Ken Thornett

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Ken Thornett
Personal information
Nickname The Mayor of Parramatta
Born (1937-11-27)27 November 1937
Waverley, New South Wales
Died 16 August 2016(2016-08-16) (aged 78)
Sydney, New South Wales
Playing information
Position Fullback
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1962–71 Parramatta Eels 133 17 0 6 57
1961–66 Leeds 131 19 2 0 61
Total 264 36 2 6 118
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1963–67 New South Wales 3 0 0 0 0
1963–64 Australia 12 6 0 0 18
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1965–66 Parramatta Eels 36 19 3 14 53
Source: Rugby League Project, Yesterday's Hero

Ken Thornett (27 November 1937 – 16 August 2016) was an Australian rugby league fullback. He represented the Kangaroos in twelve Tests during 1963 and 1964 and on the off-season Kangaroo Tour.

Club and representative career[edit]

Thornett began his career playing first grade rugby union with Randwick, and was the youngest player ever to be selected to play in a first grade union side. Switching to rugby league, Thornett played with Leeds for several seasons and played Fullback in Leeds’ 9–19 defeat by Wakefield Trinity in the 1961 Yorkshire County Cup Final during the 1961–62 season at Odsal Stadium, Bradford on Saturday 11 November 1961.

Ken Thornett was initially expected to sign with South Sydney upon a proposed return to Australia for the 1962 season; however negotiations with the Rabbitohs fell through and he signed with Parramatta.[1] Thornett played only seven games in that first season, but the resultant six wins and a draw from those games lifted Parramatta to their first-ever finals position, following eight “wooden spoons” and a paltry 20 percent win record in all matches of the previous ten seasons 1952 to 1961. Thornett played regularly with Parramatta from 1963 and totalled 136 games for the club.

Thornett was the leading[citation needed] Australian rugby league fullback in the early 1960s after Keith Barnes and before Les Johns and Graeme Langlands.

Ken played in all six Tests of the 1963 Kangaroo tour and in 10 minor tour games. He made a further six Test appearances and by the end of his representative career in 1964 had played three Tests each against Great Britain and New Zealand, five against France and one against South Africa.

Ken Thornett captain-coached Parramatta in 1965 and 1966, but a dispute with the club saw him seek a transfer to Eastern Suburbs,[2] but the blue and golds would not release him from the two years remaining on his contract[3] without a large transfer fee.[4] Ken Thornett retired at the end of 1968, but returned for one season under Ian Walsh in 1971 and helped Parramatta rise from last to fourth.

Thornett died in Sydney on 16 August 2016.[5]

Sporting family[edit]

Ken and his two brothers were all exemplary sportsmen. John Thornett was a Wallabies captain who played 37 rugby union Tests for Australia over a distinguished 13-year career from 1955. Dick Thornett represented Australia at water polo, rugby league and rugby union. Much of Dick and Ken’s club football career was played together at Parramatta and they had the rare distinction of playing three international rugby league Tests together on the 1963–64 Kangaroo Tour.


In 1965 he was named NSW Player of the Year. The western grandstand of Parramatta Stadium was named the Ken Thornett Stand in his honour.

In February 2008, Thornett was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia.[6][7]


  1. ^ ‘Leeds’ Full-Back “Verbal Contract”: Thornett Accepts Offer by P’Matta’; Sydney Morning Herald, 17 April 1962, p. 29
  2. ^ Clarkson, Alan; ‘Thornett to Seek Transfer’; Sydney Morning Herald, 15 December 1966, p.
  3. ^ ‘Thornett to See Solicitor’; Sydney Morning Herald, 20 December 1966, p. 23
  4. ^ Goodman, Tom; ‘Thornett Made Player-Coach Offer by Wagga’; Sydney Morning Herald, 16 December 1966, p. 18
  5. ^ "Paramatta Eels NRL legend Ken Thornett dies aged 78". ABC News. Australia. 17 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  6. ^ Peter Cassidy (2008-02-23). "Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players". Macquarie National News. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  7. ^ "Centenary of Rugby League - The Players". NRL & ARL. 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Ken Kearney
Parramatta Eels

Succeeded by
Brian Hambly