Arthur Edward Joseph Tonkin
- 355Wallaby Number
Arthur Tonkin was a powerfully built sprint champion who evolved into a genuine try scoring threat on the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. Although he is largely remembered for this great pace out on the flanks Tonkin was also a superb tackler. Born and bred in Wagga Wagga, Tonkin received his early education at the Christian Brothers' High School. He was then sent to board in Sydney at St Joseph’s College Hunters HIll where he became a star athlete both in rugby (1st XV 1940-42) and athletics (triple GPS champion in the 1942 100 yards, 220 yards and broad jump). Four years of national service followed before Tonkin enjoyed a meteoric rise to national honours in 1947. That year Tonkin scored two tries on debut for City against Country, did likewise on debut for New South Wales against Queensland and then picked up tries in each of the following three interstate clashes to roar into contention for the home series against New Zealand. Unfortunately he suffered a fractured jaw in final quarter of the fourth match and was ruled unavailable for selection in the Tests. Nonetheless he was one of three specialist wingers to win a spot on the Third Wallabies tour at the end of the year.
Tragedy struck the Wallabies at Newport, as arguably Australia’s greatest player, Charlie Eastes, broke his wrist and was unable to play again. Tonkin filled the void, and became one of the real discoveries and surprises on the tour. He won a Test debut against Scotland, where he celebrated with a try and went on to start in each of the five internationals. In June 1948 Tonkin injured his eye in a club match and amid fear that his sight might be permanently impaired was ordered by a specialist not to play rugby for at least six months. Two long years later he resumed training with Gordon and by August was back in the Test team. His sixth and final Test, the second against the British Lions in Sydney, was also a day of great celebration in the Tonkin family. At 8 a.m. Tonkin was married in the St Joseph’s College Chapel before he sat down to a two pound rump steak and two dozen oysters. At 2.30 p.m. he ran onto the S.C.G. with the Wallabies to face the Lions. Later that year Tonkin was transferred to Leeton High School as physical education instructor. Arthur Tonkin played six Tests for Australia in a four-year international career.
Tonkin won his first Test cap on the right wing in the 16-7 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield. In that match he became the 31st Wallaby to score a try on debut. Both he and Terry MacBride were retained on the wings for the Tests against Ireland, Wales, England and France.
Tonkin played his final international in the 2nd Test, 3-24 loss to the British Lions at the S.C.G.