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Towers, Cyril Henry Thomas (1906–1985)

by John G. Mulford

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Cyril Henry Thomas Towers (1906-1985), rugby union player, was born on 30 July 1906 at Mansfield, Victoria, one of three children of English-born Ernest Alfred Thomas Towers, schoolteacher, and his Victorian-born wife Frances Annie Theresa, née Doyle. With his mother and his two sisters Cyril moved to Melbourne, where he acquired his trademark kicking skills playing junior Australian rules football, and then to Roma, Queensland, and a carefree country life. When the family moved to Sydney, at Randwick Boys’ Intermediate High School he had the good fortune to have Oates Taylor as his rugby coach and mentor. When attending Christian Brothers’ College, Waverley, he met Wally Meagher, who became his friend and confidant. They both rigorously applied the Arthur Hennessy ‘run at all times, never kick’ doctrine.

In 1925 Towers joined the Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club, for which he eventually played 233 first-grade games. First chosen as a centre for New South Wales in 1926, he played eighty-two times for his State, fourteen of them as captain, and scored forty-nine tries, a record which still stands for New South Wales. In 1937 he played a key role in the Waratahs’ win over the South African Springboks, then the world’s premier rugby team.

Selected as a member of the famous 1927-28 Waratah team, later accorded Australian status, on its tour of Britain, France and Canada, Towers wrote a diary detailing the way the team was fêted, including a day’s duck-shooting at Sandringham with King George V; it was published in Australian Banker, June-November 1928. On tour Towers matured rapidly as a centre of international calibre, forming a captivating partnership of mercurial and creative play with Syd King.

Back in Australia, Towers played a vital role in two games in the three-Test whitewash of the 1929 New Zealand ‘All Blacks’ but reserved one of his greatest moments for a spectacular game-saving tackle on the corner post to defeat the 1930 British Lions team. The low point in his career was his exclusion from the 1933 Wallaby tour of South Africa due to strongly expressed differences with the tour manager, Wally Matthews. Back in the Australian jersey in 1934, he featured in the Wallabies’ win and draw with the ‘All Blacks’, to win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time for Australia. Regarded as ‘a model sportsman’, he played nineteen Tests for Australia, as captain in the two Tests against South Africa in 1937.

On 22 December 1939 at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, Randwick, Towers married with Catholic rites Margariete Mary Roon, a hairdresser. He worked for the Government Savings (Rural) Bank of New South Wales. Physically impressive, he also had strength of character and a sophisticated sense of humour. He was a renowned public speaker and skilled debater, being a State finalist debater in 1948, 1949 and 1950. When his playing days were over he was a respected Australian Broadcasting Commission rugby commentator, for radio in 1945-57 and television in 1957-70. He was a passionate believer in amateur sport and a ‘hands-on’ member of the St Vincent de Paul Society, working tirelessly for the poor and underprivileged. Survived by his wife and their two sons and two daughters, he died on 9 June 1985 at Randwick and was buried in Botany cemetery. He was an early inductee (2006) into the Wallaby Hall of Fame.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Pollard, Australian Rugby (1994)
  • P. Fenton, For the Sake of the Game (1996)
  • J. G. Mulford, Guardians of the Game (2005)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Sept 1940, p 8
  • ABC Weekly, 18 May 1957, p 6
  • N. Bennetts, interview with C. Towers (typescript, 1984, National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

John G. Mulford, 'Towers, Cyril Henry Thomas (1906–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/towers-cyril-henry-thomas-15620/text26821, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 16 September 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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