‘THE HAPPY HOOKER……..’

He was regarded by his team-mates as a happy-go-lucky soul – the ultimate fellah to lift spirits when they were down – but they reckon Anthony Carroll was also afflicted by a sizeable dose of ‘White-Line Fever.’

Hence the nickname ,’Psycho’…….

They recall the time he came to the aid of a debutant batting partner who was being heavily sledged. As he marched towards the offending fieldsmen, they defended their actions: “You started this stuff,” one said.

‘Psycho’ motioned to take off his batting gloves: “We didn’t start it boy, but I’ll certainly finish it,”

“Just a bit of banter,” was his response at the post-match drinks when his foes remarked how serious he had become………

There were the days he would ‘ark up’ when an enthusiastic quickie might offer a few words of advice and proceed to test him with a bit of chin music.

That was cannon fodder for the ‘Happy Hooker’. The shorter the deliveries became, the harder he would hit – then respond with a satisfied smirk in the direction of the bowler…….

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He’s a Buraja boy…….and proud of it.

That faded red Buraja Cricket Club cap was his lucky charm – part of his armoury – as he presented a formidable target to the bowler. With an unruly head of ginger hair, healthy beard, solid build and  a perpetual grin – minus a couple of teeth – he showed no fear……

Except for one day, perhaps, at Dandenong, in just his second Country Week innings. Surprised by the pace of a South Gippsland speedster, the first ball of the day glanced off his head and sped away for four byes.

He was still trying to come to terms with the barrage of short stuff an over or two later, when he conferred with his partner in mid-pitch….

“These pppricks are tryin’ to knock me bbbloody head off……”

He gutsed it out to score 40 of Wangaratta’s winning total of 163.

‘Psycho’ loved his two trips to Melbourne, scoring a couple of important half-centuries and thriving on the lift in standard. He didn’t mind the night-life either. The story he tells against himself possibly sums up his personality:

“We ended up at this night-club and someone talked me into presenting a rose to one of the dancers. I got half-way up on the stage and a bouncer came after me. I headed for the door, with him in pursuit. He followed me out into the street”

“I hid in a nearby construction site for a while, ’til I thought it was safe. I can’t believe it when I think about it, but I walked back into the night-club half an hour later……. !”

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His three brothers played for Buraja, and ‘Psycho’ was 13 when he joined them in the side. They won two flags in his 12 years there – 1982/83 and ’85/’86.

He was a star in the Rutherglen comp and was recognised by Zone selectors when he was invited to captain the North-East’s 1981 U.21 Harvester Cup team. His undefeated 129 at Shepparton was the first century scored by a N.E player in the series.

With 274 runs at 91.32, he had shown the way. But ‘Psycho’ came to the attention of WDCA players a bit later, when he belted 57 out of Rutherglen’s 108 against them in an Ensign Cup final.

His last innings for Buraja was 112 in a Final. The next year he was invited to join the newly-minted Corowa team in the Wangaratta Association.

So with ‘Cyril’, ‘Boofer’, ‘Gull’, ‘Popeye’, ‘Red-Dick’, ‘Whale’, ‘Harry’,’Keenesy’ and later, ‘Stumpy’ and ‘Puppet’, among others, ‘Psycho’ formed part of a developing team which was to dominate the competition .

Because they were all of the same vintage, they gelled perfectly. Outsiders admired how they played with such freedom; contested the game fiercely, yet were the first to knock the top off a stubbie and have a yarn with the opposition at the end of a game.

“We were a pretty social mob,” says ‘Psycho’. “And we drank our fair share of grog on those trips home on Saturday nights. ‘Whale’ and I were lucky we had ‘Gull’ (Rod Gulliver) who didn’t drink, was very patient and must have driven thousands of miles from Daysdale (50 km north of Corowa) over the years.”

Corowa won their maiden WDCA flag in 1987/88, the first of six in succession.

They were an all-powerful, beautifully-balanced side; among the best in WDCA history.

” ‘Boofer'(David Lane) was captain in those years and thought he was in control. He was too, I suppose, but we all played our part. At one stage he instituted a $5 fine if you got out playing the hook shot. I had to fork out a bit for that, ” ‘Psycho’ says.

He lapped up the big occasions and produced some fine batting performances during the eight flags with which he was involved.

One which earned him celebrity status came in the now-infamous clash between Corowa and College in March 1992.

College pacemen Barry McCormick and Ashley Gilbert had blitzed Wangaratta in a one-sided semi-final and were the key weapons for the popular fancies in the ‘big one’ at the Bruck Oval.

They both did well with the bat, as College mustered a tantalising 284 on the first day. Overnight, ‘unknown persons’ had clambered over the fence and used hammers to vandalise the wicket. Play was delayed for some time to enable the ‘track’ to be repaired, but still, Corowa had misgivings about beginning their innings.
When they did, ‘Psycho’ set the game alight. He was dropped on 6, but made the most of his good fortune to belt 16 boundaries and a towering six. The Chronicle report stated that “………Carroll showed all the class and flair that has made him one of the WDCA’s most dangerous batsmen……”

His swashbuckling 153 took his side past their target, and on to 311. College chased quick runs in their second ‘dig’ and left Corowa 131 to win. Another Carroll ‘gem’ , an unbeaten 59, got them there with the loss of a solitary wicket.

‘Psycho’ scored six centuries in his 11 WDCA seasons and his arrival at the crease usually signified that the fireworks were about to begin.

He played his 124th – and last – game in the 1997/98 Grand Final and chalked up his 8th flag, to put the stamp on a glittering WDCA career.

The Carroll football credentials were equally impressive and have earned him eternal recognition as a Corowa-Rutherglen great.

He began with the ‘Roos in 1976, as a 15 year-old, and when he departed in 1990 after 212 games, was renowned as a fearless, tenacious and skilful on-baller. His ability to dodge and weave out of trouble, turn on a ‘threepenny bit’ and use his left boot to advantage, marked him as a danger-man to opposition teams.

His only time away from the John Foord Oval had been to twice travel up to sweltering, humid Darwin, where he spent a couple of summer seasons with Nightcliff.

‘Psycho’s’ dad, Dinny, was a Corowa champion in his day, and a multiple best and fairest winner with the Spiders. He was named on a half forward flank in the combined Corowa and Rutherglen Team of the Century.

The ‘young bloke’ must also also have come under consideration, as he was a five-time runner-up  B & F and had represented the O & M 12 times.

‘Psycho’s’ fairytale footy season arrived in 1991 when he was enticed out to Coreen as captain-coach. He handled the leadership role with ease and played superbly, taking out the League’s Archie Dennis Medal.

And the climax came when he ‘turned it on’ in the opening quarter of the Grand Final, as the Swans took charge and went on to clinch the flag by 34 points.

He returned to help the ‘Roos out after he hung the boots up, and acted as Chairman of Selectors for 3 years.

But a battle with leukaemia has been the focus of his attention over the last seven and a half years, It has done little to dull the good humour and spirit of one of local sport’s greatest characters.