Alan Charles Thorpe
- 266Wallaby Number
Alan Thorpe was a big and burly centre who enjoyed a brief representative career in the late 1920s. He was also one of the rare Wallabies to play Test rugby before representing his state.
Born in Sydney, Thorpe was educated at Newington College but left school before his senior years. He played first grade for Wests in 1924 and that same year was chosen to represent Whites against Blues in the Combined First Grades curtain raiser to the New Zealand v. New South Wales tour match. It was at that time Thorpe was deemed to be ‘one of the finest three-quarters amongst those who failed to gain the highest honours this winter.’ Few of his centre peers were as robust as Thorpe and when combined with his pace and a knack of opening a defence the prospects for higher honours seemed quite bright.
Nonetheless with Sid King and Cyril Towers a dominating force in the Wallaby mid-field the recognition of Thorpe’s talents did not come until the 1928 season when he earned a start for the Metropolitan XV against Victoria. He was then invited by New South Wales to tour New Zealand but was forced to politely decline the offer when denied the required leave by his employer. Surprisingly Thorpe announced his retirement at the end of the year after he married. Fortunately Thorpe’s wife relented and he returned to the game in 1929, the year in which the QRU reformed and the Wallabies wore a dark green jersey for the first time. Towers and King were named as the centre pairing for the first Test against New Zealand however Thorpe was included among six backline reserves.
During the first half Towers took a heavy knock to the head in a valiant attempt to stop a hot New Zealand rush. Australia strangely played with 14 men for the next 10 minutes as their outside centre sat on the sidelines. When it was found that Towers could not resume Thorpe came on for his Test debut. There was only one score in the second half and it largely came as a result of an extremely clever take of the ball by Thorpe. New Zealand led 8-6 and with time almost up that had not changed. From a set-piece the ball spat out the side of the scrum where Cerutti somehow gathered it and slung it over the back of the pack to Lawton who was not in a very handy position. The captain passed to King, who looked no better off until he found Jack Ford had come up outside him.
The big No.8 took off, straightened the line like an expert outside centre, sent a low pass to Thorpe who somehow gathered the ball from around his knees and turned it in a flash to Gordon. The young winger already near top gear, sprinted for the corner and dived over for the winning score. Four days later Thorpe made his New South Wales debut when Towers was ruled out of their clash with the tourists. Unfortunately Thorpe went on to contract synovitis of the knee and as a result was not named in the squad for the second and third internationals. Thorpe did return to play a role as Wests won the first grade premiership however he later retired for a second and final time.
Alan Thorpe played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #266.
Thorpe won his first Test cap at outside centre when he replaced Cyril Towers in the 1st Test, 9-8 victory over New Zealand at the S.C.G.