Rugby Legend Recalls His Cricketing Days
Although now best remembered as a record-breaking rugby union player, ‘Dusty’ Hare was a more than useful cricketer who had to decide which sport to follow.
“I was being paid as a cricketer”, he told the October meeting of the Nottingham Cricket Lovers Society (NCLS), “and rugby at that time was still ‘amateur’…but I knew that I didn’t quite have the capacity for concentration and mental toughness to make it to the top in cricket”.
Born near Collingham, William Henry Hare (as no-one ever calls him) was sports-mad youngster and good at most of them. “As far I was concerned, school was about sport, education was a poor second”, he chuckled.
He played both rugby and cricket at school (Magnus Grammar, Newark) and soon moved on to the cricket Club at Collingham where he played regularly and with sufficient prowess that he was invited to join the age group squads at Trent Bridge.
At the same time, he was playing for Newark RFC but it was cricket that gave ‘Dusty’ his first representative honours, playing for the English Schools Association Under-15s North against their Southern counterparts. Talking to the NCLS members, he recalled that future county team-mate Paul Todd was in that team and other future First-Class cricketers Graham Clinton and Keith Ponty were on the opposing side. Dusty, who also played junior county tennis, later appeared in the same England schools’ team as Graham Gooch.
The game he remembered more vividly was his County Championship debut for Notts in 1973 when, “I found myself batting with my great hero, Garry Sobers”. Fifty years on Dusty can still recall the injustice of his dismissal. “I’d only made a few and Tom Cartwright hit me on the front pad but I was well outside the line.
“But Ray Julian’s finger went up and I had to go. When Garry was out a bit later on, he told me ‘you were done there’, which was some comfort!”
He played ten First-Class matches for Notts and seven List-A games, mostly in the John Player Sunday League. “I was a very occasional wicket-keeper”, he said, “including my first home John Player game when I stumped Mike Brearley off Bob White’s bowling.
“It was one of those where the ball slipped past the bat and I just tipped off one bail – very pleasing.”
Dusty Hare played more than eighty times for Notts Second XI and thirty further matches for the Notts Under-25s; he captained both those sides at times and said how much he enjoyed that role. “I think because I played a lot of sport, I knew how games went and how to manage things like fielding and bowling changes.”
Even with all that experience, he eventually decided to pursue his sporting career in rugby, firstly with Nottingham and then with Leicester Tigers.
Although the meeting was the Cricket Lovers there were, inevitably, questions about his stellar rugby career, including England caps and a British Lions tour. When Dusty’s playing days were done, he moved into rugby coaching and administration, with Leicester and Northampton Saints.
Dusty spoke about how much he enjoyed working with youngsters in rugby academies and the pleasure of seeing them graduate to the senior game.
Rugby may have given Dusty Hare more international success but his passion for cricket was clear to the NCLS audience – an audience that included past team-mates Bill Russell and Bob White – and he reflected on the pride and enjoyment he now gets from watching Collingham CC or Newark RFC.
“It’s great to get along to matches and I get a real buzz from watching my first loves come good”, he added.
Dusty Hare was the first of the 2023-24 season of NCLS talks; the programme continues with Notts team members like Luke Fletcher and star sports names such as Eleanor Oldroyd yet to come.
Dusty Hare (second left) with members of NCLS Committee
Dusty Hare’s biography, called simply ‘Dusty’, is in the Wynne-Thomas Library at Trent Bridge.
His profile and career stats can be found here