‘THE LACONIC NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBOR ….’

Our next-door neighbor was feeling a touch second-hand last Sunday morning.

His old cricket club got together to celebrate the six premierships they’ve won, but more specifically, one that they clinched a quarter of a century ago. And, in what added to the occasion, they managed to round up the entire team that took out that flag.IMG_3806

It was an evening brim-full of speeches, laughs and reminiscences. Accordingly, if you were to believe them, some of the blokes have become far better players in retirement than they were 25 years earlier…….
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Ian Rundell, though, isn’t one of them. He’s a laid-back fellah who usually finds no need to hark back to the deeds of his halcyon days.

But when someone began to expound in detail, how he found ‘an extra yard’ on that early autumn Saturday in 1994, his eyes lit up. You could detect a blush on his rosy cheeks as it was described in detail how he ripped through the WDCA’s most prolific batting line-up.

He took 5/44, dispatching the Corowa upper-order in quick succession, to have them reeling at 3/11. They were 6/38 at one stage, and in diabolical strife, before limping their way to 91.IMG_3811
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His team, Wangaratta-Magpies, approached their target with caution and, despite the loss of an early wicket, reached it in 45 overs……………
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A season earlier, two of the competition’s long-established clubs – Wangaratta and Magpies – had opted to merge. Their plight was symptomatic of the ills that plagued cricket at around this time.

Dwindling player numbers; the decision by many promising kids to forego cricket in preference to football ; a shortage of administrators; and general apathy, were put forth as reasons for this ‘marriage of convenience’.

It followed hot on the heels of the intertwining of traditional rivals Rovers and United, two years earlier.

Since the resumption of local cricket after World War II, Wangaratta had won four flags and Magpies five. They had waged many a dogged battle on local cricket’s Headquarters – the Showgrounds Oval.

The ‘New Pies’ instantaneously became a premiership threat. The brilliant Grant twins were ‘half a team’ alone, with their all-round skills, and Anthony ‘Chewy’ Brezac was not to be under-estimated as a new-ball bowler.

Duane Kerwin, the reigning Association ‘Cricketer of the Year’, was a player of immense talent; Rick Lawford had come into his own as a star batsman. You had the Rundell brothers, an erstwhile veteran, Rob Worthington, ‘keeper-batsman Craig ‘Clancy’ Henwood and youngsters Frankie Curcio, Damien Black and Joey Cannata to round off the line-up.

But still, the depth of their talent appeared to fall a fair way short of the dominant Corowa, who had taken out the previous six premierships.

Even the champions, though, can be cut down to size…………
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Just about the only person who calls the blonde-haired Ian Winston Rundell by his Christian-name is his partner Lynne. He’s universally known as ‘Knackers’.

That emanated from the day he was fielding in-close, and copped a knock in a delicate part of his anatomy, causing him to crash to the ground in excruciating pain. Pete, his brother, laughed, jokingly dubbed him ‘Knackers’, and the nickname stuck.

He’s a little weathered now, but in his prime was lithe and athletic. Large reserves of stamina allowed him to operate for long stretches. Although he was possibly under-estimated with the bat, he was a consistent run-scorer in the middle order.

In fact, in an era of quality players between the eighties and the early- 21st century, ‘Knackers’ was one of the ‘big guns’ of Wangaratta cricket.

He reckons he got used to bowling long spells very early in the piece. After school, when he was around 10 or 11, he’d head around to the Scott Street residence of his mates from West End Primary – the Grant twins.

“You couldn’t get the bat off either of them, and it’d be left to me to bowl at ‘em all night,” he said.

“Come to think of it, things never changed. Years later, when we were finally re-united in club cricket, ‘Baz’ and ‘Daz’ would wait until ‘Kerwy’ (Duane Kerwin) and I had warmed up before they’d go in to bat at training. Then it’d require an operation to extract them from the nets !”

He played in the early junior grades with the Grants at Magpies. But his brothers, Peter and Paul (Candles) talked him into crossing to their club, Wangaratta.

Fortunately for him at that stage, Wang had a fair side, and he slotted in comfortably.

His best year in club cricket came in 1990/91, when he scored 270 runs and took 47 wickets, to take out the WDCA’s Cricketer of the Year and Chronicle Trophy – and play in the Grand Final.IMG_3807

‘Knackers’ had a rhythmic approach to the crease and, with his pin-point accuracy and immaculate length, was difficult to get away. He didn’t do a lot with the ball, but it was always enough to have the good bats guessing.

It wasn’t that he had to indulge in extensive work-outs to prepare himself for those marathon stints at the bowling crease. Fitness just came naturally to him.

So when the merger of the two Showgrounds custodians came about, he was regarded as one of the key elements of the new combination…………
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‘Knackers’ entire working life has been spent at Bruck Mills. He’s a good operator, they say, but probably wonders how he survived the turbulent times and take-overs that have engulfed the Textile giant in recent years.

He’s officially called a Colour Technician, a job for which he’s well-qualified. That’s a far more refined job description to the one he gave when he first started, which was: ‘working in the Dye House’.

He took leave of absence in 1996, when he and his mate ‘Kerwy’ headed off on an overseas odyssey – a season of cricket in England.IMG_3813

But before that eventuated , he was subjected to a rigorous examination from British Customs officials, who queried why he had unwittingly been found with another person’s National Insurance Card in his wallet.

For a while it appeared he may be sent packing on the first plane back to Australia, but the problem was eventually sorted. The laconic ‘Knackers’ took the drama in his stride and stripped with Colwall, a strong club based in the rolling Herefordshire countryside. He took 55wickets for the season season, and lapped up the hospitality in the ‘Old Dart’.

On his return, he continued to perform strongly – for Wang-Magpies, Sunday team Royal Vic, and Wangaratta’s representative teams.

His dad, Kel, had been a star for the Vic, and is a WSCA Life Member, so playing Social cricket had a bit of meaning for him.

One WSCA performance which tickled him was a partnership of 220 against Glenrowan, with his brother ‘Candles’, whose contribution was 105. ‘Knackers’ was unbeaten on 113.

But Country Week brought out the best in him. It was the challenge of ‘butting heads’ against the stars of country cricket, and bowling in tandem with quicks like Lidgerwood, Fisher, McCormick, Kerwin and Brezac that egged him on.IMG_3809

His 3/19 at the Albert Ground, set Wangaratta up for victory against Central Gippsland in the 1991 Final. He’d sent down 74 overs, taken 10 wickets for the week and bowled himself to a standstill. That win remains the highlight of his seven trips to Melbourne.

On his last visit to Bendigo – in 1999 – ‘Knackers’ took 5/28 in a vain attempt to curtail Kyabram earlier in the week. But in the ‘A’ Group Final, three days later, his 5/45 and 21* earned him Man of the Match honours, as Wangaratta, with nine wickets down, snuck past Ky’s 141.IMG_3808
He chalked up his second WDCA flag in 2000/01 – a match fondly remembered for Barry Grant’s unconquered 132, which rescued the precariously-placed Pies from 7/50 to a competitive 9/192.

After Rundell (3/9) and Timmy Sheldon (3/25) had cut a swathe through the Corowa middle-order, they were eventually bundled out for 134……..
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With his body beginning to wear out, and an old footy injury causing him grief, ‘Knackers’ walked away from cricket a couple of years later, to focus his sporting efforts on golf.

Again, he proved a natural, and was Wangaratta Golf Club’s (Waldara) Club Champion in 2009.
His handicap has been as low as 4.5, and now fluctuates between seven and eight. But a super-competitive spirit lurks beneath the phlegmatic exterior of this old sporting combatant………..

 

FOOTNOTE: Wangaratta-Magpies have taken out four further premierships since Ian Rundell’s retirement from the game. They won the 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2007-08 flags.
But in the last ten years, success has eluded them and finals have proved beyond their reach.
There is some hope that 2018/19 could see them return to finals action.IMG_3814

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