Edwin Joseph Thorn
- 185Wallaby Number
Ted Thorn and his younger brother Joe were both forwards and stalwarts of the Manly Club. Their talents came to light at Manly Public School under one Harold Austin. Others to develop there were Norm (‘Rat’) Mingay, the first player to score 100 points in a season in the Sydney competition, and Dudley Beer and Jerry Chambers, who also played for NSW. Joe Thorn was the first of his family to make his mark in representative rugby, bursting on the scene in 1921 and continuing his surge in 1922. He made the highly successful Waratah tour to New Zealand in 1921. Joe played in eight of the 10 games, including the one game against NZ, surprisingly won by NSW 17 to 0. It should be noted that the 1921 Springboks were in NZ at the same time.
Though three years younger than Ted, his star shone early but appeared to fade quickly, perhaps through injury, as he retired after playing only 28 games with Manly. When his brother’s career seemed to be declining, flanker Ted Thorn was getting his opportunity. He played three matches against the All Blacks in 1922, NSW surprisingly winning two of them. Ted did not play against the visiting Maori team in 1923, but was selected on the highly unsuccessful 1923 NSW tour of NZ.
He would play in every match, showing himself to being a veritable iron man, and scored three tries, but the team won only two of the 10 games. The absence of key players like ‘Watty’ Friend, ‘Johnny’ Wallace, ‘Wakka’ Walker, ‘Pup’ Raymond, John Pym, Charlie Fox and Larry Wogan was a major factor in the dismal record. The NSW team was too young, too light and too inexperienced. The references to Thorn were all favourable: “well supported by Thorn,” “Thorn covered a lot of ground,” “Thorn and Greatorex the best of a forward pack that struggled against much heavier opposition,” and so on. He was one who returned to Australia with his reputation intact. In 1924 NZ arrived, and Ted Thorn played in each of the three NSW games.
In the final match, on 16 July 1924, he was made captain. He died without knowing he was a Test captain. Perhaps he was a trifle lucky, as the captain in the previous games, tough halfback ‘Wakka’ Walker, had to retire through injury. Thorn’s leadership qualities came to full fruition the following year, 1925, as he was captain in the first two NSW matches. An injury forced his withdrawal in the third match, NSW being captained by Charlie Fox. His sterling captaincy was rewarded by the captaincy of the 1925 NSW tour to NZ. Again a number of outstanding players were unable to tour, among them Alex Ross, Charlie Fox, Tom Davis, and Otto Nothling.
Experienced players Norm (‘Rat’) Mingay and ‘Wakka’ Walker had retired. On the other hand the brilliant and mercurial Tom Lawton was on the team, as was Jack Ford, Charlie Morrissey, Ned Greatorex, Allen Bowers, ‘Jock’ Blackwood, Wally Meagher, Owen Crossman and Syd King. The manager was Test player and all-round sportsman Harold Baker. The tour was a great success, NSW winning nine of their 11 games. Ted Thorn played in the first seven games, but received a very severe wrist injury and could not play the final three games, which included the Test. Tommy Lawton was made captain. In 1926 the All Blacks toured again, and they would play four matches against NSW.
Ted Thorn captained NSW in the first three, and Johnny Wallace, who had returned from the British Isles, took over the captaincy. It must have been a big disappointment for Thorn, who had done everything asked of him. But Johnny Wallace was the flavour of the day, having achieved fame as a vital cog in the Scottish three-quarter line while overseas. If it were not for Wallace, Thorn might possibly have been the captain of the 1927-28 Waratahs on their overseas tour. He was a fine leader of men. When the 1927-28 team was announced, Johnny Wallace was the captain and Charlie Fox his understudy.
This is what Peter Fenton said about him in his excellent work For The Sake Of The Game. “Edward Joseph ‘Ted’ Thorn, Fort Street Boys’ High School [note: we believe it was Manly High School], Manly, aged 30, height 5 feet 11, weight 14 stone, was a breakaway who had captained New South Wales against New Zealand on six occasions between 1924 and 1926. He was also captain of his club, Manly, for whom he was the regular goal kicker.
Though in the veteran class by the time of the tour he played well in 13 games and his experience was invaluable in a very young pack. He was one who matched the British forwards in his ability to keep the ball on the toe and instigate foot rushes. “On his return Ted Thorn again pulled on the boots to captain Manly, where he also was a member of the selection panel and the administration committee.” Ted Thorn was an outstanding forward who led from the front, always setting the example by his determined and intelligent play. When later the NSW matches were accorded Test status, he thus became an Australian captain on six occasions. Though he did not play a Test on his final tour, he was a vital cog in the Waratah machine.