Eric John Bardsley
- 244Wallaby Number
At 6ft. 4in. and the best part of 15 st. ‘Rick’ Bardsley was a veritable giant in his day. Blessed with a splendid physique Bardsley starred as a schoolboy athlete during his time at Sydney’s Newington College. He played three seasons in the 1st XV (1921-23) and four years in the 1st XI (1920-23), the last two as captain. Bardsley represented the Combined GPS XI in each of those same four years and he also rowed in the 1st VIII (1921-22) and was in the crew that lifted the Major Rennie Trophy, at its first attempt, in the 1921 Head of the River. After school he joined Northern Suburbs and made his first grade debut in 1926.
That same year he was chosen for his first senior representative side, a Metropolitan XV, for their tour of regional New South Wales. Bardsley’s big break came in 1928 when the Waratahs’ famous No.8 Jack Ford was unavailable for the state tour to New Zealand. Bardsley played in seven of the 10 matches, including the 1st ‘Test’ in Wellington. Although he did not know it at the time that match was Bardsley’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).
The following year Ford’s return to the fold combined with the newfound ability of Australian selectors to pick players from two additional states - Victoria and Queensland - to dramatically increase the level of competition for places in the back-row over the next few seasons. Bardsley continued to show for Norths through until 1935 when he played his 100th first grade match and led the club to the premiership following their 22-5 defeat of Manly.
In 1931 Bardsley was involved in a notable public incident when he walked into the head office of the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank in Sydney’s Martin Place one afternoon to deposit his firm's takings. It was just on closing time and a revolver shot rang out within the building. The bank manager leapt from his swivel chair and dashed into the banking chamber to find Bardsley who declared himself to be wounded. The bank manager asked, “Where have you been shot?" "In the toe," replied Bardsley. "And who shot you?” the bank manager asked. "I shot myself, accidentally," came the reply. Later, before being taken home with a bullet wound in one of his toes, Bardsley explained that he was about to take his pistol from his trousers' pocket and place it in his bag. Unexpectedly the pistol exploded, so unexpectedly indeed that for a few moments he did not know that it was his pistol that had been fired, or that he had been wounded.
Although he spent two seasons with Gordon (1936-37), Bardsley returned to Norths and became the club’s President. In 1945 Bardsley accused the New South Wales Rugby Union of being smugly complacent when it should be enterprising. He argued that the Union was stagnant while other codes were progressing and suggested several rules were archaic. Bardsley also believed that the Union was ignoring two important subjects: the attitude towards returned servicemen and club insurance funds. He later became the Honorary Secretary of the Australian Russian Society and in 1948 it was that executive appointment which saw him controversially suspended by Norths for acting ‘contrary to the best interests’ of the NSRUFC. ‘Rick’ Bardsley played three Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.
Bardsley won his first Test cap at No.8 in a back-row that included fellow debutant Myer Rosenblum and Bob Loudon, in the 1st Test, 12-15 loss to New Zealand at Athletic Park. That back three were reunited for the 3rd Test, 11-8 victory at Lancaster Park. Bardsley won his final cap when he came off the bench to replace Jack O’Connor at lock. It is not known if Geoff Bland, who had started the match at No.8, shifted into the middle row in order to allow Bardsley to take his place at the back of the scrum.