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The oldest and most successful of three exceptionally gifted rugby-playing brothers who played international rugby in four different positions, flanker, number eight, second-row and prop, such was his versatility.
An astute tactician and fine leader of men, John Thornett’s record as Wallaby captain shone through. Under his leadership Australia became the first nation in 67 years to defeat South Africa in consecutive tests during the 1963 drawn series. In 1965 he led Australia to a magnificent 2-0 win over the visiting Springboks and played against the British and Irish Lions, both in 1959 and 1966.
Thornett retired from international rugby in 1967 after his 37th test appearance against France, though he continued to play club rugby for Northern Suburbs. He made 126 first-class appearances for the Sydney-based side and also represented New South Wales.
He was awarded an MBE for his services to rugby union in 1966.