John Barnett (rugby)

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John Barnett
Jack Barnett 1908.jpg
Full name John Thomas Barnett[1]
Nickname Towser,[2] Jumbo, Jack
Date of birth (1880-01-19)19 January 1880[1][3][4]
Place of birth Carcoar, New South Wales [1]
Date of death 2 October 1918(1918-10-02) (aged 38)[2]
Place of death Parramatta, New South Wales
Rugby league career
Position Second-row
Professional clubs
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1910-15 Newtown 74 (18)
State Representation
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1910-11 New South Wales 3 (0)
National teams
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1910 Australia 2 (6)
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Lock, prop
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team    
Newtown RUFC
Lithgow RU
National team(s)
Years Club / team Apps (points)
1907-09[1] Australia 5[1] (0)[1]
Olympic medal record
Men's Rugby union
Gold medal – first place 1908 London Team competition

John Thomas "Towser" Barnett (19 January 1880[3] – 2 October 1918[2]) was a pioneer Australian rugby union and rugby league player and won an Olympic gold medal winning in rugby at the 1908 Summer Olympics. He was one of Australia's early dual-code rugby internationals.

Rugby union career[edit]

1908 Olympic Gold Final Wallabies v Cornwall.

A hooker/prop with the Newtown Rugby Union club in Sydney, Barnett was selected a total of 5 international rugby times to play for Australia. His debut game was against New Zealand, at Sydney, on 20 July 1907. Barnett was selected to the first Wallaby 1908-09 Australia rugby union tour of the British Isles and France, the squad captained by Herbert Moran. That side competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics in London and Barnett was a member of the Australia national rugby union team captained by Chris McKivat which won the gold medal.

On his return to Australia he joined the fledgling code of rugby league along with fourteen of his Olympic teammates.

Rugby league career[edit]

Barnett and five other gold medal winning Wallabies joined the Newtown club in Sydney in 1910 where he played the next six seasons. He was a member of the premiership winning Newtown side in 1910. He was selected in both Ashes Tests against Great Britain in 1910 when Australia hosted the tourists.

Barnett made his international league debut in the First Test in Sydney on 18 June 1910. Four of his former Wallaby team mates also debuted that day Bob Craig, Jack Hickey, Charles Russell and Chris McKivat - making them collectively Australia's 11th to 15th dual code internationals. This mirrored a similar occurrence two years earlier when five former Wallabies in Micky Dore, Dally Messenger, Denis Lutge, Doug McLean snr and Johnny Rosewell all debuted for the Kangaroos in the same match — the first ever Test against New Zealand.


Barnett died on 2 October 1918, aged 38 at the Parramatta District Hospital from the effects of meningitis after a three-week battle with pneumonia.[5] He was survived by his wife and two daughters. He was buried at Rookwood Cemetery on 4 October 1918. As a tribute to "Towser" Barnett, a fund was set up by "the Referee" newspaper to raise money for his widow and family. By the November the fund had raised over £64, many donations were made up by his first grade rugby mates, at a time when spare money was often in short supply.[6]

Barnett middle row 4th from right, with the 1908 Wallaby tour squad


  1. ^ a b c d e f " player profile of Jack Barnett". Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "Funeral Notices". The Sydney Morning Herald. NSW, Australia. 4 October 1918. p. 5. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b The birthyear of John Thomas Barnett is erroneously cited as 1886 by In addition it is cited as 1881 by ESPN's database, which is also in error. The birth year is registered in the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages as 1880 - Registration #: 12032/1880.
  4. ^ "John Barnett". Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Whiticker p22
  6. ^ The Referee, Sydney. "The Jack Barnett Fund". 27 November 1918 (page 7).
  • Whiticker, Alan (2004) Captaining the Kangaroos, New Holland, Sydney
  • Whiticker, Alan & Hudson, Glen (2006) The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players, Gavin Allen Publishing, Sydney

External links[edit]

Olympic medal record
Men's Rugby union
Gold medal – first place 1908 London Team competition