- 141Wallaby Number
A Toowoomba draper, John Thompson had a most remarkable career that saw him banned from rugby for professionalism, reinstated to play for Australia against the All Blacks and eventually made a triumphant tour of Australia with the wonderful AIF team in 1919. Thompson began his rugby career as a short, chunky prop forward with pace and a thick mop of red hair that inevitably saw him dubbed "Bluey". His good form for Toowoomba in the Country Rugby Carnival in 1908 led to his selection in a powerful Queensland Country side that contained a number of outstanding players in ‘Mick’ Bolewski, ‘Ooler Olsen, Jack Egan, Tom (‘Rusty’) Richards and ‘Brickey' Farmer.
When the country boys trounced Metropolitan Brisbane 16-3, Thompson and his team-mates expected to secure a majority of places in the Queensland team to play New South Wales. Much to their dismay, only four country players were chosen. The disappointed country players became easy prey for scouts from the newly-formed rugby league in Brisbane. The QRU selectors did choose Thompson in the Queensland ‘B’ side that met New South Wales in the midweek match but Thompson quickly joined the rugby league ranks along with Bolewski and Olsen. There was no club rugby league in Brisbane in 1908 but Thompson, Olsen and Bolewski were included in the Queensland rugby league teams that played New South Wales in Sydney with Thompson captaining Queensland, although he was only 19-years-of-age. However, Thompson soon regretted his short foray into the ranks of rugby league and pleaded for reinstatement in the amateur game.
Although the QRU refused to reinstate a number of players who regretted the switch to league, Thompson was granted a reprieve on account of his youth. Resuming his rugby career, Thompson continued as a prop forward and made his State debut in 1910 in Queensland's 13-8 loss to the Maori at the Exhibition Ground as a replacement for Sam Topham. Selected for the southern tour, Thompson played the first of his nine matches against New South Wales at the Sydney University Oval. The home side won 34-14 and Thompson missed selection in the return encounter. The next two seasons proved lean times for Thompson but, in 1913, he changed to the Brothers Club in Brisbane along with Toowoomba winger Herb Callaghan and switched to the side of the scrum as a flanker.
The fiery Thompson, red hair aflame, proved a sensation in his new position as a marauding flanker and, for him, 1914 proved a stellar year in which he represented Queensland in six matches and was chosen for Australia in the first two Tests against the touring All Blacks. In the first Test in Sydney, Bliley Thompson formed the Wallaby backrow along with Harold Baker and number 8, Fred Thompson. The Australian selectors wanted to retain the same team for the second Test only for three New South Wales forwards Fred Thompson, Doss 'Wallach and Bill Watson - to announce their unavailability. Three players from the Brothers Club replaced them - Bill Morrissey, Clinker Birt and Sam Kreutzer - bringing the number of Brothers players in the Test side to six. Incidentally, Brothers were so strong that the club fielded two teams in the Brisbane first grade competition! Although Thompson was selected for the third Test, he was unable to come down to Sydney for the match but Fred Thompson was again available and was back in the side.
Unfortunately for Bluey Thompson, the First World War threw the collection of statistics into chaos and he was not recognised for his two Test matches. His Brisbane appearance had been credited to Fred Thompson. Even the latest Almanac from the Rugby Football Union attributes one Test match to 'Bluey' Thompson to this day. After the outbreak of War, Brothers continued with two teams of equal strength in the Brisbane competition in 1915 and Thompson played for Brothers. Although there were no interstate fixtures that year, Thompson was selected in a powerful South Queensland team that toured Central Queensland. He finished the year as a member of the Brothers 'A' team that retained the Hospital Cup with a win over Easts. With the War continuing, Thompson enlisted in the Army Medical Corps and embarked for overseas on 14 July 1917 on the HMAT Horoata at Sydney.
When the fighting ended, Thompson found himself in Britain along with thousands of Allied troops awaiting repatriation. To occupy the men, a rugby tournament was organised to play for The King's Cup. Thompson was part of a powerful AIF team that defeated the South Africans and the New Zealanders, who were the eventual winners of the King's Cup. The AIF played 15 matches in Britain and met Natal on the way home before making a triumphant tour of Australia, playing three ‘Tests’ against Australia before disbanding. Thompson finished his rugby career in 1919 with four matches against New South Wales. John (‘Bluey') Thompson was a remarkable footballer who made a mighty successful but unusual transition from prop forward to flanker. After a very long life, he died in 1978.