Gary John Connolly (born 22 June 1971) is an English former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as a fullback and centre for St Helens, Canterbury Bulldogs, Wigan Warriors, Leeds Rhinos and for the Great Britain national side. In the twilight of his career, he played rugby union for Irish side Munster.
|Full name||Gary John Connolly|
|Born||22 June 1971|
St. Helens, Lancashire, England
|Height||183 cm (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||89 kg (14 st 0 lb)|
Connolly was born in St. Helens, Lancashire, England. At 17 years of age he appeared in St. Helens' ill-fated 27–0 loss to their arch rivals Wigan at Wembley Stadium in 1989 on the back of some impressive performances. It was the first time in Challenge Cup Final history at Wembley that a team had been held scoreless.
Gary Connolly made his international rugby league début for Great Britain against the touring Papua New Guinea team on 9 November 1991 at Central Park in Wigan. Connolly played from the bench as the Lions defeated the Kumuls 56–4.
He was later selected to go on the 1992 Great Britain Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand where he played from the bench in the final two Ashes Tests against Australia before moving to the centres for the tests against New Zealand. Later that year he was selected to play in the centres for Great Britain in their 10–6 loss to Australia in the 1992 Rugby League World Cup Final at Wembley.
Gary Connolly played right-centre, i.e. number 3, in St. Helens' 24-14 victory over Rochdale Hornets in the 1991 Lancashire County Cup Final during the 1991–92 season at Wilderspool Stadium, Warrington, on Sunday 20 October 1991, and played right-centre, i.e. number 3, in the 4-5 defeat by Wigan in the 1992 Lancashire County Cup Final during the 1992–93 season at Knowsley Road, St. Helens, on Sunday 18 October 1992.
His move to rivals, Wigan, in 1993 was a controversial one and many St. Helens followers labelled him 'Judas'. Wigan paid £250,000 for Gary Connolly when he moved from St Helens in 1993 (based on increases in average earnings, this would be approximately £496,800 in 2013).
Connolly was a member of the successful Wigan team of the mid-1990s. After the 1993–94 Rugby Football League season he travelled with defending champions Wigan to Brisbane for the 1994 World Club Challenge, as a fullback in their 20–14 win over Australian premiers the Brisbane Broncos at the ANZ Stadium in front of a World Club Challenge record attendance of 54,220.
Prior to his move to Wigan, Connolly played 15 games of the 1993 NSWRL season with Sydney club Canterbury-Bankstown. While with the Bulldogs, Connolly played mostly in the centres and crossed for 5 tries including 2 on debut against South Sydney. While Connolly was a star import for the Bulldogs, his worst game came when Brisbane Broncos international centre Steve Renouf scored 4 tries against him in their game at the ANZ Stadium.
Gary Connolly played left-centre, i.e. number 4, in Wigan's 2-33 defeat by Castleford in the 1993–94 Regal Trophy Final during the 1993–94 season at Elland Road, Leeds on Saturday 22 January 1994, played left-centre, i.e. number 4, and scored a try in the 40-10 victory over Warrington in the 1994–95 Regal Trophy Final during the 1994–95 season at Alfred McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield on Saturday 28 January 1995, and played fullback in the 25-16 victory over St. Helens in the 1995–96 Regal Trophy Final during the 1994–95 season at Alfred McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield on Saturday 13 January 1996.
Connolly was selected to play for the English national team in their 1995 World Cup campaign and played in the centres in the World Cup Final at Wembley, though England would go down to defending champions Australia 16–8.
He was named in the Super League Dream Team of the 1996 at fullback. Connolly played a one-off international for a 'Rest of the World' team in their 28–8 loss against the Australian Rugby League's Kangaroos in mid-1997. Connolly played for Wigan at centre in their 1998 Super League Grand Final victory against Leeds Rhinos. He was named in the 1999 season's Super League Dream Team at centre. Connolly played for the Wigan Warriors at centre in their 2001 Super League Grand Final loss against the Bradford Bulls.
Connolly moved to Leeds in 2003 and the same year was awarded the Lance Todd Trophy as Man of the Match in the 2003 Challenge Cup Final against Bradford Bulls. He was also named in the 2003 Super League Dream Team at fullback.
Connolly was regarded as one of the premier British centres of his generation and appeared 31 times for the national side excelling in the defensive side of the game, although his try scoring record was very modest at this level.
- "Gary Connolly (Sports) Limited". Manchester Check. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
- "Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.co.uk". rugbyleagueproject.org. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "England Statistics at englandrl.co.uk". englandrl.co.uk. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "Great Britain Statistics at englandrl.co.uk". englandrl.co.uk. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- 1989 Challenge Cup Final
- 1991 Great Britain vs Papua New Guinea
- 1992 Rugby League World Cup Final
- "1992–1993 Lancashire Cup Final". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "Offiah hails arrival of Fielden". bbc.co.uk. 22 June 2006. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Measuring Worth - Relative Value of UK Pounds". Measuring Worth. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "28th January 1995: Warrington 10 Wigan 40 (Regal Trophy Final)". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "13th January 1996: St Helens 16 Wigan 25 (Regal Trophy Final)". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- Alan Whiticker & Glen Hudson (2007). The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players. Wetherill Park, New South Wales: Gary Allen Pty Ltd. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-877082-93-1. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: