New Zealand Rugby League is mourning the loss of Kiwi #493 John O’Sullivan, who played 10 Tests and represented his country from 1971-75. O’Sullivan passed away peacefully at Christchurch Hospital on Friday, aged 68, having lived the latter years of his life in Rangiora.
After starting out with Northcote during his schoolboy days, the Rosmini College product joined powerful Auckland club competition rivals Ponsonby and was selected to tour Britain and France with the 1971 Kiwis.
O’Sullivan was chosen as a fullback after West Coast’s Don Ladner made himself unavailable, but his 13 appearances (no Tests) on the history-making tour were spread across several backline positions.
The enthusiastic utility-back made his Test debut off the bench in a 36-11 loss to Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1972, coming on for the injured Dave Sorenson. He earned a maiden start at Lang Park a week later at centre as the tourists went down 31-7.
O’Sullivan’s sole appearance at the 1972 World Cup was in a 20-9 loss to hosts France at Marseilles. He went on to play all three Tests of New Zealand’s 1974 home series against Great Britain – one on the wing and two at centre – before concluding his international career with outings at centre against Australia, France, England and Wales during the Southern Hemisphere section of the 1975 World Championship.
He was a key member of the dominant Ponsonby side of the early-1970s, alongside the likes of Roger Bailey, and was a tryscrorer in their famous 27-21 victory over Sydney heavyweights Cronulla in 1973.
An Auckland representative regular, O’Sullivan featured in wins over Great Britain in 1974 and Wales in ’75, as well as Auckland’s charge to the semi-finals of Australian knockout competition the Amco Cup in the latter season.
O’Sullivan moved to Wellington at the end of 1975, turning out for Upper Hutt in the local club competition and representing his new province as player-coach in 1977-78.
He returned to Auckland and finished his playing career back with Northcote, who he later coached in 1986. O’Sullivan also served as a Kiwis selector from 1991-93.
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