Launceston/Carlton/North Melbourne/Collingwood/Sydney, Forward, 1970-88
> 42 games, 72 goals for Carlton, 1973-75
> 10 games, 20 goals for North Melbourne, 1977-78
> 102 games, 251 goals for Collingwood, 1979-83
> 9 games, 17 goals for Sydney, 1988
> 22 games for Launceston, 1972
> Carlton leading goalkicker, 1974 (45)
> Collingwood leading goalkicker, 1979 (88), 1980 (52)
> Tasmanian State of Origin representative, 1979 (Perth)
A courageous, strong-marking full forward, Craig Davis could easily lay claim to being one of the most well-travelled Tasmanian footballers to have ever played in the VFL/AFL, while his influence in the development of the game post-playing career cannot be overstated.
Born in 1954, Davis’ footballing bloodlines could hardly have been better. His father Bob ‘Boofa’ Davis and uncles Darrel, Kevin and Neville Crosswell had all had distinguished careers with Launceston and Ross during the 1950s. Likewise his cousin Brent Crosswell played in VFL premierships with Carlton and North Melbourne in the 1960s and 1970s and achieved legend status in the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame.
Like most of his family, Davis’ own football journey began with Launceston in the NTFA, where he made his senior debut aged 17 in 1972. After only one season his talent was attracting interest from the VFL, and in early 1973 Davis joined Carlton, making his debut in Round 14 against Hawthorn at Glenferrie after some outstanding form in the reserves. Indeed, he finished runner-up in the reserves Best and Fairest count. Despite playing only five games for the season Davis would play in all of Carlton’s three finals matches, including the Blues’ grand final loss to Richmond.
From 1973-75 Davis would play 42 games for the Blues and kick 72 goals, including 45 goals in 1974 to top the Blues goalkicking table ahead of such names as David McKay and Robert Walls. A promising career seemingly lay ahead of Davis, however tragedy struck during a pre-season match in 1976, with Davis badly injured after an opponent’s knee collected his head in a marking contest. Diagnosed with deformed blood platelets, doctors informed Davis it would be unwise to attempt to play contact sport again. He missed the entire 1976 season recovering and as a result was cut by the Blues, but he refused to accept that he would never play again. In 1977 he joined North Melbourne, and although Davis played only 10 games in two seasons it gave him confidence that he was still capable of performing at VFL level. In 1979 he joined Collingwood and it was here that Davis would enjoy the most successful period of his VFL career. He played 102 games at Victoria Park – including the losing 1979, 1980 and 1981 grand finals – kicked 251 goals and topped the Magpies goalkicking in his first two seasons, including a career-best of 88 goals in 1979. 1979 would also bring representative honours for Davis as he appeared for Tasmania at the State of Origin carnival in Perth.
Davis retired from VFL football at the end of 1983, taking up the dual role of development coach and runner with the Sydney Swans. In 1988 aged 34 Davis sensationally came out of retirement at the suggestion of Sydney coach Tom Hafey – who was also Davis’ coach at Collingwood – to help fill the gap in attack that had been left by the departure of Warwick Capper to the Brisbane Bears. He started the season well, booting four goals in Round One before ending the year with 17 goals from nine games, after which he retired permanently.
Post-football, Davis began a long and fruitful period as the CEO and General Manager of AFL NSW, a role he would perform outstandingly for nearly 20 years. Under his guidance Australian football’s credibility and competitiveness in the largely hostile NSW marketplace flourished, and a crowning career moment came in 2005 when the Sydney Swans broke their 72-year premiership drought in a match featuring Davis’s own son Nick.