Bruce Gilbert (‘Broody’) Bailey
Bruce Bailey was a broad-shouldered NSW Country prop who toured South Africa with John Thornett’s 1963 team. ‘Broody’, as he was known, was an aggressive 110kg forward who earned his tour with strong displays for NSW Country and NSW. At a time when wool was king and rural Australians tended to walk with a swagger, the big wool-classer had an aura of supreme confidence.
He played for Australia against the Rest in the final Wallaby trial and considered his omission from a pre-tour Test against England to be only a temporary setback. On the long flight to South Africa he confided to more experienced Australian forwards that it was just a matter of time before he was in the first-choice front row. New recruits were fully expected to nurture such ambitions; but were expected to be discreet about them.
One of Bailey’s fellow props, John Freedman, later penned an epic about his teammate (with some help from Banjo Paterson) that began like this: ‘Our Broody’s gone to rugby now, Our hearts are out of order, With Jaapies he’ll be battling now, In Transvaal and in Border …’
Bailey played in eight matches on the tour, sharing in six victories. He found the best South African loose-head props (only the best, mind) difficult to handle and his previously unshakable confidence was dented in an encounter with the powerful Springbok Fanie Kuhn during a fine Wallaby win over Transvaal in Johannesburg.
After that, Bailey’s tour form was patchy. He was troubled by a chest injury and spent most of his time in the Wednesday team. Thornett, after he was converted from lock, and Freedman, were numbers one and two in the tight-head pecking order.
After the ’63 tour, Bailey continued to play in Goulburn, but his weight ballooned to 127kg. He had a knee problem and although he slipped from Wallaby contention, he continued to enjoy himself at club level. When Goulburn selected its best XV in 50 years, Bailey was named as captain. His wool-industry career eventually took him to Melbourne, where he made a significant contribution to the Box Hill club as a premiership player and then as a premiership coach.