Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gorman, John Thomas (1901–1978)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

John Thomas Gorman (1901-1978), footballer, was born on 6 June 1901 at Mackay, Queensland, eldest son of William Gorman, native-born soft-drink maker, and his Irish-born wife Elizabeth Bridget, née Maher. About 1906 he moved with his parents to Toowoomba, where he attended the Christian Brothers' school. An outstanding schoolboy footballer, at 16 he represented Toowoomba against an army side and played for the local Brothers Rugby Union team. With the collapse of amateur rugby football in Queensland, he and the Brothers team in the 1920 season switched to Rugby League, and Gorman became a member of the Queensland team during that season.

From 1920 Tommy Gorman played as centre three-quarter for what became an incomparable Toowoomba team (dubbed 'the galloping Clydesdales') boasting also fellow three-quarter E. S. 'Nigger' Brown, forward Herb Steinohrt and half-back Duncan Thompson. In 1922 at Sydney Gorman was one of the Queensland team which defeated New South Wales for the first time since the establishment of the code in 1908. He represented his State for the remainder of the 1920s—palmy days for the 'Reds', as they won seventeen of the following twenty-four interstate encounters, a Queensland domination never since repeated. In 1926 Gorman had transferred, for £200, to Brisbane Brothers club, becoming its coach and first paid player.

Gorman first represented Australia against a touring English team at Sydney Cricket Ground on 23 June 1924. He played in ten consecutive tests between the two countries, captaining Australia both in the 1928 home series and on the fourth Kangaroo tour of England in 1929-30. He retired upon returning to Brisbane. He is the only Queenslander selected while playing for that State to lead Australia on an English tour.

An elusive centre, Gorman was a sure handler of the ball, who gave a perfect pass and was adept at the art of short kicking. Moreover, he was able to draw opponents, give his side the overlap, and set up tries. A sure but not a rugged tackler, he sought the ball rather than the man. With 'nothing showy or false about him' he was an unselfish player, who seldom scored himself and never in a test. Sandy-haired in his youth, he was 5 ft 8 ins (173 cm) tall, and his playing weight was 11 st. 10 lbs. (74 kg).

On 22 August 1932 at Annerley, Brisbane, Gorman married Agnes Josephine McCrystal, a barmaid. He was, by then, publican of the Exhibition Hotel, Brisbane, and subsequently managed five hotels successively in Fortitude Valley and the city. A popular and successful publican, he retired in 1962.

Gorman died on 22 June 1978 at Mater Misericordiae Hospital, South Brisbane, and was buried in Nudgee cemetery after Catholic rites. In 1980 an old colleague recalled that Gorman needed 'no praise. Was the perfect footballer'.

Select Bibliography

  • Redcap Rugby League Annual, 1926
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 24 June 1978.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Gorman, John Thomas (1901–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gorman-john-thomas-6433/text11005, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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