The Holcroft saga is a rugby story—the like of which may never have been equaled in the history of the game.
It begins over a century ago, when Mr. George Holcroft was given charge of Leigh St. Peters RLFC in 1889. He married, and when his family grew up, Jack, Harry, William, and Tom all played for local teams. They married, and George’s grandsons Bert and Bill also played.
Bert Holcroft has been a distinguished servant for the game of rugby all his life. He holds coaching certificates from both the Australian and British governing bodies—one of only a handful of men to achieve such an honor in the game’s history. For twenty odd years, Bert Holcroft has had one of the unlikeliest jobs in sport: teaching Australian rugby coaches how to coach. Considering the Australian dominance of World Rugby in recent years, that might seem a par with taking coal to Newcastle. But make no mistake, Bert Holcroft has done as much as anyone to ensure Australia’s reemergence as a major rugby power.
On the face of it, Australia wouldn’t seem to need any outside help, let alone from a Pom. Their record of only one test defeat since 1978 speaks for itself. But Bert’s reputation is nationwide “down under”—quite simply, he’s one of the best in the business. Bert, who played for Leigh between 1950–60, has spent much of his latter years Down Under lecturing to top-grade coaches in New South Wales. Born and bred in Cameron Street, Leigh, Bert has few peers when it comes to teaching the basics of the thirteen-a-side game. Since emigrating in the late sixties, Bert has dedicated his life to coaching and fitness techniques. Teams in Queensland, New South Wales, and Sydney have all come under his influence, often with spectacular results. Bert’s credentials are impeccable.
Last summer, he achieved the highest accolade in Australia: his grade 3 certificate personally signed by the then Australian league chairman Kevin Humphreys and the director of coaching, Peter Corcoran. Three years earlier, Bert has sailed through his grade 1 and 2 with flying colors. In 1953, he was awarded his senior coaching certificate in England.
Bert, who held a number of posts at Hilton Park before emigrating to Australia, has spent a lot of his time heavily involved with Rugby in the universities there. He became director of coaching for the University of New South Wales and later coach of the Combined Universities side. He was awarded a coaching accreditation by the Australian Institute of Sport, Department of Sport and Recreation NSW, and the NSW Rugby League for administration as well as national coaching certificates in both Britain and Australia—one of only a handful of people to do so.
Eventually, the offer of a job in Sydney came: to coach the premiership glamorous club Eastern Suburbs.