William Henry ‘Dusty’ Hare is deservedly famous as a record-breaking rugby union player, although he was also a talented cricketer whose sporting career could have had a very different outcome.
Born in Newark on 29 November 1952, he attended the town’s Magnus Grammar School and appeared in the same England schools’ team as Graham Gooch while also playing junior county tennis.
Speaking to ‘The Rugby Paper’ in 2017, Hare admitted “I left school to be a professional cricketer, not a rugby player. I played rugby for enjoyment when there wasn’t any cricket. I was lucky at Notts because shortly after joining the staff they saw me as a future captain and that if it went well, I’d get my chance in the first team.”
A right-hand middle-order batsman, right arm medium pace bowler and occasional wicketkeeper, Dusty made his debut for Notts 2XI in 1969 at the age of just 16. His First-Class debut followed in June 1971, when he scored 28* and 6* against Oxford University at The Parks.
He had to wait until July 1973 to make his County Championship debut, against Somerset at Glastonbury. Batting at seven when Notts were 89 for 5, Hare joined Garry Sobers at the wicket and scored just three runs before being trapped LBW. He played two more Championship matches that season and five in 1974, before making his tenth and final First-Class appearance three years later – against Essex at Ilford in May 1977.
Dusty also played seven List A matches between 1972 and 1975, but career batting averages of 12.21 in First-Class matches and 11.60 in List A suggest that his potential was never fulfilled. However, he will probably be remembered more as a regular in 2XI County Championship and Under-25 county matches. Notts’ respect for his leadership potential led to Hare captaining the 2XI at the age of 20 and he amassed 116 appearances in these two teams between 1969 and 1978.
As Dusty himself later admitted, “It didn’t work out because I wasn’t good enough, simple as that. I was still on the Notts staff in 1974 but by then I’d got an England [rugby union] cap. I’d got the taste of international rugby.”
Combining a busy sporting schedule with work on the family farm near Newark, Dusty’s rugby career had started at his local club before joining Nottingham RFC in 1971 and Leicester Tigers in 1976. He made his England debut on 16 March 1974 against Wales and won 25 caps over the following ten years while also touring New Zealand with the British Lions in 1983.
Dusty’s last rugby match was Leicester’s defeat to Bath in the 1989 Pilkington Cup Final and he retired as the world record points scorer, having amassed 7,337 points during his first-class career.
In 2001 Hare sold his farm and re-joined Leicester Tigers, initially working in their Academy and later becoming Head Scout. In 2010 he moved to fierce rivals Northampton Saints as Academy Manager before retiring from this full-time position in 2017. He then returned to Leicester in a scouting role, working with team management on player recruitment.