John Donnelly (rugby league)

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John Donnelly
Personal information
Full name John William Donnelly
Nickname Dallas
Born 1955
Gunnedah, New South Wales, Australia
Died 22 February 1986
Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Playing information
Position Prop
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1975–84 Wests Magpies 144 6 6 4 34
1984–85 Southend Invicta
Total 144 6 6 4 34
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1973–76 New South Wales 3 0 0 0 0
1975–78 Australia 4 0 0 0 0
Source: RLP

John "Dallas" Donnelly (1955–1986) was an Australian professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1970s, and 80s. An Australian Kangaroos and New South Wales Blues representative, he played for the Western Suburbs Magpies between 1975 and 1984 in the New South Wales Rugby League premiership.

Donnelly who was also commonly known by his nickname "Dallas", referring to his size, came from the New South Wales country town of Gunnedah, representing New South Wales and winning the award for country player of the year in 1973.[1] He moved to Sydney's Western Suburbs club in 1975 and quickly gained a reputation that grew to almost cult status for his fiery on-field play as well as his off-field larrikin persona.[2]

With Wests, Donnelly formed part of one of the most dominant forward packs in Australian Rugby League history under coach Roy Masters in the late 1970s, earning test selection for Australia in 1978 against New Zealand. By the 1980s however, he was plagued by increasing weight problems and constant suspensions, subsequently moving to English club Southend Invicta for the 1985-1986 seasons.

Donnelly returned to Australia in 1986 immediately after his season in England where he took on a position as Captain/Coach of the Byron Bay side. However, Donnelly who suffered from epilepsy throughout his career, drowned after suffering an epileptic seizure while surfing in the beach at Byron Bay, New South Wales.

Donnelly was awarded Life Membership of the Western Suburbs Club after playing 150 first grade games. Former Wests coach and player Ron Watson said of Donnelly, "I've seen a lot of players come through this club. I've never known anyone as popular as Dallas."[3] Writer Alan Whiticker described his career, "central to the heart of the Wests club."[2]

In 2004 Donnelly was named at prop in the Western Suburbs Magpies Team of the Century.[4]


  1. ^ Country Rugby League Player of the Year at
  2. ^ a b Alan Whiticker. "John Donnelly". Rugby League Project. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  3. ^ John MacDonald (27 February 1986). "A town liked Dallas in 2BC". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 41. Retrieved 7 January 2012. 
  4. ^ (2008). "Western Suburbs Team of the Century". Wests Archives. Western Suburbs Magpies R.L.F.C. Archived from the original on 21 October 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-28.