Connor was born in Brisbane in 1935 and later attended Marist Brothers College at Ashgrove.
While the illustrious Rugby nursery has produced a high number of Wallabies, including John Eales, it was predominantly a rugby league school when Connor first arrived. By the time he left, he had spent three years in the First XV.
On leaving Ashgrove he linked with the Brothers club in Brisbane and was called into the Wallabies ranks for the 1957-58 tour to the UK and France.
Connor played the first of his 12 Tests for Australia against Wales in Cardiff on 4 January 1958, and returned from the tour having played in all five internationals against the Welsh, Ireland, England, Scotland and France.
Later the same year, he captained Australia in two Tests against the New Zealand Maori then played a further three Tests against the All Blacks on a tour to New Zealand. In 1959 he was at the scrum base for two Tests against the British Lions.
A school teacher by profession, Connor considered heading to the UK as the 1960’s dawned, but was talked into moving to New Zealand instead and taking up a position at Takapuna Grammar. He also started playing at the Marist club, won selection for Auckland and in 1961 made his All Blacks debut against France having fulfilled the short-term residency requirement in force at the time.
Connor toured Australia with the All Blacks in 1962 and played against the Wallabies again in 1964 when they visited the Shaky Isles. In all, he played 12 Tests for the All Blacks and tasted defeat just once.
In 1969, when Connor was long retired and was firmly ensconced as Australian coach, the celebrated New Zealand critic Morrie Mackenzie wrote of Des: “The best halfback in the world from 1958 to 1961 and also the best I ever saw with the exception of (South African) Danie Craven.”
Connor took over as Australian coach in 1968 for the home series against the All Blacks and unveiled to the world the tactic of playing with a shortened lineout – a ploy still employed today. He also took the Wallabies to South Africa in 1969 and guided them through a controversial series with the Springboks in Australia in 1971.
It was Connor’s representation to the ARU after the 1969 tour that earned a Wallabies coach the right to also serve as a selector.
He was also instrumental in organizing Barbarians teams to forge closer links between schools and club rugby in Queensland.
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