revived flagging team morale with a desperately needed win. Frawley and new comer Rod McCall won some quality line-out ball and Frawley was rewarded with a spot on the Wallaby team for the Test against Scotland.
The Test in Edinburgh was played before a near-capacity crowd in windless conditions. Greg Campbell, reporting from Edinburgh for The Australian, praised the efforts of Frawley and replacement Tim Gavin for their ‘bruising performances’ that characterized the physicality of the game. The final try was credited to a short pass from Frawley to Lawton in the final moments to secure the Wallabies victory. The Times’ David Hands reported that Frawley’s contribution to the game, and his support of hooker Tom Lawton, justified his inclusion in the team. Australia won the Test 32-13. Desperate to erase the hellish memories of the Twickenham dressing room, and not wanting to let Australian rugby down, the Wallabies, according to Campbell, finally produced the form they had been trying to find since the tour began. On the way home, the Wallabies defeated Italy 55-6 in Rome. It was a nine-try blitz and unfortunately, due to a dislocated ankle, it would be Frawley’s final Test.
While still residing and working in Sydney Frawley would go on to play for Australia ‘B’ against the British Isles at Olympic Park in Melbourne on 14 June 1989 and was considered one of the best Australia ‘B’ forwards. He also played against the British Isles for New South Wales at North Sydney Oval on 26 June 1989. Despite his fine performances he would not be able to force his way into the Australian team for any of the three tests against the visiting Lions and he would have to see his chance to play in one of the most savoured test series of all southern hemisphere players’ careers. Unfortunately, a recurrence of the ankle injury sustained in Europe the previous off season would rule him out of the New Zealand tour and selection in the Australian team to play England in 1989. In 1990, Frawley played for Australian Universities and a NSW Selection against France and in 1991 as an Australian Barbarian against Western Samoa.
A versatile player, whose career as a banker saw him play for a number of teams, Frawley’s talent was recognized early in his career. He was a hard player who always muscled up to the physicality of each game and was a great asset to rugby in Queensland and Australia. Frawley’s 10 tests for the Wallabies came during a period when the Australian selectors could call on an array of talented back row forwards making his achievement even more impressive. Like many St Josephs Gregory Terrace Old Boys Frawley’s achievements on the rugby field can be traced to the coaching he received during his schoolboy career combined with his own hard work and initiative.
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