Wallaby legend Baxter passes away
August 27, 2004

One of the bravest men to pull on a Wallaby jersey, John "Jack" Baxter, has passed away aged 86.

Known as "Tarakan Jack", the rugged front rower played nine Tests for Australia between 1949 and 1952.

He was a member of the legendary 1949 Wallabies side which became the first to win the Bledisloe Cup on New Zealand soil.

But Baxter's courage on the Rugby field became the stuff of legends after a shocking accident on board the HMAS "Tarakan" in 1950. An explosion ripped through the ship, which was moored at Garden Island.

Baxter was badly injured in the explosion, suffering multiple burns, broken bones and lacerations. His head was seen protruding from a porthole, fire-hoses were directed to save him and he was eventually cut free.

In spite of months in hospital, Baxter recovered to defy the odds; playing for the Wallabies against the All Blacks in 1951 and 1952.

Former team-mate David Brockoff described Baxter as a "mighty Wallaby" and a "real Rugby man with a fighting digger spirit."

"He inspired everyone around him. He played well beyond his weight and you simply didn't want to let him down. Like others who came back from the war, he took the young blokes with him - he made footballers out of the lot of us."

Baxter played Rugby League at school for Kogarah Marist Brothers, then Australian Rules while he was living in Melbourne before his first encounter with Rugby with Melbourne's Kiwi Club before returning to Sydney to play for Eastern Suburbs.

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