Thomas Baxter, a one-test Wallaby who played as both a back and a forward in the Varsity Match for Oxford, has died at the age of 84. Born in Brisbane on 23 April, 1935, he was educated at Brisbane Grammar School and the University of Queensland before heading to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Having captained his school 1st XV as a centre, he steered University of Queensland to a hat-trick of premierships between 1955-57 as an outside half. He filled the No 10 jersey for Queensland against South Africa in 1956 before winning selection for the Wallabies tour to New Zealand in 1958. His one cap came in the third and final Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland. He played at centre in a 17-8 defeat.
He entered Balliol College as a Rhodes Scholar in 1958 and won a Blue in the Varsity Match at Twickenham a few months later. Selected on the right wing, he was one of five international players in the Oxford back line, including fellow Wallaby Ross Shiel, but the Dark Blues still fell to a 17-6 defeat. In what was the heaviest loss to Cambridge in 24 years and led to Baxter questioning the pace of the Oxford back row at the post-match debrief the following day. The suggestion was made there and then that he should try to add his speed to the pack and so he switched positions for the next season. His return to Twickenham was more successful. The Dark Blues won 9-3 and against six members of the Cambridge pack from the previous season the Oxford eight did much, much better. Baxter joined Stephen Wilcock and Fred Butler in the back row. He went on the 1959 Combined Oxford & Cambridge tour to Japan as a three-quarter and the 1960 trip to North America and Bermuda as a forward. On his return to Australia he wrote an article on ‘back-row play’, which remains in the Brisbane Grammar School library.
He worked in engineering after leaving Oxford, including a number of projects in Africa while connected with Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners, and in 2012 he received an Order of Australia Medal in the General Division for his services to engineering through executive roles and to the community.
Wallaby No 451 and Oxford Blue No 639, Thomas Baxter died on 4 August, 2019, aged 84.