A highly gifted inside centre, Jack Blomley forged a dynamic centre partnership with Trevor Allan in internationals in 1949 against the Maori and All Blacks but failed to reach the heights in the game that his talents demanded, through a penchant for slacking at training and the pressure of medical studies. He was popular with fellow players who often excused his laconic attitude to training on that score.
Born 7 March 1927 at Tumbarumba in New South Wales, Blomley attended St Joseph’s College, Sydney where he came under the watchful eye of the famous rugby coach, Brother Henry. Here, the young Blomley learned the rudiments of the game. Brother Henry insisted on a solid foundation for the young footballer. “There is no room in a college fifteen for a boy whose hands are not safe,” he counselled. “All the footballers at the college must learn the rudiments of the game.”
So Brother Henry turned out Jack Blomley as a polished inside back. After leaving St Joseph’s College in 1944, Blomley entered Sydney University to study medicine and naturally played for Sydney University in the metropolitan competition. In his early years, Blomley was opposed to many outstanding centres in Trevor Allan, Max Howell, Paul Johnson and Alan Walker.
In 1948, Blomley was chosen in the New South Wales team to visit Queensland but was listed in the reserves behind Allan and Walker. He got his big chance in the following year, when Walker decided to concentrate on cricket. As well as being a Wallaby centre, Walker was a fast left arm bowler. After he was selected in the Australian cricket team to tour South Africa at the end of the 1948/49 season, Walker threw his energies into preparing himself for the cricket tour and dropped out of rugby in the 1949 season.
Although he declared himself unavailable for the Australian Universities tour of New Zealand early in the year, Blomley looked forward to the 1949 representative season with the Maori touring Australia for a Test series to be followed by a Wallaby tour of New Zealand. Blomley won selection in the New South Wales team that met the Maori in the third match of their tour. The visitors produced a strong forward display to win 19-14, but Blomley did enough to be selected to play for Australia in the first Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
One of eight new caps to take the field, Blomley partnered ‘Tubby’ Allan in the centres. The match was played in atrocious conditions and turned into a forward battle that gave Blomley no opportunity to shine. Australia lost that match 12-3 and the selectors made three changes to the backline for the second Test match but Blomley retained his place and enjoyed the better conditions at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground where Australia drew 8-all.
Blomley was joined by his Sydney University club mate, John Solomon, for the return game for New South Wales but the Maori maintained their unbeaten record with a narrow 11-9 victory. The Australians were determined to break that record in the third Test match. Blomley had his best game of the series, having a hand in three of Australia’s four tries and scoring one himself. Australia won by 18 points to 3 and levelled the series.
After this performance, Blomley’s selection in the Wallaby team to tour New Zealand later that year was a formality. Two other Sydney University medical students, John Solomon and Ralph Garner, were also included in the touring team.
On this tour, the centre partnership between Blomley and Allan really blossomed. “I really loved to play next to Blomley,” Allan confided. “I considered him a magnificent centre. He made breaks galore and always gave me the ball at precisely the right moment for me to carry the move on.” Allan and Garner, who finished up the leading try scorers on tour with ten apiece, both owed plenty to Blomley for setting them up. Playing in nine of the twelve tour games, Blomley scored three tries himself.
During the tour, Blomley played brilliantly at Gisborne against Poverty Bay-East Coast in setting up tries for Allan, Clarrie Davis and Alan Ware. After playing well in the lead-up games to the first Test in Wellington, Blomley was subdued in the Test match against Ron Dobson who had been in Britain in 1945 with the Kiwis, although the Wallabies won 11-6 through two brilliant tries by Garner.
Blomley returned to form against the Hanan Shield Districts and he and Allan combined well in the next game against West Coast-Buller but the Wallabies suffered an unexpected defeat by 17 points to 15 in a spiteful match marked by some diabolic refereeing. The Wallabies made a clean sweep of the series when they won the second Test match 16-9 at Eden Park, Auckland, and thus secured the Bledisloe Cup.
Accepting that New Zealand had thirty players touring South Africa at the time, this was an outstanding achievement by the Wallabies for the New Zealanders had been able to beat Australian teams in the past when their best players were on tour. Besides which, any New Zealand team is hard to beat at home. Blomley himself enjoyed the tour when he was freed of study worries and played with a fine three-quarter line in the second Test of Solomon, Allan and Garner.
In 1950, the British Lions were due to visit Australia after completing a four Test series against the All Blacks. This was the first occasion that the Lions toured in their scarlet jerseys. The previous teams of the 1920’s and 1930’s had worn the deep blue of Scotland. This team, led by Karl Mullen of Ireland, had established a great record in New Zealand of brilliant open rugby and its visit was eagerly anticipated.
New South Wales met the Lions in the second match of the tour. The home side was rocked by the last- minute withdrawals of two star players - Allan, the captain, and Dave Brockhoff. Dick Tooth replaced Allan but the disjointed side was no match for the rampant Lions. Blomley had a dreadful time trying to contain the brilliant Bleddyn Williams.
Rex Mossop, who was a lock in the home side that day, described the occasion in his book, The Moose That Roared:
Bleddyn Williams was running at will and his opponent, the highly skilled and highly-strung John Blomley, was powerless to stop him. At halftime Blomley was shedding tears of frustration. He held himself personally responsible for the big score the Lions had already posted against us. “For God’s sake, Jack,” I said, “there’s no use crying about it, we’ve got to stop this Williams. Tell you what, try to grab him and hang onto him until I arrive. I’ll discourage the bastard.” Blomley did as he was told. He held Bleddyn in the tackle long enough for me to race in and punch him to the ground. Williams was carted off with concussion and Blomley, with no Williams to contend with, played a whole lot better…. I’ll always remember Jack’s effusive thanks to me that day for services rendered.”
Although the Lions finished with 13 men, they still defeated New South Wales by 22 points to 6.
Blomley was selected for the first Test match at the Brisbane Cricket Ground to partner Trevor Allan in the centres. Allan had been named captain/coach of the side but he was receiving constant treatment to overcome his injury and the managers, Bill Cerutti and Ron Walden ran the team and the training runs were a shambles. Allan took no part, Blomley remained in Sydney doing University exams and Cyril Burke (halfback) and Bill Gardner (fullback) were still in Newcastle.
Finally, at the eleventh hour, Allan withdrew and Alan Walker was named as his replacement. Blomley and Walker flew to Brisbane on the Friday before the Test – hardly ideal preparation to meet the wonderful British and Irish backs. And so it proved, with the Lions victors by 19-6 at the Brisbane Cricket Ground. The enigmatic Lewis Jones contributed 16 points. The Brisbane Cricket Ground proved a happy hunting ground for Jones, who was to return with the British rugby league team in 1954, when he kicked ten goals in the Brisbane Test.
The Australian preparation for the second Test in Sydney was little better. While the coaches concentrated on the forwards, it was left to John Solomon to run the backs up and down passing the ball. With Allan out, Blomley paired with Walker again. Lewis Jones was outstanding once more. New Wallaby fullback Paul Costello commented, “Lewis Jones would come into the backline to make the extra man and I didn’t see which way Jones went.”
The Lions won 24-3 and Blomley had an unhappy game. Eddie Kann wrote: “The defence of the Australians, particularly the inside backs, was woeful. The centres, Blomley and Walker, failed to tackle their men, sometimes running beside them or making weak attempts at ‘collar stud’ tackling.”
Blomley had one further match against the Lions and this was for the Metropolitan Union in midweek. Led by the famous ‘Jika’ Travers, this Sydney side played much better than the national team and ran the weary Lions ragged to lose narrowly by 26-17. Blomley enjoyed the running five-eighth, Spencer ‘Spanner’ Brown, who broke beautifully to set him up for numerous runs – one of which resulted in a try to Blomley.
At the end of this season, Blomley showed less interest in big-time rugby and played little representative football in the next two years. When the All Blacks toured Australia in 1951, Blomley’s only appearance against them was for a Country XV at Wagga. Blomley found his opposites, John Tanner and Ross Wightman, more than a handful that day as the tourists won by 48 points to 10.
During the 1951 season, Blomley played spasmodically for Sydney University in the club competition. The team was exceedingly strong with other medical Wallabies in John Solomon, Ralph Garner and Dick Tooth. In addition, there was the Wallaby flanker, Dave Brockhoff, and the New Zealand veterinary science students, Rani Jacobs and Keith Gudsell, a dual international.
Coached by Joe Kraefft, Sydney University won the minor premiership but disaster struck the club when Solomon broke his wrist two weeks before his fourth year medical exams. Fortunately, Blomley was on hand to step in as a ready-made replacement and the club swept through to take the premiership, which was one of the highlights of Blomley’s career.
In 1952, Blomley continued with Sydney University and captained the City of Sydney against the touring Fijians before 9,500 spectators at Manly Oval. In this match, he partnered strong tackling Jimmy Phipps in the centres and played with all of his old guile, often surprising the Fijians with clever interceptions and jinking runs. Despite his efforts, the visitors won 28-19.
This was Blomley’s only appearance against the Fijians and he seemed to drift out of the running for the tour of South Africa to be held in 1953. However, the South African Rugby Board came to his rescue by offering to fund the Wallabies to fly to South Africa on the new Qantas air service. This allowed the touring team to be selected after trials held in early 1953 rather than having to choose the team at the end of the 1952 season if they had to travel by ship. This gave Blomley a chance to put in an eleventh hour bid for the tour.
While the tour candidates started training in January 1953 to prepare for the tour of South Africa, Blomley cried off on the basis that he had to study for a post exam. When the team was finally announced, the selectors had named no fewer than six centres but Blomley was one of them. The others were John Solomon, the captain, Jim Phipps, Herb Barker, Gavan Horsley and Saxon White.
When the tour started, it quickly became apparent that Barker and Phipps were the first choice centres and it would be difficult to find a place for Solomon in the Test team. White and Horsley would be back-up wingers to Garth Jones and Eddie Stapleton, while there was little chance of Blomley being fit enough to challenge for a Test position.
Blomley did not play until the third game of the tour against a Transvaal XV at Ellis Park. He had to wait another fortnight before playing against Rhodesia at Kitwe and was by now relegated to being one of the ‘dirt-trackers’. However, he did partner Solomon in the centres against Western Transvaal at Potchefstroom. ‘Spanner’ Brown, the running five-eighth, served Blomley beautifully and he played very well. His slick passes enabled Horsley to run in a record four tries in the Wallaby triumph of 50 points to 12.
But it was not enough to get him into the Test team. An injury to Barker solved the selection dilemma and allowed Solomon to captain the Wallabies in the first three Tests.
After the Springboks overwhelmed the Wallabies 25-3 in the first Test at Ellis Park, the tour selectors were forced to re-think their choices for the backs and they named six of the backs who figured in the Potchefstroom massacre for the return match against Griqualand-West at Kimberley. Blomley partnered Gavan Horsley in the centers and he had the honour of captaining the side. Any hopes he had of forcing his way into the Test side were dashed when he suffered a leg injury in the first half of this abrasive game and was reduced to packing at number 8 in the second half scrums.
The injury forced Blomley out of the tour and he settled back to enjoy himself with AC ‘Johnny’ Wallace. He had played just nine of 27 tour matches – eight as a centre and one match at five-eighth against Eastern Transvaal. He scored two tries.
After qualifying as a medical practitioner, Blomley set up a medical practice in Newcastle. He died prematurely in 1973 at the early age of 43 to be sorely missed at team reunions.