Vale Wallaby #544 Bob Thompson
The Australian Rugby community is mourning the loss of the first Wallabies representative ever selected from Western Australia, Bob “Tommo” Thompson who passed away at his home in Rotorua, New Zealand on Sunday.
The Rotorua born and bred hooker has the rare distinction of being the only man to play for both the Wallabies and the New Zealand Maori team, which he represented once in 1968 through his mother’s lineage.
His representative Rugby career looked over before it had ever really begun when he broke his leg badly in a 1969 match for his local club and upon medical advice, he briefly retired in a moment he described as like his “whole world had died” as he decided to set about seeing the world with his future wife, Jenny.
They landed in Perth, where Thompson signed on with local club Wests as a Coach, but after originally being told by doctors he may never walk again without sticks, he was soon running out in first grade and by the end of the year had been selected in the Western Australia representative team for the national carnival in Adelaide.
He played for WA against the All Blacks in 1970, and after leading the Western Australians to the highest score of any opposing team against the Springboks on their tour of Australia a year later, he was selected in the national junior team.
After a single match for the junior Wallabies, he was sensationally called upon to make his Test debut to replace legendary Wallabies hooker Peter Johnson for the Final Test in Sydney after the Wallabies had lost the opening two matches in the series. Moving to Sydney, he signed on to play with Norths where he led the club to a Sydney grade premiership.
He would later tour twice with the Wallabies, to France later in 1971 and to New Zealand and Fiji the following year picking up two further Test caps.
In what would be his final Test, against Fiji in Suva, Thompson scored his only Test try and tasted victory in the international arena for the first time.
He later returned to New Zealand, and his Wallaby cap now sits on permanent loan to Kahukura, the club he represented in his hometown.
Thompson was aged 71 and is survived by his son, daughter, one granddaughter and three grandsons.
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