Eric Excell Ford
- 240Wallaby Number
Eric Ford was a fine finishing winger who somewhat undeservedly lived in the shadow of his younger brother Jack, the Waratahs’ world-class No.8. Good under the high ball, Eric possessed splendid hands and a fine positional sense that came to the fore on the 1927/28 northern hemisphere tour. His blinding pace, balance and an ability to always be on hand to finish a break in fine style made a great impression among the British critics. Ford’s father was a publican who passed away when Eric was just six-years-of-age and as a result the family moved from Tasmania to Sydney.
Eric initially played Australian Rules but switched to rugby when he, Jack and another brother, Percy, were taken in at St. Joseph’s College, Hunter’s Hill. Each of the boys soon enjoyed the unique benefit of rugby tuition from the remarkable Brother Henry. Unfortunately Eric was, most likely for financial-related reasons, forced to leave school aged just 14. In the early 1920s Eric competed in the sprints and played rugby league for Waverley in competitions run by the Australian Holy Catholic Guild.
In 1925 he returned to union, debuted in first grade for Glebe-Balmain and was a member of the club’s premiership winning side. Two years later a stroke of good fortune earned Eric his first shot at representative honours when both ‘Stumpy’ Crossman and Reg Foote were unable to play for the Metropolitan XV against Country. Ford was promoted from the 2nd XV and from there earned selection in the No.1 team for the trials ahead of the Waratahs’ tour. Ford ‘seized his chance with both hands and was the outstanding winger of the day’ and as a result found himself named in the 29-strong touring party.
Ford played 21 matches and scored a tour best 15 tries, equalled by the great Cyril Towers. He also started in all five internationals the first of which was played against Ireland in Dublin. Although he did not know it at the time that match was Ford’s Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986).
Upon his return to Australia Ford, like 12 of his Waratahs teammates either retired or made themselves unavailable for the tour to New Zealand. In 1929 Ford started in the first and third Tests of the 3-0 home series sweep of New Zealand however he missed the Brisbane Test with synovitis. Frequent knee problems continued to plague him for the rest of his career and he formally retired at the end of the 1930 season. Two years later Ford made a comeback with Drummoyne however his knee ailments cruelled any hope he had of trialling for the 1933 tour to South Africa. Eric Ford went on to enjoy a long career with the railways. Eric Ford played seven Tests for Australia in a three-year international career.
Ford won his first Test cap on the right wing in the 5-3 win over Ireland at Lansdowne Road. He went on to be capped in each of the remaining four internationals on tour and scored a try against Scotland, England and France.
Ford started on the right wing in the 1st Test, 9-8 win over New Zealand at the S.C.G. He missed the second Test in Brisbane with synovitis of the knee but returned for the 3rd Test, 15-13 win in Sydney.