He had a brain for rugby league, creative, speedy, successful and spent most of his life with a bullet in his chest. He was Duncan Thompson.
Thompson was born in Warwick, Queensland on March 14, 1895. He joined the Australian Bank of Commerce in 1911. While at Ipswich he represented Combined Country in 1913 and Queensland in 1915.
In 1915 as War broke out, Thompson wanted to serve his country, but his mother prohibited it. In 1916, his job transferred him to Sydney, where he was immediately snapped up by the ailing Norths.
At the end of 1916, Duncan returned to Queensland where he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Forces. He was shot through the chest in the battle of Dernancourt in 1917, but miraculously survived.
He was informed by doctors that a bullet was still lodged in his chest and would no longer be able to play sport.
Thompson continued playing, lining up for Ipswich and Queensland in 1919. He earned a place in the first Australian Test team to tour New Zealand. On tour Thompson replaced Arthur Halloway in the Third Test, which Australia won 34-23.
He was then selected at halfback for the fourth test, which Australia won 32-2. He relocated to Newcastle in 1920 and played for Newcastle Wests before moving back to Norths. Thompson captained NSW in his first game against his beloved Queensland in 1921.
In 1921, Norths finished the season undefeated, claiming their first premiership. At the end of the 1921 season, Thompson was selected in the Australian squad to tour England.
In 1922 Norths were sporting the most impressive backline in the competition, with Harold Horder, Cec Blinkhorn, Duncan Thompson, Herman Peters, Frank Rule and Dallas Hodgins. Norths annihilated Glebe 35-3 in the 1922 Premiership Final.
In 1923, Norths struggled to dominate the competition, but it was their Round 14 clash with Glebe at the SCG that proved most damaging. Thompson was sent off for allegedly kicking Glebe forward Tom McGrath. The NSWRL judiciary found Thompson guilty and suspended him for the rest of the season.
Spectators claimed the incident was an accident. Thompson was held back illegally after passing the ball and was trying to free himself when he accidentally struck McGrath in the face.
Thompson appealed the suspension and it was reduced but not overturned. Thompson was so angered by the decision that he vowed never to play in Sydney again.
Thompson moved back to Toowoomba and opened a sports store. Despite Thompson’s self-exile from the Sydney competition, he was still selected in the last two tests against England of 1924. Thompson played for Queensland again in 1924 and 1925.
Thompson’s arrival to Toowoomba brought immediate success. In 1924 he played for Toowoomba on a contract worth ₤400 a year. In his first two years there, Toowoomba were deemed the greatest team in Rugby League.
In 1924 Toowoomba beat England (23-20), Ipswich (21-10, 31-8 and 33-18), NSW (16-0) and Victoria (47-18). In 1925 the undefeated run continued with victories over Brisbane (30-7 and 22-3), Ipswich (18-13, 51-17 and 3 all) and New Zealand (16-14). The final match of the year was against the 1925 undefeated Sydney premiers Souths, to declare the greatest team in Australia.
Toowoomba won 12-5.
1925 saw Toowoomba claim the first Bulimba Cup, a competition played between representative sides from Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba. They won every honour that was available to them.
At the end of the 1925 season Thompson retired from Rugby League and took up tennis, lawn bowls and golf (where he had a handicap of 3).
He returned to national service in the Second World War serving as an amenities officer in Townsville and Papua New Guinea.
In 1951 Thompson accepted a role as Toowoomba coach, instantly leading Toowoomba to six consecutive Bulimba Cup titles from 1951-56.
Thompson gave away his coaching role to take on administrative duties with the QRL, before becoming a Test selector in the late 1950’s.
In 1960 Duncan Thompson was awarded an MBE for services to Rugby League. He became a respected commentator on the Rugby League world for many years during and after his role as Test selector.
On May 17, 1980 Duncan Thompson passed away at a hospital in Auchenflower.
Thompson is one of the few sportsmen to have two grandstands named after him, one at Toowoomba and the other at North Sydney Oval.
His sports store closed not long after he died.
Now, the Duncan Thompson stand at Toowoomba watches only soccer.
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