Country Town Stops to Celebrate and Remember ‘Dallas’ Donnelly


The name John ‘Dallas’ Donnelly is synonymous with the Western Suburbs Magpies. Hailing from the northern NSW country town of Gunnedah, Donnelly became a cult hero at Wests in the 1970’s and 1980’s with his hulking frame, fiery on-field performances and larger than life personality.

An Australian and New South Wales representative, ‘Dallas’ was named the Country Rugby League’s player of the year in 1973 while playing for Gunnedah, before heading to the ‘big smoke’ in 1975. In 2004 he was named as Prop in the Magpies team of the century.

Tragically, Donnelly passed away at the tender age of 31 after suffering an epileptic fit while surfing in Byron Bay.

“I think passing away the way that he did, and at such a young age, preserved his legacy” said Scott Morris, founder of the Western Suburbs Magpies fanatics.

“Dallas is, alongside Tommy (Raudonikis), considered one of the two greatest Magpies of the modern era by people of my generation.”

Given the reverence with which Donnelly is remembered it was fitting that Morris and the fanatics organised the ‘Dallas Donnelly memorial weekend’ in his home town of Gunnedah.




The weekend included a fundraising dinner and auction on the Friday with all proceeds going to the Gunnedah Bulldogs, followed by the local clash between Gunnedah and the West Lions on the Saturday.

The Bulldogs were honoured to run out in special commemorative jerseys donated by the Magpies club.

As Morris reports, the weekend was a raging success.

“The dinner on the Friday night was a sell out and the game on the Saturday was awesome.

“The Gunnedah boys loved their jerseys and looked like they grew an extra leg when they pulled the black and white on.”




The idea of the memorial weekend grew from an earlier impulse to try to help those in rugby league experiencing tough times.

“We (the fanatics) had raised a bit of coin through different bits and pieces and built up a bit of a kitty in the bank. We thought rather than just having it sit there we should do something with it” Morris said.

“The line of thinking was to pick a bush club, and a junior club of an ex Wests player and try to lend a hand.”

Morris went on: “Initially all I wanted to do was make a road trip out there and pay our respects to Dallas. And from there it just grew. I spoke to a lady up in Gunnedah called Lauren Mackay and she handled it up at her end.”

One of the great benefits of the weekend was the pride and joy the fanatics helped instill in the Donnelly family, many of which had travelled from far and wide to participate.




Morris described how grateful Donnelly’s mother Gloria was:

“Back when Dallas passed, the Gunnedah club retired his number 11 jersey and put it on the bench to honour his spirit. So, that’s what we did as well. During the game on Saturday the Bulldogs 2nd rower wore number the 18 and we stuck the 11 on a chair next to the bench. At the end of the game we presented the jersey to Dallas’s mum and she was just tickled pink with that”.

The Western Suburbs Magpies fanatics group can be found on Facebook and you can still catch the Magpies playing every weekend in the NSWRL’s Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield competitions.

2 Replies to “Country Town Stops to Celebrate and Remember ‘Dallas’ Donnelly”

  1. Nice write up..The fanatics have done a lot to help others over the last couple of years..This is by far the biggest occaision..Many more to come..Scott Morris could be seen as the Rick Wade of the fanatics..Keeping the magpie dream alive..

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