‘ROCKET’

 

To his Corowa cricket team-mates he was ‘Harry’, the most important component in a premiership juggernaut . The ‘go-to’ man who could be relied upon to extract the side from a crisis with a big innings or a fiery 5-over spell.

To opponents he was ‘Rocket’, the unsmiling, aloof, taciturn leader, begrudgingly acknowledged as the first bloke you would pick in your ‘Dream Team’.

Many cricket followers in this area rated him the outstanding player of his generation – and possibly among the best in the WDCA’s long history.

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Rodney Lane grew up in a football environment. His dad, John, had been one of the old-style ‘tough-men’ of the Ovens and Murray League, who played in middle, or lower-ranked Corowa teams for most of his 253-game career.

‘Big John’ assumed the role as ‘protector’ for his less physically-adorned team-mates, and at 6’4″ and tipping the scales at 16 stone, he was a daunting opponent.

The two undoubted highlights in his lengthy spell at the John Foord Oval were Grand Final appearances. In 1963, Corowa were belted by Benalla, but in 1968 they caused a major boil-over in defeating raging-hot favourites, Wodonga.

It was the Spiders first flag for 36 years and a rich reward for the hard-toiling ruckman.
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‘Rocket’ was to make his own telling contribution with the merged combination – Corowa-Rutherglen – as a raw-boned, lanky centre half forward-cum ruckman with sharp elbows.

His 150-odd games were full of endeavour and featured one Grand Final appearance, in 1992, when the Kangaroos shocked Wang.Rovers in a thrilling Preliminary, but were not quite good enough to match Wodonga in the ‘big one’.

He played it hard, with shades of his old man’s spirit. And was an important component of those good ‘Roo sides of the ’90’s.

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But it was as a cricketer that Rodney Lane will live long in the memory. He and his older brother David were part of the inaugural Corowa Cricket Club, which made the move to the Wangaratta & District Association in 1985/86.

The reasoning was full of logic. There were many talented young cricketers in the area and, if they were to progress, they needed to be playing on turf – and in a higher-standard competition.

Two years earlier, the Rutherglen Association had played Wangaratta in a North-East Cup final. Many of the members of that team were to form the nucleus of the Corowa line-up which would take the WDCA by storm throughout a dominant era.

Within a couple of years the Lavis boys had been enticed from Balldale. Greg Hennessey joined from Cornishtown, the inimitable ‘Psycho’ Carroll came from Buraja and long-serving spinner Rod Gulliver was recruited from Rand.

They complemented the local talent, such as medium-pacer Michael Keenes, mercurial ‘Popeye’ Livingstone and that veritable run-machine, school-teacher John McPherson.

And in Rodney Lane they had an exciting prospect.

He had won selection in a VCCL team which played the West Indies at Wangaratta in early 1985 and showed enough to indicate that, indeed, he was out of the top-drawer.
After just two seasons – and 65 wickets – in the WDCA, he was recruited by Carlton.

He spent six years at Princes Park and played 63 matches, taking 136 District wickets. His accuracy and big heart impressed the Blues’ hierarchy and his development as a lower-order batsman was duly noted.

Three appearances for the Victorian Second XI proved that he was probably on the perimeter of State selection.

But he returned home in 1993 and settled back into life as a builder, Corowa-Rutherglen footballer and Ball Park regular.

In his absence, Corowa had won six straight flags and their reign of power in the WDCA was rivalling that of the great United sides of an earlier era.

But inexplicably, after some dominant batting performances during ‘Rocket’s’ comeback year, they suffered a dramatic batting collapse in the semi-final.

He had to wait until the following season – 1994/95 – to play in the first of his four premierships with the club. Rovers-United had compiled a challenging 181 and, after a good start, Corowa lost 3 quick wickets to be exposed at 5/112.

Was another clatter of wickets on the cards ?

No ! A Shane Norman-‘Rocket’ partnership of 71 guided them out of stormy waters to reach their target without the loss of another wicket.

A couple of worrisome batting performances in semi-finals over the next couple of seasons suggested a hint of mortality in the Border line-up, but they soon rectified this misconception by winning a hat-trick of flags to round out the millennium.

Paving the way a lot of the time was ‘Rocket’, who led by example with his captaincy.
Opponents found him to be an intimidating presence on the field. Some suggested that the strains of ‘white-line’ fever that he displayed were part of the family genes.

‘Rocket’s’ height, allied to a longish, stiff-limbed run-up, made him an awkward proposition to contend with, as he broached the crease.

His ability to get the ball around your solar-plexus from a good length was disconcerting. He rarely wasted a delivery and when you played and missed, you were met with a stony glare, which could make an edgy batsman decidedly uncomfortable.

Knee problems took the sting out of his bowling durability for a few years. But he was still capable of wrecking a batting line-up with an explosive spell.

Word spread around WDCA circles in the early 2000’s that his knee ‘op’ had been a success. There was trepidation when he again began to measure out the ‘long-run’.

His batting seemed to develop as the years wore on. The first impediment to a bowler who would prepare to launch into a delivery, was the big left foot that he planted down the wicket. He had a strong defence and a good array of shots. 7 club centuries and 30 half-centuries indicate how effective he was.

His twin ‘tons’ ( 111 not out against Central Gippsland and 103 against Warragul ) at Melbourne Country Week in 1999 put the stamp on his transition into a champion all-rounder.

WDCA officials were delighted to see his commitment to representative cricket. He captained Wangaratta at Country Week from 1996 to 2000, exhibiting sound cricketing nous.

He was still performing solidly for his side in 2011, when he decided to retire, aged 43. In his 257 WDCA games ‘Rocket’ had scored 6,681 runs and taken 384 wickets.

When you add the contribution of his brother David, who played 172 games, captured 330 wickets and featured in 10 premiership sides, you’ll see why Corowa have found it difficult to replicate the deeds of the Lane’s and the other superb players of their club’s Golden Era.

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