Sir Bernard Hugh Denman Croft
- 260Wallaby Number
Bernard Croft was a country-born utility back who played his first representative rugby while still at school. Aged just 16, Croft ‘played a brilliant game’ when selected at fullback for New England in their 11-30 loss to the ‘world-famous’ A.I.F. team. That match began a decade long association with the New England side that culminated in his inclusion on the New South Wales tour to New Zealand in 1928.
Croft graduated from The Armidale School in 1921 however his first appearance for Combined Country did not come until the 1924 Country Week Carnival held in Sydney. His big break came four years later when he displayed ‘first class form’ at the Country Week Carnival and was considered to be ‘one of the outstanding backs of New England’. Croft’s performances at the Carnival were particularly timely given that the long 1927/28 Waratahs’ tour to the Northern Hemisphere had seen 13 tourists either retire or declare themselves unavailable for the upcoming tour to New Zealand. Even then it took an ounce of good fortune for Croft to be included in the final squad after Glebe-Balmain’s ‘Mick’ Stewart, who was named as one of two fullbacks for the tour, withdrew due to business-related reasons.
On tour Croft found himself as the No.2 custodian behind Bob Westfield however with Alf Smairl out injured Croft was shifted to the wing for the final three matches. The first of those three fixtures was in Blenheim against Marlborough and Croft had a veritable ‘day out’ as he became just the second touring player to the Dominion - after the great Springbok Billy Zeller - to score four tries in a first class match. Not surprisingly he retained his spot against the Maori in Palmerston North. Although he did not know it at the time that Maori match was also his Test debut. In 1994, some 66 years later, the ARU elevated this previously uncapped match to Test status.
Upon his return to Australia Croft retired from representative football in order to concentrate on his family’s grazing business. In 1954 he succeeded his late father as the 13th Baronet Croft, to continue a peerage that stretched back to 1671.
Croft won his first Test cap on the right wing, in the 8-9 loss to the Maori at Showgrounds Oval.