Robert John Thompson
- 544Wallaby Number
Bob Thompson was a Maori hooker who became the first ever Wallaby to be chosen from Western Australia. Born in Rotorua, New Zealand Thompson played one representative match for his home province, Bay of Plenty, against Auckland in 1968 from where he was selected for Northern Maori in the annual Prince of Wales Cup match which doubled as a trial for the national Maori team.
Thompson then won selection for the only New Zealand Maori match of the year against Manawatu. After that season Thompson moved to Australia however he suffered a badly broken leg towards the end of 1969 and, on medical advice, retired. The family relocated to Perth where Thompson intended to coach at Wests however he fronted up for a game with the reserves. After one game in the twos he found himself in First Grade.
Thompson then won selection for the State team that was to compete at the national carnival in Adelaide. For a man who had been told he would not walk again without sticks Thompson was on the road to a remarkable comeback.
He played against the All Blacks in 1970 and the Springboks a year later. Remarkably, Western Australia posted the highest score of any of the Springboks’ 13 opponents and, even more remarkably, all 18 points came from their goal-kicking hooker who scored one try and landed five penalty goals.
That performance, which was a record tally by any player against a Springbok side anywhere in the world, saw Thompson win a spot in the Junior Wallabies 12-31 defeat in Brisbane. Following losses in the opening two Tests the selectors made four changes for the final match in Sydney. The most dramatic of those four changes saw Peter Johnson dropped for the only time in his 12-year Test career and Thompson handed a Test debut.
Thompson then toured twice with the Wallabies, to France later in 1971 and to New Zealand and Fiji the following year. Thompson later returned to New Zealand and his Wallaby cap now sits on permanent loan to Kahukura, the club he represented in his hometown.
Thompson won his first Test cap as the starting hooker alongside fellow debutant Stu Macdougall and Roy Prosser in the 3rd Test, 6-18 loss to South Africa at the S.C.G. When Peter Johnson suffered a leg injury in the 2nd Test, 9-18 loss to France in Paris, Thompson came off the bench to pick up a second cap.
Thompson earned a final cap as the starting hooker in combination with Roy Prosser and Reg Smith in the 21-19 victory over Fiji in Suva. He scored his first Test try and kicked a vital conversion that proved critical in the final scoreline.