“THE MARATHON CAREER OF THE ENIGMATIC ‘BOUNCER’ McCORMICK……….”

The seeds of this story were sown around 10 months ago……….

“Where’s ‘Bouncer’ these days ?,” I quizzed a few of his old cricket contemporaries……..”Dunno…..Last we heard of him he headed over to play in England about 25 years back……Hasn’t been sighted since……”

So I search Facebook, spot a face that looks pretty familiar, and shoot off a Message…….

Nine months later – after I’d almost given up on him- comes the response: “Hi, hope you’re well. Look forward to hearing from you…..”

We arrange to have a yarn……and retrace the colourful, eventful and at times, controversial career of Barry McCormick…………

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He was a rusty-haired kid of 13-14, playing Saturday morning Junior cricket with Rovers, when we first crossed paths.

Of an afternoon he’d ride down to the A-Grade game, mingle with the players, check out their gear, roll his arm over in the nets, tuck into the afternoon-tea, and often watch from the scoreboard, on the far side of the W.J. Findlay Oval…….

He had no family background in cricket to speak of; just dreamt of being a terrorising fast bowler and whirlwind batsman.

“There was a quickie playing for Rovers called Rod Davis……. I loved watching him bowl…… just liked the way he ran in……..kept banging it in all day……. he was so competitive,” Barry recalls.

“He was the bowler I wanted to be……and Duane Kerwin was the all-rounder I liked……I’d always pick up the paper on a Monday, and check his stats for the week-end……..”

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Rather than striving to play A-Grade cricket alongside his idol Davis in the ensuing couple of seasons, ‘Bouncer’ preferred to puddle around in the Rovers’ ‘two’s’. I suspected a distinct lack of self-confidence, but he disagrees:

“I didn’t relish the likelihood of fielding all day, and missing out on a regular hit or a bowl. They were well settled…..I was happy playing B-Grade.”

….Until, that is, someone talked him into moving over to College ( a relatively new team ), at the age of 17.

His week-ends were totally absorbed with cricket…….Besides being involved in the WDCA, he’d been playing with Woollen Mills in the Sunday competition, before one of the College boys convinced him to switch to Moyhu.

He was also working at the Indoor Cricket Centre at this stage, and would send down, on average, 100 balls a night : “In the space of 12-18 months I went from being an ordinary junior player, to someone who could bowl a bit…….” he says.

Selection in Wangaratta’s 1991 Melbourne and Bendigo Country Week teams followed, such was the rate of his improvement.

The lift in standard provided a rugged initiation for the enigmatic speedster. Central Gippsland’s openers belted 34 runs off his initial two over-spell at Waverley.

The following year, though, he was Wangaratta’s Cricketer of the Week at Bendigo ( with 16 wickets and 134 runs ), and snagged a couple of handy wicket-hauls at Melbourne.

He notched up his first WDCA ‘ton’ (111 against Rovers-United), amassed 420 runs and took 40 wickets in 1991/92. ‘Bouncer’ was now classified as a ‘ridgy-didge’ all-rounder.

Perhaps the greatest fillip to his burgeoning career came during a ‘Foster’s Cup’ game at the Gardens Oval, between Wangaratta and Benalla, in which Dean Jones, Jamie Siddons and Merv Hughes appeared, as guest players.

“They held a fast-bowling competition that day …….I got clocked at 148kph…..They told me I lost 4-5kph because I was bowling bit short of a length……I suppose when you see a young bloke who can bowl 93 miles an hour the word spreads around……..”

“Ron Rooney (the VIS coach) approached me about having a run with North Melbourne the following year………….”

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In the meantime, College had become the glamour team of Wangaratta cricket, as they pushed for a finals spot in 1991/92.

They’d been wooden-spooners for the previous five seasons, but surged dramatically to finish as minor premiers. Among their list of recruits was a future Sheffield Shield player, lanky fast-medium bowler Ashley Gilbert, who had the knack of being able to get the ball to ‘kick’ from a decent length.

He’d arrived in town from Leongatha to work in the National Bank, and, after being coaxed into having a run, played a couple of C-Grade games before College realised they had a star on their hands.

He and McCormick formed a lethal new-ball combination.

Gilbert ( 4/21 ) and McCormick ( 3/30 ) wrecked Magpies in the Semi-Final, as College sailed to a six-wicket win.

They were also responsible for guiding their side into a tidy position after Day 1 of the Final against all-powerful Corowa, with McCormick (54) and Gilbert (59*) top-scoring in a highly-competitive 284.

There was a sensational development that evening, when vandals broke into the padlocked Bruck Oval and took to the wicket with hammers.

Corowa had misgivings about beginning their innings the next morning, but after a heated debate, were persuaded to ‘play on’. It was Corowa’s swashbuckling right-hander, Anthony ‘Psycho’ Carroll who turned the game on its ear with a brutal knock of 153.

Ironically, in the opening McCormick over, Carroll slashed at one outside the off-stump before he had scored. The chance was grassed by first-slipper Gilbert. ‘Psycho’, never one to let a gift horse in the mouth, careered away and helped his side to a total of 311 – and ultimate victory.

After a wayward early spell, which some suspected could have been due to an evening of over-imbibing, ‘Bouncer’ fought back to finish with 5/75 off 24.3 overs…………….

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His District debut with North Melbourne early the following season, set tongues wagging.

Bowling with enthusiasm and venom, he captured 5/47, to help dismiss a highly-touted Footscray line-up for 147.

Things happened quickly…….After impressing in just 10 senior games with the ‘Roos he received an urgent phone call to fly to Adelaide, to represent the Australian Cricket Academy in a match against South Australia.

“It was a mind-boggling experience for a raw young fellah like me……Here I am sitting around listening to Rod Marsh (the coach) and Dennis Lillee explaining what’s required to become a pro-cricketer …… and playing alongside Jimmy Maher, Jason Arnberger, Murray Goodwin and the like…… especially on the Adelaide Oval,” he says.

He’d no sooner returned home when he gained selection in a Victorian Second XI game against New South Wales.

There’s no doubt that ‘Bouncer’ was coming under notice…..and not just for his pace bowling. He batted at number 3 on the odd occasion, and scored 3 fifties, with a top-score of 80……”They encouraged me to play my shots,” he says.

He first fell foul of officialdom in a match against Fitzroy/Doncaster…..I’ll let him describe the circumstances…..

“I was bowling to Simon Helmut….The first ball I sent down, he hit straight over my head for 6……It hit the top of the pine trees which skirted the ground. He sauntered down the wicket and made some smart remark, like: ‘You’ll need your passport to get that back’…..”

“The next ball I pitched up…….he drove it straight back at me and I caught it…..In the same motion, I threw it straight back at him…and hit him.”

“That wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did on a cricket field…..It cost me a three-match suspension……I remember Victorian coach John Scholes walking around and having a chat to me whilst I was fielding on the boundary…..He well and truly told me what he thought of it……..”

Barry played 26 games with North, and is grateful for the opportunities they gave him.

“They were really good to me……It was probably my own stupidity that derailed me,” he says.

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In a strange quirk of Wangaratta’s Sunday cricket rules, Barry was qualified to return from District cricket to play in ‘92/‘93, when Moyhu triumphed over West End, in a tight, rain-affected Grand Final.

The following season, however, he parted ways with the WSCA, after being rubbed out for smashing his stumps in a match against South Wangaratta.

It coincided with him deciding to take up an offer to play with English club Altofts, in the Central Yorkshire League.

He captured 180 wickets in all competitions in his two years there, before moving on to play a season – and win a League title – with East Bierley, in Division 1 of the Bradford League.

“I remember my first League game……..the openers weren’t wearing helmets……You should have seen the blokes scurrying around for their helmets after my first couple of deliveries…..”

“If you were playing away from home and the opposition knew they had to contend with someone with a bit of pace, they used to produce a real pudding of a wicket….”

Barry and his daughter Jessica, now also a budding cricketer

“I did return to Australia during two off-seasons in the late-nineties, to captain-coach Carrum Downs, in the Mornington Peninsula. We won promotion to Second Division, and played off in a Grand Final.”

“But when I moved to a club called Alwoodley, in Leeds, I met my wife Vanessa, and sort of settled down.”

In one of his seasons at Alwoodley, Barry took 50-odd wickets and, among several big scores, made 204* in a League match.

He captained Leeds club Green Lane, in the Airedale & Wharfedale League, for several seasons, after moving from Guiseley in the same competition.

One of the numerous outstanding performances he produced with Guiseley was a phenomenal 211* from 130 balls ( 18 fours and 15 sixes ), which shattered the League record he’d set three years earlier.

“But I just wanted to go back and play with a team in the Bradford League. I joined Wrenthorpe from 2007-‘13…….the best team I’ve been involved with over here.”

“They had a private sponsor who chipped in a sunstantial amount of money……and boasted some big names who’d played first-class cricket…..Ex-England player Craig White was one of my team-mates.”

Barry was nudging his mid-forties when he headed back to Alwoodley – the home club of his wife family – for three seasons.

Then he received an offer to play with rival team Calverley St.Wilfrid’s. “It’s a bit harder to fit things in, the last couple of years, as I’m working flat out from Monday to Friday. I’m still a registered player with them…….despite my aching back and arthritic knees,” he says.

“When I first came over here I’d regularly bowl 25 overs from one end, and sometimes play three times a week………They’d say: ‘We haven’t brought you all the way over here to sit on your arse’…..They certainly got their money’s worth…….”

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Barry combined a variety of jobs (including being a casino croupier ) with his cricket. He now works in Logistics with a major Transport company, and likes the way of life in Leeds, a city of just on 500,000.

He recommends a year or two in England to any young cricketer who wants to further his game, and learn to adapt to different conditions.

“I certainly wouldn’t change much about my cricket career – other than training a bit harder…..even though I probably didn’t live up to what people expected of me…………