Winning gold at the 1960 Olympics while nursing a broken collarbone cemented Bill Roycroft’s place in the annals of Australian sporting history. More than 45 years later, he is still going strong … and with his three sons is still part of the equestrian world.

Story John Dunn and Photos by Robyn Rosenfeldt

It’s mid-morning Tuesday, sale day, at Camperdown in Victoria’s Western District, and the Roycrofts, probably Australia’s most famous equestrian family, are here in force. There’s Bill, the patriarch and Australia’s epic gold medallist from the 1960 Rome Olympics; Barry, the eldest of the three Roycroft boys; and Clarke, the youngest. They’re here checking the stock, but instead of horses they’re interested in Angus cattle, which Barry and Clarke run on their nearby properties. Barry also works at the sale yards, Clarke is in business as an agent and Bill likes to keep in touch with prices and trends as well as old mates. Missing are Mavis, the matriarch, who is at home at Cobrico, 15 kilometres south of Camperdown, and Wayne, who lives at Mount White, 57km north of Sydney.
Although cattle might be claiming the attention of the Roycrofts on this particular day, it doesn’t mean that the family has forsaken its equestrian involvement. For two generations, the Roycrofts have been at the forefront of Australia’s equestrian history with the unsurpassed record of father and all three sons being Olympians and with Bill competing in five Olympic Games. This extraordinary story started through a natural and very necessary association with horses in the days when they were the most practical form of transport. Bill was brought up on a 160-hectare farm leased by his father Joe and mother Ann at Flowerdale, 65km north-east of Melbourne. His horse took him to school as well as the nearest town, Yea. Now 91, age has not dimmed Bill’s memory, and he can recall his youth in detail.

This story excerpt is from Issue #47

Outback Magazine: June/July 2006