The Australian and Queensland Rugby community is mourning the loss of former Queensland fullback and one-Test Wallaby, Tom Sweeney who passed away on Friday, February 17, aged 87.
Sweeney was one of two fullbacks taken on Australia’s 30-man, 28-match tour to South Africa in 1953, captained by John Solomon. He played in 14 of the matches, including one Test and was the leading points-scorer for the tour with 69 points.
His father, Tom, was a Rugby League fullback who represented the Kangaroos on the 1919 tour of New Zealand. Both father and son were graduates of St. Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace, in Brisbane.
On leaving school, Sweeney joined the Brothers Club in Brisbane and played five years in the minor grades before being elevated to the first VX by legendary Coach, Joe French.
Six weeks later he had played for Queensland against NSW and against the touring Fijians and was selected as the only fullback in the Wallaby squad to tour New Zealand for a two-Test Bledisloe contest. Unfortunately for Sweeney, he had to withdraw from the Wallabies squad as he had suffered several broken ribs in an infamous tackle in the Fiji clash.
Soon after the Wallabies’ 1953 South African tour Sweeney suffered an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) rupture in the left knee during a local representative fixture, and was forced into retirement at just 24.
He later coached the Brothers team from 1956 to 1959 and was named a life member of the Club.
After Rugby Sweeney, a professional engineer, worked for the Snowy Mountains Authority for 10 years in a senior capacity and was later Chief Resident Engineer for the Gate Bridge Authority during the re-construction of the bridge following its collapse.
Sweeney was also a serious athlete and held the Queensland High Jump title in the period 1947-1952 and competed in the Olympic trials in 1952. He lived the later years of his life with his family in Melbourne.