Former Wallabies captain and Denhams Beach resident John Thornett MBE has died aged 83, in Denhams Beach.
One of the greatest figures in Australian rugby history, Thornett remarkably played almost every position in the forward pack during an illustrious 37-Test career from 1955-63.
After debuting as a flanker against the All Blacks in Wellington in 1955, Thornett moved into the second row after 15 Tests before playing out his international career in the front row.
It is good to get hit hard early; you are right into it thenJohn Thornett
He never lost his respect for the All Blacks – speaking to the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner about the World Cup in 2015, he had nothing but praise for the side.
“They are the hardest opponents in the world, and I have great admiration for them,” he said.
“It didn’t matter whether you played them in New Zealand or elsewhere, they were always hard.”
He said New Zealand and South Africa were always his toughest opponents, and named All Black Colin Meads as the greatest player he ever faced.
“He was the epitome of a rugby player,” he said.
“He was a really hard man, and I only missed two tackles, and one was on him. I bounced off him like a fly.”
Born in 1935, John graduated from Sydney Boys High School as school captain and excelled at swimming and rowing, as well skippering the 1st XV rugby team.
John also represented NSW at water polo in the mid to late 1950s - but his great love was rugby.
He played with both Sydney University and Northern Suburbs Rugby Club before touring New Zealand with the Australian Universities team in 1954.
He made his NSW Waratahs and Wallabies debuts in 1955 and first captained Australia on the 1961 trip to South Africa.
From 1963 to 1967, Thornett was entrenched as Australia's leader, captaining the Wallabies more times than any player to that point in Test history.
Mr Thornett came from a talented family, to say the least.
His brother Dick was a triple international, representing Australia in rugby union (where he played alongside John), rugby league and water polo, and other brother Ken played 12 rugby league tests for Australia.
His best advice for athletes? Get nervous, and get hurt early.
“If you didn’t get nervous, you didn’t play well,” he said.
“It is good to get hit hard early; you are right into it then.”
Thornett died at Opal Denhams Beach on Friday, January 4, morning with his wife by his side.