Charles Ernest Thompson
- 179Wallaby Number
Charlie Thompson was the second of his family to represent Australia but he never appeared in the same team with brother Fred, as Fred, the older by six years, was killed in World War I and Charlie made his name afterwards. Charlie, who these days would be laughed at if he offered his 5ft 10in (1.78m) 6lb (79kg) frame as a prop, made two tours to New Zealand but only played intermittently at home in the early 1920s. Although Thompson was only included in the New South Wales 2nd XV for its match against the AIF reserves in 1919 (the curtain-raiser for the main match between the respective first XVs), he was included in the first, almost-forgotten Australian team to be chosen after the war.
The AIF played three matches against Australia as part of its domestic tour – the game was still struggling. Thompson could play against the touring teams for the State which came along in Queensland at the time – and Thompson won a place in all these matches. He acquitted himself well enough without making a big splash, but general satisfaction was felt at the young player’s performances. Tom Davis, Tom Smith and Willie Watson were the main props chosen for the 1920 matches against the All Blacks and the 1921 clashes with the 2nd XV (All Blacks) and Metropolitan Union (Springboks).
If the selectors took four props to New Zealand, Thompson was always likely to be the fourth, although Duncan ‘Chook’ Fowles was included instead of the now-retired Watson. On tour Thompson played in four of the lesser matches and never really threatened to win a Test place. The team won all its first nine matches, including a famous 17-0 victory over New Zealand, before coming to grief in the last match of the tour, against Wellington. Thompson, as was the case with all the tight forwards, did his work well in securing possession for the team’s dangerous backline to use and the backs took most of the rave reviews in the press.
For all that Thompson, who had all three of the other props as playing partners in his four matches, was involved in four strong displays. Davis and Smith, as expected, played the Test. Thompson’s home matches for the State over the next two years were limited to three against the New Zealand Maori teams, one in 1922 and two the following season. Just when it seemed Thompson may be getting a break – he was paired with Davis in the 1922 series opener - an injury in that match knocked him out for the year. He was back for the first two matches of the 1923 series but lost his place for the third when the selectors revamped the front row and chose two new props.
Still, Thompson was one of the early selections for the 1923 New Zealand tour, which was to prove a tough exercise. Hard hit by unavailability – ten top players withdrew from consideration and the six University players chosen had to miss the first two matches due to exams – this team was always going to struggle. Thompson played the first three matches, including the first Test, but then Arthur Erby and Davis became the preferred front-row pairing. Thompson was still given plenty of field time, as he made two appearances as a loose forward, and he eventually played seven of the ten matches although missing the last two Tests.
Outweighed and overmatched, the tourists battled gamely but were not in the same class as the All Blacks or the leading provinces and the record was a poor one. Thompson played twice for the State in the Golden Jubilee series of 1924, only to find the teams he was a part of heavily beaten again. Thompson replaced Ernie Ritchie after the first match but the All Blacks, who were to win fame as ‘the Invincibles’ after their unbeaten sweep through Britain, were over a rough sea crossing by the time the second match was played and were far too good. Thompson, now a veteran at 29, dropped out of big-time football after that season.