Vale Harry Croft, a powerhouse of the junior set-up
FOOTBALL Hall of Fame WA inductee Harry Croft, who was President of the WA Junior Soccer Association for over 20 years, died on January 23 at the age of 91.
During his time as head of the juniors he was credited with transforming the association into a body of great strength as the numbers of clubs and players soared.
Harry was held in such high esteem Australia wide that he was also Chairman of the National Junior Council for a while.
The Australian Soccer Federation (as the Football Federation was known at the time) made Croft a Life Member and he was one of the first WA identities to be inducted him into the Australian Hall of Fame in 1999.
Harry was also one of the original inductees into the Football Hall of Fame WA's Hall of Recognition in 1996.
He was made a Life Member of the WA Junior Association in 1978, and was also a Life Member of Football West.
Harry was born in the Yorkshire town of Barnsley in England and arrived in Perth in 1966.
He quickly became involved in the juniors set-up and was President for over 20 years through the late 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s.
He said in his President's Message in the JSA's yearbook of 1983:
"This will be an exciting year for all junior players. This year more attention will be given to improving playing skills at junior level. We will continue with the scheme which our Director of Coaching Ron Tindall introduced to several clubs last year.
"We want to see all junior players wearing skill badges this year. The more badges to have the more skilful you have become.
"The World Youth Cup finals will be played in Mexico in June this year. Three WA boys, Roy Jones, Frank Faraone and Anthony Franken, are in the Australian squad for this tournament.
"These three players were products of WA Junior Soccer and we wish them the best of luck for the finals."
The 1983 yearbook also reported the surge in numbers of junior players during Croft's presidency.
It went from 35 clubs (with 122 teams) in 1971 up to 62 clubs (and 597 teams) in 1982.
The number of junior registered players in the under 11 age group went from 526 in 1972 up to 1010 in 1982. The numbers also increased significantly in the other age groups.
Bob Brown, who was one of the JSA's major sponsors during Croft's reign, said:
"Harry became the President of the juniors at the time of a huge migration from Europe - and the amount of youngsters wanting to play the game soared dramatically.
"He was certainly the right man at the right time to cope with this explosion in numbers.
"He was a typical Yorkshireman who knew what he wanted. And what he wanted was to make the juniors a telling force. He succeeded and, of course, also had a great Committee to help him.
"I think the fact that he became the Chairman of the national body showed the esteem in which he was held."
David Andrews, who was the chief soccer writer of The West Australian newspaper throughout Croft's reign, said:
"Much of what the Junior set-up is today in many ways is the result of the planning and innovations of Harry and his cohorts in the Junior Association of the earlier days.
"Harry was in many ways a jovial character and ready for a laugh. But at the same time he ruled his area of responsibility with a strong hand."
Croft's efforts were rewarded by the many national titles WA juniors won during his time at the helm, and the gradual evolvement of WA youngsters into the highest levels of the game at State, national and international levels.
**Although Harry was restricted in his comings and goings over the past few years, he still took a keen interest in the game - and he would have been delighted to learn that football was declared Australia's number one team sport in 2017.
The data released by the Australian Sports Commission also confirmed that football was the number-one participation team sport in Western Australia.
The independent AusPlay study found that 196,600 people played football across the state between July 2016 and June 2017, representing growth of 19,700 participants since the previous survey.
Football participants amounted to 24,400 more than AFL and 34,300 more than basketball.
Nationally the Australian Sports Commission estimated more than 1.1 million people played football, significantly greater than the next most played team sport, AFL, with 674,000 participants.