John Thornett: Remembered as the gentleman of rugby

My original story was first published at: Sydney Cricket Ground Trust

John Thornett, he man donned not only a ”gentleman, but a gentle human,” by , long-time friend. Was remembered and celebrated in the Sydney Cricket Ground’s Noble Dining Room, on Thursday Morning, during a public obituary.

 

History books tell an amazing story, but Thornett will be remembered for more than his 118 appearances in the Wallabies jersey. His influence on the game has been likened to Don Bradman in cricket or Herb Elliot in Athletics. Thornett was arguably the greatest captain Australian rugby, has ever seen.

Thornett was educated at Sydney Boys High and excelled in rugby, swimming and rowing. He won premierships as a captain for Sydney University and Northern Suburbs before debuting for both NSW and Australia in 1955.

The eldest of three brothers, who each carved out decorated international sporting careers, Thornett played 37 tests and toured eight times with the Wallabies, captaining the side on four of those tours. He led the Wallabies to their first major Test series win in 16 years as they defeated South Africa at home in 1965.

During his 13-year international career, Thornett played in four different positions, something that would certainly not occur in the modern game. He represented the Wallabies as flanker, lock, and both tighthead and loosehead prop.

Wallabies legend Simon Poidevin said of Thornett: “He was a beautiful man and a true gentleman who excelled in multiple sports and was a proud and successful captain of the Wallabies”.

His retirement from international rugby, came following the 1966–67 tour of the British Isles and France, his eighth tour with the Wallabies. He then continued to play for Northern Suburbs in the Sydney grade competition where he amassed 126 matches, additionally leading the club to five grand finals.

Following his retirement, Thornett wrote a book titled ‘’This World of Rugby’’, and was appointed to the first national coaching panel, which was a system that underpinned Australian success for decades to come.

Rugby Australia chief executive officer, Raelene Castle paid tribute on behalf of the game’s governing body.

“Australian rugby has lost not only one of its greatest Wallabies, but one of its finest leaders,” Castle said.

‘’John Thornett played rugby for the love of the game and at all times treasured its values of mateship and sportsmanship. There was nothing he would not do for the game and his team, which is why his name is synonymous with Australian pride and great leadership.

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper also said that the contribution Thornett made to the sport, has remained an example for players today.

“When I sit down and chat with former Wallabies about their time in the gold jersey, they all speak glowingly of John and are in awe of how he played on the field and how he represented himself and Australia,” Hooper said.
The SCG would like to thank everyone who joined us in celebrating John Thornett’s life on Thursday.

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Women in a Wruck

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2017 saw the launch of the inaugural AON Rugby 7’s Women’s National University series. A fantastic development for Australian women in rugby, having the opportunity to travel inter-state and compete in a four-tournament series, jam-packed of talent development and to much excitement Olympic Gold medallists! 
The ARU agreed to include at least two Australian Sevens players in each of the nine university teams, across the country.

Pictured in the tweet from Aussie 7s, representing the Macquaire University Sydney Rays, is in fact myself! As a rookie to Rugby and Rugby 7s, only playing for one season. I took a dive in the deep end, learning to play something totally different (and totally fun!) after competing in Track and Field for the majority of my life and fortunately the opportunity of representing my country a few times over. This series was such a fantastic way to immerse myself in Rugby Union, as I was given the valuable opportunity to learn and develop as a player.

The Sydney Rays turned their program into a professional, contract-based team. Indulging in all the professional aspects of a National union team. We were very spoilt with experienced 7s coach Nathan McMmahon taking lead, assistant coach Australian Rugby 7s Olympian James Stannard and Strength and Conditioning king Tim Rowland. 

Tim provided a state of the art strength program for the Rookies, like myself who were new to Union. He gave us the skill development to mould into confident rugby women, not to be reckoned with on the field. Additionally we had a gruelling, but necessary two-day training camp, at the Australian Rugby 7S HQ, Sydney Academy of Sport Narrabean; prior to the first round for the AON series.

We were also given team building days, including goal-setting and personal development, game day and training video analysis tools, access to recovery systems post-game including Cryotherapy, plunge pools and pool recovery sessions. Experienced on-site physiotherapists were implemented for training and game day needs. We were even given a boots sponsor from ”X-Blades,” which are the most comfortable, durable footy boots I’ve ever owned! And to top it off, an insightful team manager, keeping us all in the loop.

The series kicked off in icy Tasmania on 25-26th August, our Rays women taking out the silver medal for the tournament. The next series was on home turf 8-9th September, at Macquaire University Sport Fields. Unfortunately we missed out on a medal-match and finished fourth. The final two tournaments were in maroon territory playing at University of Queensland 15th-16th September and Bond University HQ 29th-30th. With two silver medals to add to the collection, it was enough for the Macqauire Rays to finish bronze on the overall medal tally, behind the champions University of Queensland and silver medallists Bond University.

In my eighteen years, of elite track and field, this program was something Athletics can take a leaf from. I felt supported, welcomed and indulged in a wealth of knowledge on how to improve my rugby performance, quickly and efficiently. It was also incredibly insightful and motivating to have Olympian Chloe Dalton and Australian representative Dominique De Toit, playing alongside our Rays.

I was lucky enough to feature in the ”women-doing-wonderful-things-in-sport” podcast by Mary Konstantopoulos ”Ladies Who League,” Prior to the AON Series kick-off. Take a listen to this passionate woman’s guide to Rugby League and celebrating all things happening in the Australian sporting world.

Ladies Who League Podcast

Thanks to this Rugby series, I was lucky enough to be a part of a national program. To have met (and tackled) women of all backgrounds, of all different levels of experience and of determination and strength. I could not be more excited for the future of Rugby 7s in Australia. With the amount of talent I got to witness on that paddock, we are in for a few more gold medals yet, Australia!
To keep up to date with The Sydney Rays, especially ahead of the first Women’s NRC 15-aside series, check out: http://www.raysrugby.com.au

Women in a Wruck

Saturday November 12th, 36 Degrees, 4 Games of Rugby Union and a team of strong women, you wouldn’t want to mess with.

Sydney University Women’s Rugby 7s team, took to Campbelltown Showground in the annual ‘Harlequin 7s Tournament’ for the year. The stakes were high with a $2000 cash prize on offer, for the team to take out the five-game-tournament on the day.

Rugby 7s, is a modified traditional Rugby Union game. It only last seven minute halves, with a 30 second break for half time. The name also resonates with the fact there are only seven players, per side on the field at one time. Because of these changes, there are also changes to wrucks, scrums and how many people per tackle to ‘clear out.’ It is a much faster, more cardiovascular based game and some might say, much more entertaining

Sydney Uni were off to a fine start, with both their A and B teams taking out their first matches. The heat, the tackles and the Bindi patches soon took their toll on the women, as they both lost their second games.

For spectators, it was an exciting and impressive day of Rugby. The Women’s side had both NSW Samoa and NSW Fiji teams take the field. And the men had both an Australian 7s team and Australia Fiji team, dominate their side.

Eventually is was the Sydney Uni A team, victorious through to the semi-final match, only one game between them and the championship game. After a good start up 1 try on the Campbelltown Harlequins, Uni went down in an exciting match 1-5.

Every athlete who took the field should be commended on their perseverance, their effort and enthusiasm as players clearly left everything on the field this tournament. Next championship isn’t scheduled until February 2017. For more information about how to become a Rugby 7s player for Sydney University, please visit:  https://www.susf.com.au/