Keith Austin Cross
- 361Wallaby Number
Keith Cross was an outstanding, try-scoring back row forward who commanded a spot in the Australian Test side for the best part of a decade after the Second World War. Superbly fit and a tremendous cover defender to boot, Cross was also very quick, so quick in fact that he occasionally played on the wing at Randwick.
Born and bred in Sydney, Cross began his education at Bondi Public Primary School before he moved on to Sydney Boys’ High School. In his final two years at Sydney Boys’ Cross developed an imposing physique and stature that was soon matched by his all-round sporting ability. In 1945 Cross represented at athletics, in the relay team; won a Combined High Schools breaststroke swimming title; competed in the eights at the G.P.S. rowing regatta; and played in the 1st XV. He was also the school captain.
The following year Cross joined Randwick where he prospered under the tutelage of Wallaby #203 Wally Meagher. Cross made his first grade debut in 1947 and two years later the representative selectors thought so highly of him that he was chosen, at flanker - a position in which he had never played - rather than No.8, in the City v. Country trial for New South Wales. He then earned a state debut against Queensland in May and just a few weeks later played his maiden Test against the Maori in Sydney.
Cross then enjoyed a memorable tour to New Zealand in which Australia won 11 of their 12 matches and claimed the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 1934. Following the 1st Test victory in Wellington, Australian manager Ron Walden said, ‘Every forward did his job, but the cover defence by Cross was one of the best performances I have seen.’ Cross went on to start 16 of the next 22 Tests through to the end of the 1957 domestic season, including both home internationals against New Zealand that year, and was considered a near certainty for selection for the Fourth Wallabies tour. Inexplicably Cross, alongside incumbent Wallaby captain Dick Tooth and the great post-War halfback Cyril Burke were omitted from the touring party in a decision that was described as ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘among the greatest foul-ups in the long history of Australian rugby.’
Keith Cross played 19 Tests for Australia in an eight-year international career.
Cross won his first Test cap at flanker, alongside Col Windon and with Pat Harvey at No.8, in the 3-12, 1st Test loss to the Maori at the S.C.G. He picked up a further two caps, both at No.8, in the away victories against New Zealand.
He was capped at No.8 with Ian MacMillan and Dave Brockhoff his flankers for the two home losses to the British Lions.
Cross was selected to lock the scrum for the opening Test of the three match home series against New Zealand. Unfortunately a medical examination ruled him unfit to play after he suffered a severely bruised right shoulder in the New South Wales v. All Blacks match a week earlier. Rex Mossop was shifted from lock to No.8 for the 0-8 loss at the S.C.G however he was then sent from the field for striking in a club game against Drummoyne. The NSWRU rubbed Mossop out for a month and Cross returned to play No.8 in partnership with Col Windon and Brockhoff in each of the final two Tests.
‘Slaggy’ Miller, Windon and Brian Johnson formed the back row in both home Tests against Fiji. Cross returned to the side for the tour of New Zealand where he played a starring role in the victory over Otago a week out from the first Test to reclaim his position in the Test team. Cross then literally climbed out of his sick bed to win a cap on the flank and along with Johnson ‘were Australia’s heroes’ in the 14-9 win at Lancaster Park. Cross was selected for the second Test but was forced to withdraw after he pulled a leg muscle at training the day before the game.
Cross started at flanker in all four Tests, the final three with Johnson at No.8 and ‘Mac’ Hughes on the other side of the scrum, of the dramatic 1-3 series loss in South Africa.
Cross was capped at flanker in partnership with Vince Heinrich (No.8) and Jack Pashley for both home Tests against Fiji.
Cross returned to New Zealand with the Wallabies but was injured in the second tour match against Poverty Bay-East Coast. He missed the opening two internationals but returned for the final three games of the tour including the 3-8, 3rd Test defeat at Eden Park.
The back row of Mac’ Hughes at No.8 and Cross on the flank with John Thornett started both home losses to South Africa.
Cross won his final caps at flanker in the two Test, home series loss to New Zealand.