September 1937 – 30 March 2019
Members of the Victorian Schools’ Rugby Union and the Rugby Victoria community are saddened to hear of the passing of Bruce Norton. Bruce volunteered his services as a coach and administrator for nearly three decades to offer quality rugby experiences for the youth of Victoria, and also Australia wide.
Bruce learned his rugby in his native New Zealand before coming to Melbourne and was an engineer by profession. He offered his services when his son Bryce was playing in clubs. By 1988 he had become involved primarily in representative teams and was the coach of the Victorian Schoolboys at the Australian Championships for nine years from 1988 to 1996 where he coached the team in the Division 2 competition to four Premierships and three Runners-Up trophies.
In the 1990’s the VSRU conducted pre-season events to promote the game as a community of schools and Bruce ran for the Union, over many years, the 15 a-side Carnival Day with great success.
Four times Melbourne hosted the combined Australian Schools Championships (’75, ’81, ’92, ’99) where every state and territory attended, every player was billeted and the whole event conducted by the host state’s schools’ union. In 1992, and again in 1999, Bruce was the coordinating master mind of delivering the Championships to the nation in Melbourne.
Bruce was a coach on three international tours for the VSRU. The Bi-centennial Tour to the UK in 1988, the Canada/USA Tour in 1989 and the UK and Eire Tour of 1992. All of these Victorians gained invaluable experience in rugby but also in the benefits from participating in a worldwide fraternity.
Ever the believer in the opportunities afforded school age players by offering measured higher honours to excel, Bruce was a keen supporter of the Australian Schools Rugby Union’s Division 2 representative team selected from Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
He coached or managed the team six times between 1989 and 1995 where a highlight was the ASRU Division 2 tour to Japan in 1992.
In 1999 Bruce took on the role as coach of the Scotch College 1st XV and developed the rugby at Scotch immensely, eventually also being the Director of Rugby Coaching 2001 to 2012. During this 14-year period he was the 1st XV coach and co-coach. In the time Bruce was in the roles Scotch played in eight Grand Finals for five Premierships (four consecutively 2001 - 2004).
Bruce gave generously to the VRU club competition as well. He coached at several clubs including Harlequins, Melbourne with their Colts and 1st Grade teams where he won the premiership in 1998 with, and later volunteered at Melton. He also coached the adult men’s state team for a period where a highlight in 1997 was coaching Victoria versus France at Olympic Park, a match where at one stage Victoria led France.
Bruce was a great analyzer of the game, was brilliant at logistical planning for training, tours, and events. He was forthright and always wanted bigger, brighter, and better ways to introduce the game, and then develop the game in young people. Many players in Victoria and across Australia are better players and people for his guidance.
His devoted wife Val supported Bruce through all his rugby commitments, and attended many, passed away recently in 2015. He is survived by his children Kim and Bryce.