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John Thornett, 1966

Lesley Moline

oil on masonite (support: 118.0 cm x 78.5 cm, frame: 134.5 cm x 95.0 cm)

John Edward Thornett MBE (1935-2019), former rugby union international, grew up in Sydney and was educated at Sydney Boys’ High, where he excelled at rugby, swimming and rowing. In 1954 and 1956, he toured with the Australian Universities rugby side to New Zealand and Japan. Meanwhile, he had begun playing at state and national levels, making his Test debut against the All Blacks in 1955. He went on to earn another 36 Test caps, touring New Zealand in 1958, 1962 and 1964, South Africa in 1961 and 1963, and the UK and France in 1957/58 and 1966/67, and making four of these tours as captain. Under his leadership, in 1963, the Wallabies became the first team in 67 years to beat South Africa in consecutive Tests. In one 1962 Test against New Zealand, he played alongside his younger brother, Dick (1940–2011), who also represented Australia in rugby league, and in water polo at the 1960 Rome Olympics. The third Thornett brother, Ken (b. 1937), was also a rugby league international and is considered one of the top league fullbacks of the 1960s, playing 136 first grade games for Parramatta. Inducted into the Sports Australia Hall of Fame in 1985, John Thornett was one of the five inaugural inductees into the Wallabies Hall of Fame (in 2005); and in 2013 the International Rugby Board named him a member of the IRB Hall of Fame.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of John and Vivien Thornett 2014

Accession number: 2014.45

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Lesley Moline (age 55 in 1966)

John Edward Thornett MBE (age 31 in 1966)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

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