John Francis Cremin
- 325Wallaby Number
‘Mick’ Cremin was both an outstanding fly half and Australia’s premier rugby tactician of the immediate post-World War II period. Blessed with remarkable hands and unrivalled ability to read a game, Cremin was widely acknowledged as a rugby genius. Tactically he schooled his three-quarters in the art of ‘fanning’, a strategy whereby a player on the outside fanned just prior to the inside pass being thrown so that the ball was received not where the player was originally positioned, but slightly wider out. Cremin was also an advocate of ‘shadow defence’, a basic man-to-man defence whose objective was to hold on the inside of your opponent will the goal of driving the offense toward the sidelines.
Born in Sydney, Cremin was educated at Sydney Boys High School where he starred in the school’s 1st XV and masterminded their victory in the 1935 McManamey Shield, awarded for the High Schools’ rugby union premiership.
In 1940, a year out of school, Cremin made his first grade debut for Randwick and then played for North v South where he was considered to be ‘among the most promising young players the Union has had in recent years.’ A year later the great Cyril Towers classed Cremin as the greatest fly half since Tommy Lawton. "Lawton at his best never surpassed Cremin in handling," Towers said. "Cremin has the safest pair of hands I have ever seen, and as a club five-eighth he is perfect. His strength, intelligence, and growing experience already put him right In Lawton's class.” International rugby resumed in 1946 and, following a dominant performance for The Rest v. Australia XV, Cremin was selected for the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. He was honoured with the captaincy for the uncapped match against Hawkes Bay-Poverty Bay and then made his Test debut in Dunedin.
A year later the All Blacks arrived in Australia under captain Fred Allen and Cremin was very confident he had a game plan to beat them. In concert with Randwick halfback Roy Cawsey and inside centre Max Howell the trio assiduously practised a move never before seen on a rugby field - the ‘man around’ / double around - that was to be so spectacularly used by the Ella brothers more than thirty years later. Cremin, as captain, called the move three times in the tour match against NSW and two tries resulted as the home side recorded a memorable 12-9 victory. Later that year he went away on the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. and Europe however Nev Emery was Cyril Burke’s fly half in each of the five Tests. Upon his return home Cremin concentrated on his Bachelor of Arts degree. A final season with Randwick in 1949 was followed by a move to Norths and a decision to retire from representative rugby.
‘Mick’ Cremin played three Tests for Australia in a two season international career.
Cremin won his first Test cap at flyhalf, with ‘Chappie’ Schulte on his inside, in the 1st Test, 8-31 defeat to New Zealand at Carisbrook. He was retained for the second Test however Cyril Burke came in for Schulte, in the narrow 10-14 loss at Eden Park.
Cremin and Burke were paired in the halves for the 1st Test, 5-13 loss to New Zealand in Brisbane. Nev Emery was brought in at flyhalf for the 2nd Test and started in 10 of Wallabies’ 11 Tests through to the end of the 1949 season.