Thomas Leo Sweeney
- 400Wallaby Number
Tom Sweeney was an elegant fullback and fine goal kicker who could easily have been a dual international due to his prowess in athletics. Sweeney excelled in the high jump and held the Queensland title for six years (1947-52). Sweeney. In 1952 he competed in the trials for the Helsinki Olympic Games. Athletics aside, Sweeney came from strong rugby stock as his father Tom played two rugby league Tests at fullback for Australia on the 1919 tour of New Zealand and his first cousin Des Connor (Wallaby #429) played Test rugby for both Australia and New Zealand.
Born in Brisbane, both father and son were educated at St. Joseph's Christian Brothers College, Gregory Terrace, where young Tom played one season in the 1st XV (1946). He played his club rugby at Brothers but was kept out of the top grade by long standing custodian Frank Carmody.
In 1952, and with Carmody retired, Sweeney made his First Grade debut. It did not take the Queensland selectors too long to recognise Sweeney’s latent talent and he was chosen for the opening interstate clash of the year against New South Wales. Six weeks later he faced the touring Fijians and despite his performances in those representative games was inexplicably overlooked for the Wallaby to tour New Zealand. However, when incumbent fullback Peter Rothwell withdrew from the 2nd Test against Fiji due to a septic throat, Sweeney was called in to make his Test debut. Unfortunately he too was forced to withdraw as he had suffered several broken ribs in a sickening head-on confrontation with giant Fijian flanker Semesi Baleca in the Queensland versus Fiji match. That injury also saw Sweeney ruled out of the tour to New Zealand.
Finally, in 1953, Sweeney’s form was rewarded with selection on the tour to South Africa. He played in 14 of the 28 matches and was chosen to make his debut at fullback for the 1st Test in Johannesburg. In a less than memorable match Australia was humbled 3-25. The selectors made five changes for Cape Town, three of which were in the backs, and Ray Colbert came in for Sweeney. Garth Jones scored a try in the final minutes of that 2nd Test to give the Wallabies a deserved 18-14 victory and Colbert was retained at fullback for the final two Tests.
In 1954, Sweeney suffered an anterior cruciate ligament rupture in his left knee playing for Brisbane against Toowoomba game and as a result he retired aged 24.
Tom Sweeney played on Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #400.
Sweeney won his first Test cap at fullback in the 1st Test, 3-25 loss to South Africa at Ellis Park.