Ross Vincent Turnbull
- 523Wallaby Number
Ross Turnbull was an imposing, persistent and determined front row forward who played a single Test match for Australia but went on to become a key rugby administrator in a global context.
Born in Newcastle, Turnbull was educated at Knox Grammar School on Sydney’s north shore. After graduation he returned to his home town to work as an articled law clerk for a firm of solicitors and played rugby for the Wanderers Rugby where he reached First Grade under the coaching of Ron Meadows (Wallaby #440).
In 1963 he made his debut for New South Wales as a replacement lock against Victoria at Chatswood Oval before he transferred to prop. Unfortunately further honours were difficult to attain given the quality of Australian props in that era such as John Thornett, Jon White, Tony Miller and Roy Prosser.
In 1968 Turnbull was selected on his first Wallaby tour, to Ireland and Scotland and made his Test debut at Lansdowne Road.
The following year Turnbull was surprisingly overlooked for the tour of South Africa and while he then chose to focus on his growing legal practice his passion for the game did not diminish. Turnbull managed NSW Country (1972-75) and the Australian teams against England (1975), Japan (1975), Fiji (1976) and Wales (1978). He was also the manager on two major tours - the Sixth Wallabies to Britain and the U.S.A. (1975/76) and New Zealand (1978).
In 1984 Turnbull was instrumental in securing the appointment of Alan Jones as coach of the Wallabies. He was also selected as Chairman of the NSW Rugby Union and as one of Australia’s two delegates to the International Rugby Board. Turnbull was elected Deputy Chairman of the Australian Rugby Union (1984-89).
In the 1980s Turnbull was part of the Australian push to counter the threat of a professional rugby tournament outside of the global bodies’ domain. Accordingly the ARU, under President Sir Nicholas Shehadie, developed a partnership with New Zealand to present an alternative platform to the IRB for a Rugby World Cup. The idea was pitched to a sceptical IRB in 1985 however at the end of a tense meeting in Paris the Rugby World Cup concept was born.
Turnbull won his first Test cap in the front row alongside Peter Johnson and Roy Prosser in the 3-10 loss to Ireland in Dublin.