Thomas Percival Pauling
- 298Wallaby Number
Tom Pauling was a powerfully built star schoolboy athlete who had a wonderful rugby pedigree. His father, Tom Snr., a product of Wellington’s old Athletic club, was All Black #62. Tom Snr. toured Australia in 1897, stayed behind after the team returned for home, represented New South Wales and went on to become one of Australia’s premier referees. Young Tom was schooled at Sydney Boys High School where he shone in rugby, rowing and athletics, and earned the recognition as ‘one of High's outstanding products in years’.
In 1929 he sat in the No.5 seat for the 1st VIII GPS champions. A year later he beat future Kangaroo Jack Beaton for the fullback position place in the combined All Schools 1st XV. In field athletics he won both the New South Wales junior shot putt and javelin titles (a few years later he finished second in the discus at the senior Australian track and field championships). After school Pauling joined Western Suburbs however he did not live up to his reputation and within a year was running around at sub-districts level, for Eastwood, in their Burke Cup team. Amazingly he then enjoyed a near-unrivalled rise of meteoric proportions. He was spotted by a representative selector and within a heartbeat found himself in first grade for Wests. After his second first grade match Pauling was named in a New South Wales squad of 16 to train in preparation for the coming of W. J. Wallace's All Blacks.
Jack Shute, Eastwood coach and retired Wallaby, said of Pauling: "I have absolute confidence in Tom. He is a born footballer, a deadly tackler, and a sound defender. His big physique will be a great help to him against New Zealand.” Unfortunately a poor performance against Manly ahead of the state match saw Pauling miss a spot in the final XV. Pauling soon disappeared from the public gaze as quickly as he arrived although he continued to thrive in the field events at State level.
In 1933 he commenced an Economics degree at the University of Sydney and eventually turned out for Wests after questions over his eligibility to play for Uni were upheld. The following year he did not play for health-related reasons but returned in mid-1935 and showed he had lost none of his dash. Pauling switched to the back-row in 1936 and the positional change brought near-instant reward. He scored a try in his state debut, at No.8, against Queensland and then won a place in the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. A second meteoric rise ensued as Pauling was named for a Test debut, amazingly at inside centre, in Wellington where his ‘tremendous defence’ earned rave review. Sadly he injured his optic nerve in a collision and missed the rest of the tour.
His recovery extended well into the following season however he did fight his way back to partner Cyril Towers in the centres as New South Wales stunningly upset South Africa 17-6 on a flooded S.C.G. At the end of that season Pauling retired to take up duties as a referee and continue his studies. In 1942 he enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps, achieved the rank of Lieutenant and three years later spent more than six months in New Guinea.
Pauling won his first Test cap at No.8 in the 1st Test, 6-11 defeat to New Zealand at Athletic Park
Pauling started at inside centre, in partnership with Cyril Towers, in the 1st Test, 5-9 loss to South Africa at the S.C.G. He retained his position for the second Test only to develop fluid on the knee from an injury picked up in a club match against Easts the weekend before the match. Pauling subsequently failed a medical and withdrew from the side.