Leonard Joseph Forbes
The rugby genes ran strong in the Forbes family. Len, younger brother of Wallaby #403 Col (1953-56), forged his own path to Wallaby gold when he earned selection for the 1958 tour to New Zealand.
An impressively built middle-rower cum prop forward, one who performed with distinction on both sides of the scrum, Len was educated at St. Joseph's Christian Brother's College, Gregory Terrace. The school records show Len attended Terrace from 1946 through 1948 before he left aged just 14. It is unclear if Len undertook further schooling or moved into the workforce at that time however a career in the police force beckoned.
Little is known of Len in those post-Terrace years right up until 1954 outside of the fact that he played his rugby alongside Col at Brothers. In 1955, Len made his senior rugby representative debut for Queensland in their 3-31 loss to Sydney Metropolitan at Manly Oval. A year later, Len joined Col in the Queensland pack for his brother’s final three matches in the maroon jersey - the split series against New South Wales (W 16-8; L 16-22) and, oddly as a flanker, against the visiting Springboks (L 3-47).
In 1957, Len was invited to play in the final trials ahead of the Fourth Wallabies tour to the northern hemisphere. He was picked in the second row, alongside Rob Heming, for Probables vs. Possibles while Dave Emanuel & Neill Latimer (Australia) faced off against Alan Cameron & ‘Slaggy’ Miller (The Rest) in the main trial. When the selectors named their middle rowers for the tour, Emanuel, Cameron and Miller were joined by the Possibles’ Stuart Scotts for the gruelling 42-match tour.
The following year saw Len show for Queensland against the Maori (L 12-24) and later in the Wallaby trials - vs Victoria (W 17-14) and NSW (W 10-6) - ahead of the upcoming tour to New Zealand. A day after the tournament’s final fixture, Bob Davidson -- the Fourth Wallabies’ captain, the incumbent New South Wales captain, and the man who had led Australia in the first home Test against the Maori just five weeks earlier -- was a surprise omission from the squad. In what appeared to be a calculated strategy, after a long run of disappointing results, the selectors chose just nine of the side that had toured to the U.K. and Europe in 1957/58. Forbes was one of three specialist props named in the party alongside Waratahs’ Keith Ellis and Peter Dunn.
Len made his Australian debut in the tour’s opening match, the 6-8 loss to Hawkes Bay at McLean Park, and the press wrote Forbes was “excellent in the lineouts”. Forbes played a total of four matches on the short tour however Ellis and Dunn were preferred for each of the three internationals.
Although Len fortuitously missed Queensland’s heavy 11-39 loss to the 1959 British Lions, Ellis and Dunn justifiably retained their spots in the Test side after both had played in New South Wales’ upset 18-14 defeat of the tourists just three days earlier. Despite missing the Test side, Forbes did have reason for celebration at season end when Brothers defeated University 13-11 to win the Hospitals Cup first-grade premiership for the first time since 1953. In 1960, Forbes won the last of his 16 state caps in the two home losses to New South Wales.
Forbes started four matches on the tour to New Zealand - vs. Hawkes Bay (L 6-8); vs. Nelson at Trafalgar Park (W 20-11); vs. South Canterbury at Timaru (W 26-17); and vs. Manawatu at Palmerston North (L 6-12)