John Henry ("Sparrow") Dowse

  • 89Age
  • 4Caps
  • 457Wallaby Number
PositionFly half
Date Of BirthMarch 27, 1935
Place of BirthMackay, QLD
SchoolKnox Grammar, Sydney
Debut ClubNorthern Suburbs
Other ClubUniversity (Sydney)
Debut Test Match1961 Wallabies v Fiji, Brisbane
Final Test Match1961 Wallabies v South Africa, 2nd Test Port Elizabeth


“Sparrow” Dowse was a prolific point scoring utility back whose Test career was impacted by the emergence of the great Phil Hawthorne. Dowse was a tremendous goal kicker and in an era when a penalty goal was worth as much as a try, a reliable kicker proved invaluable. Importantly, Dowse had the ability to kick them when they counted. He preferred flyhalf and its responsibilities of keeping the ball in front of the forwards by judicious kicking and being the link to get the backline into gear.


Born in Mackay, Queensland, Dowse was educated at Knox Grammar on Sydney’s upper north shore where he played three years in the 1st XV. After school he enrolled in first year Medicine at the University of Sydney.


In 1954 he went from 4th grade up to 2nd grade at season’s end. After a University examination, he was in the pub celebrating when Mac Hughes called to tell him a University winger had withdrawn and he was required for the first grade semi- final. His first three first grade games were that semi-final, the final and the Grand Final, all of which University won. Two years later he made his senior representative debut at fullback for New South Wales against Queensland.


In 1957, after three years where he passed the four subjects in Med 1 at least once but never the four together, his career in medicine was over before it started. Dowse applied for and was obtained a rugby scholarship to UCLA. He worked his way over on a Swedish freighter arriving at the start of their season and enrolled in Business Administration.


Dowse returned to Australia in 1959 and the following year joined Norths where he flourished under the coaching of Mick Cremin. Dowse had a great season and Norths won the premiership for the first time in twenty five years.


In 1961 Dowse’s point scoring ability proved irresistible and he earned a Test debut against Fiji in Brisbane. An ankle injury in the 2nd Test of that series placed question marks over Dowse’s fitness for the tour to South Africa however he did start in both internationals. Phil Hawthorne arrived on the scene for the tour to New Zealand in 1962 and then played in 21 of the Wallabies’ 22 Tests through to the end of the 1967 season.


John Dowse played four Tests for Australia in a one-year international career. 






Dowse won his first Test cap at fly half outside of Ken Catchpole in the 24-6 victory over Fiji at the Exhibition Ground. That same halves pair started the 2nd Test however in that match Dowse badly sprained his ankle and was ruled out of the final Test in Melbourne. Dowse and Catchpole were reunited in the halves for both away Test losses to South Africa.

John Henry ("Sparrow") Dowse