Thomas Michael Barker
1978 was one of the most important years in Australian rugby history. Having swept Five Nations’ champions Wales at home, the Wallabies embarked on a tour to New Zealand in the hope of breaking a run of Test losses that stretched back until 1964. In the third Test of the series Australia handed New Zealand a comprehensive 14-point defeat, one of the largest in their 75-year history. Tom Barker, a fast, rangy and skilled back row forward was a member of that Wallaby touring team.
Born in Brisbane, Barker was educated at Brisbane State High School, played two years of 1st XV (1973-74) and from there won selection on the highly successful Australian Schools’ U.K. tour of 1973/74. He added to his three Schools’ “caps” when England played two away “Tests'' the following season. After school Tom linked up with his elder brothers Damien and John at the Teachers-Norths’ club.
Representative opportunities proved elusive at that time given the high quality of backrowers including Mark Loane, Tony Shaw, Greg Cornelsen and Chris Roche that were running around in the Hospital Cup. Nonetheless he did make the Queensland U23 side in 1976 (for whom he played until 1979) and his senior Queensland debut just a year later, against New England at Ballymore.
In 1978 Barker’s step up to international level came out of the blue when he was named to replace Loane on the Wallaby tour of New Zealand after the big No.8 badly injured his hamstring in the 10-20 loss against Manawatu. Barker went on to make his debut in the uncapped 19-12 victory over Mid-Canterbury at Ashburton however Cornelsen, Shaw and New South Wales’ Gary Pearse formed the backrow in each of the three Tests.
Upon his return home Barker continued to represent Queensland although he won more caps abroad than at home through tours to New Zealand (1980 & 1981) and the British Isles and France (1980). He played the last of his 25 state matches, the 68-11 victory over Italy in 1981, before injury forced him into retirement aged just 25. Playing for Norths (Teachers) in that season’s grand-final against Brothers, Barker suffered a compounding brachial plexus injury, one that occurs when the network of nerves that sends signals from your spinal cord to your shoulder, arm and hand are stretched, compressed, or in the most serious cases, ripped apart or torn away from the cord.
Fortunately, Barker’s rugby experience, knowledge and passion were not lost to the game as he embarked on an extensive and highly successful career in coaching with a CV that read: Marist College Ashgrove U15A’s (1982), Queensland U15 (1982), Teachers-Norths First Grade (1983), Bay Area Touring Side, San Francisco (1983-84), Queensland U19 (1985), Tuggeranong Valley RFC First Grade (1986-88), St Joseph’s Nudgee College 1st XV 1989-95 (five GPS premierships - 1990, 91 & 93-95), World Rugby, Kobe, Japan (1996-98), Souths (Brisbane) First Grade 1997-2000 (two premierships - 1998 & 2000), ACT Brumbies Assistant coach under Eddie Jones 2000-01 (Super Rugby Champions 2001), NEC Rugby, Tokyo, Japan 2002-03 (All Japan Champions 2003), Churchie 1st XV 2004-09 (GPS premiers 2005 with Quade Cooper and David Pocock), Brisbane Boys College 1st XV (2011-14) and St Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace – Technical Director (2015-2020) and 1st XV coach 2018.
Represented Australian Schools against England, Scotland and Wales
Represented Australian Schools in the two home ‘Tests’ against England
Barker played in three uncapped matches on the Wallaby tour of New Zealand - against Mid-Canterbury (W 19-12), Wanganui (W 8-3) and Bay of Plenty (W 34-7)
Represented Australia when they won, for the first time, the Hong Kong Sevens tournament