Michael Lappin’s earliest cricket hero was the pugnacious, stubborn, dour, Bill Lawry.
That figures. Left-handed Bill used to lean his angular body over the bat and stare down that 22 yard strip, giving the approaching bowler the impression that it would take something akin to an excavator to dig him out.
So did Mick, whose broad bat and instinctively forward prod also delivered the message that he wasn’t about to sell out cheaply.
The Lappins of Chiltern have long been famous for their deeds on the football field. Mick loved the game too, but says that he and his brother Donny (‘Duck’) became enraptured with cricket through watching Test matches on television.
They started playing with Chiltern when they were about 11 or 12. When the family shifted to Wangaratta they joined City Colts.
It was 1970 and Mick was 16. Don was a polished right-hand bat with plenty of flourish. Mick was more introspective at the crease and could bowl a bit.
Somehow or other, though, he ended up with the wicket-keeper’s gloves for a year.
But because Colts were struggling and a bit light-on for bowlers, he took the new ball at the start of the next season and surprised by generating swing and working up venomous pace.
And, with the bat, he concentrated on occupying the crease, minimising the risky shots and being the ‘anchor’ – ‘Phantom’ Lawry-style.
In his early years, Colts didn’t have a lot of success, but he and ‘Duck’ were fortunate to be part of a successful Wangaratta Under 21 side which won three Mac Holten Shields.
His consistent form earned him a trip to Country Week in 1974. A solid knock from the debutant in the opening game was one of the few highlights, as Wang lost all four games and were evicted from Provincial Group. They have never returned.
Mick won the first of his Chronicle Trophies in 1974/75 and was the stand-out player in the side.
His first stint at the captaincy came the following year, when he was a tender 20. He felt an affinity for the role, but, by the end of the year, had moved to Melbourne, transferred in his employment as a bank clerk.
He joined leading sub-district club Brighton and proceeded to make his mark in this high-quality competition.
Over the next five seasons he probably played the best cricket of his career. The highlight came when he captured 8/29 to bowl Brighton to victory in the 1979/80 Grand Final.
He took out the bowling average twice, won a Club Championship and finished with 125 wickets in his 54 sub-district games.
Mick returned to O’Callaghan Oval in 1981. It was the beginning of his gradual evolvement into an off-spin bowler, lower-order batsman and, eventually, captain.
The arrival of a champion speedster, Gary Lidgerwood and the presence of a couple of other new-ball bowlers probably prompted his decision to revert to spin. Or maybe, he couldn’t be bothered expending more energy than he needed.
Mick talks slowly and walks slowly. Unflappability is a family trait . He wasn’t one of those exciteable, demonstrative types as a leader, but knew how to ‘wind-up’ some of the ultra-competitive opposition players.
It might have been a murmured uncomplimentary remark from the slip region, or the ‘urging-on’ to his pace-men to ‘see how they handle a few short-ones’ .
Whatever, it often had the desired effect and Colts earned the reputation of being a hard side to play against.
By the mid-eighties they had developed into a more than handy side, but bowed out in four successive semi-finals. In the fifth (1986/87) they snuck into the finals after an indifferent season, but narrowly pipped Whorouly in the semi, thanks to an unbeaten 85 from youngster Scott Clayton.
They were rank outsiders in the Final, but cleaned up a powerful Corowa batting line-up, with Mick (3/15 off 10 overs) and his partner-in-arms, Maurie Braden (4/36) sharing the bowling spoils.
Again, it was the talented Clayton (146 not out) who showed the way, as Colts racked up a total of 414.
For skipper Lappin, his plans could not have been executed any more precisely, as he, and his club shared a memorable victory.
Mick picked up his second Chronicle Trophy in 1989/90. With a season-haul of 310 runs and 32 wickets he also finished runner-up in the Cricketer of the Year Award, captained Wangaratta at Bendigo Country Week and played in the Ensign Cup-winning team.
He also won selection, along with Barry Grant, in a Victorian Country team, which met a Victorian Celebrity XI at Ballarat.
1989 was the first of six years that he led Wangaratta at Bendigo C.W. Those who had played against him and didn’t know him all that well, expected a surly, uncommunicative captain, but were surprised by his affability and the ease with which he carried out the skipper’s role.
He was, above all, a team-man and this virtue shine through in his leadership.
His biggest thrill at Bendigo came in 1994, when Wangaratta scored a last-gasp win in the Final against Upper Loddon.
Batting on a damp track, there was an early – and serious – upper-order collapse. It was Lappin and Paul Miegel who righted the ship. Mick’s 60 was an innings full of courage and patience.
Season 1995/96 was the last of his 8 years as captain of City Colts. One of the younger players recalls a relatively jolly bus trip home from Beechworth after the final game.
When the bus pulled up at Wangaratta, the mood became serious, as Mick, usually a man of few words, rose to his feet and calmly proceeded to address each of the players ; giving them a ‘resume’ of their season, what had been expected of them, and how they could improve.
It was thought-provoking stuff.
Mick continued playing until well into the 2000’s, He stepped back into B-grade for a few seasons and reckons he’s still got the whites packed in case there’s an emergency call from the selectors.
He played 310 A-Grade games with City Colts, scored 4656 runs, took 426 wickets and was named captain of the club’s Team of the Half-Century.
A memorable career……..