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.