Not many people can say they’ve played alongside some of the greats of two different sports.
Denis O’Callaghan could.
The Tamworth native and former Wallabies flanker passed away this week, and is being remembered as a modest and talented player.
Described as a “somewhat shy and retiring – a country boy to the back teeth and modest to a fault”, on his historical Wallabies player profile, O’Callaghan was the only one surprised by his selection in the 1966/67 Wallaby squad for their spring/summer tour of Britain, Ireland, France and Canada.
O’Callaghan played in 16 games on the tour after making his debut in the Wallabies’ 17-9 loss to Midland Counties (Leicester).
He was also capped three times for NSW and played seven seasons with Sydney heavyweights Randwick.
Originally a centre and fly-half, O’Callaghan played most of his 68 games with the Galloping Greens at flanker.
He was a part of their 1965 and 1966 premiership-winning sides, playing alongside luminaries such as dual international John Brass and Wallaby Hall of Famer Ken Catchpole.
"He loved his time and treasured the mates he made playing with Randwick and it was a huge honour for him to pull on the Green Jersey for so many years. We are very saddened at his sudden and tragic passing," son Tim wrote on Randwick’s Facebook page.
After returning from the Wallabies’ tour, O’Callaghan made the switch to rugby league, joining St George where he shared the field with the ilk of John Raper and Graeme Langlands.
He played two seasons with the Dragons before relocating to Tamworth, and in 1977 took on the coaching reigns at the Pirates.
“He was a terrific bloke and a very fit man,” Pirates’ life member Gary Burger recalled.
Burger played half-back in that 1977 side and joked that O’Callaghan had been retired for about 10 years “but was still fitter than us”.
He only coached the one season but his association with the club continued through son Tim.
O’Callaghan’s passing comes in the same week as the club lost club stalwart Col Easter. Easter played more than 100 games for Pirates, and coached and managed countless sides at the club.