John "Jack" Alfred Ford
- 224Wallaby Number
Australia has produced several world-class No.8s, Arthur Buchan, Mark Loane, Steve Tuynman, Tim Gavin and Toutai Kefu however it is arguable that none was better than Jack Ford.
A veritable giant of a man for his time - 6ft 1in and 15 ½ stone - Ford starred on the great Waratahs tour to the northern hemisphere in 1927/28. His grand performances on that tour saw him tagged “The Rugby Juggernaut” and he was recognised by English critics as the "world's greatest forward”. Despite his size Ford was deceptively fast and that combination provided a mighty challenge for every defence he faced.
Ford was aged just four when his family moved from Tasmania to Sydney. Together with his brothers Eric and Percy, Jack was educated at St. Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill where he learned his rugby under the tutelage of the legendary Brother Henry. Ford played two seasons in the 1st XV, in 1923 - considered to be one of the College’s greatest - when they were undefeated premiers, and as captain in the co-premiers side of 1924. Ford was also excelled at cricket and boxing. In later years Brother Henry regularly nominated Ford as the best played he ever coached.
After leaving school he joined the Glebe-Balmain club and debuted in the opening first grade match of that season, the 25-3 defeat of Western Suburbs. On the strength of just one game of senior rugby, Ford was immediately tipped as a strong candidate for representative honours. After another five first grade matches Ford was chosen for the first ‘Test’ against New Zealand however he withdrew at the eleventh hour following an attack of tonsillitis, one that essentially ruled him out for the series. Fortunately Ford did not have to wait long to claim his first Test jersey when chosen for the return tour to New Zealand. Unfortunately his debut, in the one-off Test at Eden Park, was memorable for all the wrong reasons as an All Black side boasting 14 members of its 1924/25 ‘Invincibles’ trounced the visitors 36-10.
A year later Ford faced New Zealand at home however even at that point in time much of the focus fell upon the Waratahs tour even though it was 12 months away. During the course of that tour captain Johnnie Wallace developed a canny strategy whenever the Waratahs were in the attacking zone. He would pull Ford out of the pack and place him at second fly half / inside centre from where his strength and speed proved near unstoppable. Ford’s blockbusting runs brought him 12 tries from the 25 games played on the British leg of the tour including four against a hapless Lancashire & Cheshire.
For every try he scored Ford set up at least that many again as his line-breaks more often than not left defenders sprawled in his wake. Not surprisingly rugby league came calling however Ford summarily rejected a £1,500 offer to remain in union. Unavailable for the 1928 tour to New Zealand Ford returned in 1929 to play a key role as Australia swept the All Blacks 3-0 at home. His grand form continued the following year when he scored four tries for the Waratahs v. The Rest in the trial for the one-off Test against the British Lions and he then locked the scrum as Australia emerged with a narrow 6-5 win over the tourists to remain undefeated in back-to-back years for the first time.
In 1931, and still very much in his rugby prime, Ford announced his retirement from rugby after his employer, Tooth & Co., informed him that he was to represent it in regional New South Wales. The following year an offer was received from Tooth & Co. for the donation of a cup, to be known as the 'Jack Ford Cup' for inter-district competition, within the Western District Rugby Union including teams from Bathurst to Narromine. Some years later Ford became a state selector. In 1999, for the 125th Anniversary Celebration of the foundation of the New South Wales Rugby Union, Ford was named at No.8 in the state’s best XV of all-time. In 2016 he was inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
Jack Ford played 11 Tests for Australia in a six-year international career.
Ford was set to make his Test debut in the opening match of the three game home series against New Zealand however he was forced to withdraw at the eleventh hour following an attack of tonsillitis. Harry Bryant started at No.8 in the first and third Tests while Bill Laycock locked the scrum in the second. Ford was named as a reserve for the final match but did not make it onto the field. He won his first Test cap at No.8 in the 10-36 defeat to New Zealand at Eden Park.
Ford started at No.8 in the first two matches of the home series against New Zealand but missed the final two fixtures due to injury.
He played No.8 in the four Tests of the Waratahs tour. Wyllie Breckenridge and Arnold Tancred joined Ford in the back-row against Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Ted Greatorex replaced the injured Tancred in the 11-18 loss to England.
Ford started all three Tests in the home series, 3-0 win over New Zealand. Breckenridge and Len Palfreyman were the flankers in the 1st Test, 9-8 win. Bob Loudon came in for Palfreyman for the 2nd Test, 17-9 victory and Wal Ives replaced Loudon in the 3rd Test, 15-13 win.
Ford, Palfreyman and Breckenridge combined in the back-row for the 6-5 win over the British Lions at the S.C.G.