14 October 1972 |
Hornsby, New South Wales, Australia
|Height||180 cm (5 ft 11 in)|
|Weight||92 kg (14 st 7 lb; 203 lb)|
|Position||Fullback, Five-eighth, Halfback, Centre|
|Source: NRL Stats, nrlstats.com, rugbyleagueproject.com and yesterdayshero.com.au|
Julian O'Neill (born 14 October 1972) is an Australian retired professional rugby league footballer of the 1990s and 2000s. A talented fullback and goal-kicker, he enjoyed a 14-year top-grade career with several clubs in both Australia and England, which included two NSWRL premierships, a Challenge Cup victory as well as state and national representative honours. However O'Neill regularly made headlines for his involvement in numerous controversial off-field incidents.
O'Neill was born in Hornsby, New South Wales on 14 October 1972. His mother, Annabelle O'Neill, a nursing sister, was killed in a car crash when he was five. His father, Brian Allan O'Neill, a gynaecologist, died of heart disease when Julian was six.
O'Neill was raised by his grandparents and other family members from time to time. From age ten he attended boarding school at St Brendan's College in Yeppoon, Queensland. He was a prodiguous young sportsman, holding school records in athletics and swimming. He represented as an Australian Schoolboy in both rugby league and cricket.
O'Neill was graded by the Broncos in 1991 and it was hoped he would take over the five-eighth position from Broncos great Wally Lewis. He showed greater form at fullback and played there in Brisbane's inaugural Grand Final victory in 1992. In the weeks following the grand final O'Neill travelled with the Broncos to England, where he played at fullback in the 1992 World Club Challenge against British champions Wigan, helping Brisbane become the first NSWRL club to win the match in Britain.
O'Neill briefly signed for English club Widnes, who were then coached by Phil Larder and appeared as a substitute in the 1993 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, only to suffer a 20-14 defeat by Wigan. O'Neill first represented Queensland, coming off the interchange bench in Game II of the 1993 State of Origin series. He played at five-eighth in Game III. The Broncos reached the 1993 Winfield Cup Grand Final and O'Neill played at fullback as they again beat St. George for a second consecutive premiership title.
O'Neill then played at fullback in all three games of the 1994 State of Origin series under coach Wally Lewis. During the 1994 NSWRL season, O'Neill played at lock forward for defending premiers Brisbane when they hosted British champions Wigan for the 1994 World Club Challenge, but were defeated by the British club on this occasion. In 1994 and 1995 O'Neill was the Brisbane Broncos' top point-scorer. As his fame and confidence grew at the Broncos, O'Neill found himself at the centre of a number of alcohol-fuelled incidents. At Southport Magistrates Court in 1995 he faced five charges, following an incident at Conrad Jupiters Casino where he was reported to have urinated under a blackjack table, including indecent exposure and offensive behavior. He was found not guilty, three fraud charges were dropped and he was awarded costs. However he was sacked by the Broncos in 1995 for drink-driving whilst in England.
O'Neill made a fresh start back in Australia with the Western Reds in 1996 ARL season. Whilst playing for them he was selected to play for Queensland at five-eighth in Game II of the 1996 State of Origin series. He was playing for the Super League-aligned Western Reds during the 1997 split competition and made one state and one national representative appearance for the Super League representative teams: O'Neill was selected to play for Australia from the interchange bench in the inaugural Anzac Test and at fullback for Queensland in Game 1 of the Super League Tri-series. O'Neill set club records for most tries and goals in a match but was released by the Reds in 1997 after being fined and disqualified from driving in Perth's Magistrates Court.
O'Neill made another clean start, switcing to play in the 1997 ARL season with the South Sydney Rabbitohs. He gained selection for Queensland, playing from the interchange bench in Game II of the 1997 State of Origin series. In 1998 however he suffered immense publicity and a $10,000 fine from the club over a 1999 pre-season tour incident where a drunken O'Neill defecated in the footwear of teammate Jeremy Schloss. This incident became known as "the poo in the shoe" affair, and gained much media attention and public ridicule after O'Neill reportedly uttered the alliterative line, "I just shat in Schlossy's shoe," to his teammates. For a time he was engaged to Australian swimming star Samantha Riley, but the engagement ended after Riley, who (despite being embroiled in a drugs controversy herself in the lead-up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics) was renowned for having a clean-living reputation, reportedly grew tired of O'Neill's alcohol consumption and subsequent reckless behaviour.
O'Neill was signed to play the 2000 NRL season for the North Queensland Cowboys and was selected to play at five-eighth in Game II of the 2000 State of Origin series. He was then named the Cowboys' player of the year. He made a total of ten career State of Origin appearances.
In 2001, O'Neill's 13-month-old daughter, Piper, was killed when a television set fell onto her in his family's home. O'Neill returned to England the 2002 Super League season for the Wigan Warriors, enjoying victory in the Challenge Cup, until 2003 when he completed a mid-season move to the Widnes Vikings. In 2004, while on a pre-season trip to Australia with the Widnes Vikings, he was accused of drunkenly attempting to set fire to a 13-year-old boy who was wearing a foam-rubber dolphin mascot suit whilst on a river cruise in Port Macquarie. To avoid apprehension, O'Neill stripped to his underwear following the incident, dived into the Hastings River and swam to shore, before hitchhiking and being picked up by a passing car. In 2004 he had a season playing rugby union in France.
O'Neill returned to rugby league in England in 2005 and played half the season with the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, then switching back to former club Widnes Vikings until their relegation from the Super League that year. He then moved to also relegated Leigh for the 2006 season.
Sources and footnotes
- Australian Story article
- Masters, Roy (27 September 1992). "Broncos rejoice, but the plotting begins". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia: Fairfax Media. p. 27. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
- Hadfield, Dave (20 April 1993). "O'Neill facing cap or cup dilemma: Widnes may summon Australian for the Challenge Cup final". The Independent. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
- Honours at cowboys.com.au
- Dolphin Suit
- "Player Search - O'Neill". rugby.widnes.tv. Widnes Vikings. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
- Julian O'Neill at stateoforigin.com.au
- How Julian O'Neill got his Name Back – article at smh.com.au
- Julian O'Neill at yesterdayshero.com.au
- Article at smh.com.au
- Julian O'Neill's European Super League Stats at rleague.com
- News Article
- Australian Story feature
- Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org
- Queensland representatives at qrl.com.au
- Article from the Guardian Newspaper (U.K.)