John George Fuller

PositionFlanker / No. 8
Date Of BirthMay 18, 1920
Place of BirthSydney
SchoolCranbrook School
Service NumberNX34875
Debut ClubUniversity (Sydney)
ProvinceNSW
DiedDecember 2, 2003
CapsUncapped on Third Wallabies 1947/48

The story of John Fuller is one about tenacity, courage, and strength of character in a man who survived the horror of wartime incarceration to win selection with the Third Wallabies.

Fuller played his first rugby at Cranbrook School before he went on to enjoy two seasons in the 1st XV (1937-38). Fuller repeated his final year to attain a better matriculation to the University of Sydney in order to study Medicine.

In something of a whirlwind first year at University, 1939, Fuller’s 6ft, 14 stone front-rower frame corner stoned the first-grade side to a 25-17 Shute Shield premiership victory over Randwick, saw him chosen in ‘Miller’s Team’ for a New South Wales’ trial match, and earned the 19-year old selection for the Metropolitan Colts.

Unfortunately, war then intervened. Fuller enlisted with the 2/18th Battalion of the Australian Military Forces. Promoted to lieutenant Fuller led a front-line mortar platoon that fought the Japanese advancement down the Malay Peninsula into Singapore. Reported “missing, believed wounded” in early 1942, Fuller was captured as a prisoner of war and interned at Singapore’s notorious Changi Prison. He later spent several years at Kobe Prison in Japan before being “recovered” in late 1945. Despite those interminable years of captivity, Fuller remained in Japan for three more months during which time he assisted the Americans and ensured all his fellow POWs were released and given the appropriate care.

Upon his return to Australia, Fuller worked hard on his fitness and rugby with near-immediate success when he was selected to debut for New South Wales in their 1946 representative season opener, the away match against Toowoomba. The 47-3 win that day was highlighted by the rare occurrence of all three front-row forwards - Eric Tweedale, Ken Kearney and Fuller - each scoring a try. The press of the day wrote: “Fuller, who played brilliantly in Toowoomba, showed exceptional pace in the open for a forward. This is not altogether surprising as he once ran second in the Associated Schools’ 100 yards.”

With Col Windon struck down by a recurrence of malaria, Fuller was shifted to breakaway - a position in which he had never played - for the interstate clash with Queensland. Another Fuller try contributed to a 30-6 win however a few weeks later, against Randwick, he broke his left wrist and missed the rest of the season.

Further injury woes the following year, this time the tendons in both knees, looked set to rob Fuller of his chance to be selected for the Third Wallabies. However, the selectors had seen enough. Despite not playing for almost two months, Fuller’s excellence in tight rucking, his good defence, his pace and ultimately his versatility saw him win a place in the squad as a backrower. Fuller made his Australian debut in the uncapped fixture against Abertillery & Cross Keys (W 6-3) and over the course of the tour played 11 matches in which he scored four tries. Despite Fuller’s efforts he did not win a Test cap with Arthur Buchan, Windon and Doug Keller starting in the backrow for all five internationals.

After the tour, Fuller broke his wrist in an exhibition match, an injury that ruled him out of consideration for the 1949 tour to New Zealand. He soon retired, was married and earned a living selling scrap iron to foundries. Fuller’s University jersey, one that accompanied throughout the war, was hung in the club bar and his Australian jumper is on display at Cranbrook School’s gym.

Highlights

1947/48 Fuller won selection on the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K., France, and North America.

John George Fuller Classic Wallabies profile
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