THE GENTLEMAN FAST BOWLER…………

It’s stretching a long bow to suggest that one of cricket’s legendary opening batsmen, Desmond Haynes, was troubled by the pace and venom of Gary Lidgerwood………….

“Hardly,” ‘George’ says, with a grin. “The first time I played against the West Indies at Benalla, he miscued a pull shot and hit it straight up in the air. He was out for a ‘duck’. Then when we met them at the Showgrounds the next year, he tried to belt me over the fence and was bowled – for 1.”

Still, as the years roll on, sporting stories have a knack of ‘growing legs’ and, over a few beers his mates sometimes refer to ‘Dessie’ Haynes as ‘Lidgerwood’s bunny.’
‘George’ laments the absence of those Country XI matches, which used to be an eagerly-anticipated part of International touring teams’ fixtures.

“You grasped the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the greats of the game. Good crowds turned up and there was a buzz around town for weeks beforehand.”
“Unfortunately, there’s not enough room in the schedule these days.”…………

Gary’s regarded as an icon of North-East cricket. A fast bowler who could produce a bit extra on the big occasions – and a personable type who was a fine leader and ideal team-man.

He thrived on competitiveness and camaraderie and – in something that sat well with selectors – made himself available for any representative match that was on the horizon……..
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The tiny hamlet of St.James, perched almost equidistant from Wangaratta, Yarrawonga and Benalla, was the launching-pad for the storied sporting career of Gary Lidgerwood.

When barely a teen-ager, this slightly-built kid, who hailed from a nearby farm, laboured enthusiastically on the  hard wicket and dry terrain of the St.James oval. Gnarled veterans of the Lake Rowan competition nodded sagely, as he made them hurry their shots and withdraw from rearing deliveries.

In winter he lined up on a wing for neighboring Tungamah, and did enough to prompt an approach from O & M club Benalla.

It was 1974; he was travelling in to attend Benalla Tech and saddling up with the Demons’ senior side. A stooped, persuasive old recruiter called Alan Killigrew – one of the most recognisable faces in football – pulled him aside one day and suggested he might consider having a run with North Melbourne Thirds.

That suited. He was heading down to attend Swinburne Tech the next year, so he came under the influence of Raymond Clarence ‘Slug’ Jordan, a coach with a reputation for colourful language and a confrontational approach.

What an experience ! In the time he spent under the brutal ‘Slug’, who, it was claimed, had a tongue like a Chainsaw, he learnt plenty about the rigours of sporting life. But it was a pleasure to be around Arden Street at that time. Barassi’s Northerners were en-route to their first-ever flag.

And, as a lowly Thirds player he was also along for the ride……. At the end of the day, however, Gary deduced that he had a limited future in League footy.

He had, though, considered accepting one of the several approaches he’d received about playing District cricket. Instead, he decided to travel back to play in Benalla each week-end.

He joined Goorambat – perennial BDCA finalists and home club of the Cleary and Trewin clans – sharing the new ‘cherry’ with experienced campaigners John Cleary and Johnny Ashton.

And he became a valuable component of a Benalla football line-up which had been barking at the heels of the flag contenders for a few seasons.

They had been building up to something – and in 1978 it all came together. Under the coaching of local boy Billy Sammon, they chalked up 16 wins on the trot, to secure a Grand Final berth.

The Demons went in as ‘red-hot’ favourites, but were blown away by a Rovers side which dictated terms, almost from the first bounce, to win by 54 points………….
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Gary had played 110 senior games with Benalla -and was a vital member of their rep cricket sides – when he accepted a shift to Wangaratta in 1981, as Manager of Paterson’s Furniture Store.

He threw in his footy lot with Wangaratta, and linked up with City Colts, a club which was making steady progress after years in the WDCA wilderness.

Colts hadn’t played in a finals series in their first 20 years of existence. With Lidgerwood in their ranks they appeared in nine of the next ten.

Younger players grew taller alongside the inspiring fast bowler. In his first season there was immediate success. Colts were defending 116 in the semi-final against powerhouse, United.

Lidgerwood and his bowling partner Bruce Hookey smashed through the United line-up to have them 9/30 at one stage, before finally dismissing them for 76.

Unfortunately, it was Colts’ turn to be humbled in the Grand Final, when they could only muster 52 against Whorouly.

Four years later, they finally broke through for their first – and only – WDCA senior flag. Sneaking into the finals by just 1.1% they squared off against Corowa in the big one.

It was a decisive victory, as Colts responded to a score of 141 with a mammoth 414.

‘George’s’ remarkable consistency in club cricket saw him finish in the top three of the Association’s bowling averages in eight of his first nine seasons. He won the ‘double’, the Chronicle Trophy and Cricketer of the Year Award in 1982/83, with 49 wickets and 381 runs.

His batting style in amassing those 381 runs could simply be described as unorthodox.

Coming in down the list, he would back his eye and tee off with a shot that sent the ball over the field, anywhere from backward point to deep mid-wicket.

Defensive prods were negligible and bowlers who felt they had broken the back of the Colts batting would be frustrated by a flurry of late-order runs.

His second Cricketer of the Year gong came in 1985/86. On the eve of that season, he had played in his only football flag, as a member of Wangaratta’s ‘85 Reserves team.

He’s pretty handy at socialising, is ‘George’. Two years ago he and his old Magpie team-mates gathered together and made a great fist of celebrating the 30-year Anniversary of that Premiership. The flag was all the more memorable because it was the last game of footy he played.

He was just 29 when he hung up the boots, but he reckons it helped to elongate his cricket career.

Back then, in his halcyon days, he had a long, rhythmic run-up. Straight, black hair would flop in the breeze, as a slightly round-arm action propelled the bright red ‘Kookaburra’ at a decidedly slippery and uncomfortable speed.

The ability to bowl a decent out-swinger and a dose of old-fashioned cricket nous made him a formidable opponent.

There was occasional criticism that he needed a touch more mongrel, but ‘George’ replied that he’d rather attack the stumps than than the body. “I preferred not to go head-hunting,” he says.

As his pace began to wane in latter years, he became a dependable ‘stock bowler’, tying up an end with accuracy and subtle variation of pace.

He opened the bowling for Victorian Country in the first-ever National Country titles in Brisbane.

Appearances against New Zealand Under 21’s, the ACT, and those two West Indies sides were part of a bulging CV.

He took 4/50 in the Showgrounds match against the Windies, but hastens to point out that, after he had claimed his fourth victim, opposition captain Richie Richardson proceeded to take 22 runs off his next over.

“He told me I’d bowled one over too many.”

‘George’ played 250 games for City Colts, and took 600 wickets. He was a key player in 14 Melbourne Country Week trips as a player, and was captain in eight of these.

He also figured in eight North-East Cup victories.

When he finally left the playing-field he Managed the Country Week side for several years, then had a five-year stint as President of the WDCA.

It was the least he could do, he said, to repay the debt he owed to cricket…………………

THE UNFLAPPABLE MICK LAPPIN

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……..


 

‘DEANO’ – THE MASTER OF DEFENCE

Many uncomplimentary barbs have been hurled in the direction of Ian Dinsdale during the course of his marathon, 48-year cricket innings.

‘Deano’ cops them all with good grace. Making runs has been his ‘go’ and it has never really fussed him to hear people scoff at his unorthodox batting style. He just puts his head down and tries harder.

It has stood him in good stead. Over the years, the best and fiercest bowlers in the area have attacked that resolute defence. He has treated them all with suspicion and met them with a broad bat which resembles a barn door. A back-lift, which is minimal to say the least, offers scant chance of the ball sneaking through.

To describe ‘Deano’s’ technique in any detail is difficult. Most strokes are of his own invention and fancy footwork is not part of his repertoire.

Folklore has it that he played a rash shot about 30 years ago and made a pact with himself that it wouldn’t happen again !

He is cricket’s great survivor……….

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I suggested to him that kids in junior cricket must have regarded him as a pest. “Didn’t play”, he said, explaining that he grew up on a farm near the Three Chain Road and getting to junior matches was a trifle difficult.

Instead, he belted a ball against the back wall of the house, incessantly. And coaxed his father, Jim, to bowl over after over to him. ‘”Dad played with Lake, in the Rutherglen Association and I tagged along,” he says.

The inevitable happened ; they were short one day. 12 year-old ‘Deano’ came in at number 11 and held up an end for quite a while.

He liked the feel of it. A run-machine was born.

It’s a pity there’s not a calculator handy, as we start to tote up the number of games that this cricket nut has played. We arrive at a figure of over a thousand – and that’s being conservative.

He has held centre-stage on grounds all over the North-East, central Victoria, the metropolitan area and even overseas, utilising his trademark assets – concentration, determination and the eye of an eagle – to drive irritated bowlers to distraction.

The clubs of ‘Deano’s’ youth were Lake, Chiltern, West End (WSCA) and Tarrawingee.

He had already become the ‘face’ of Sunday Association team, Springhurst, and was in his early 20’s, when the WDCA relaxed eligibility rules, which allowed him to play in both competitions. He joined WDCA club Bruck and so began his irrevocable link with the two clubs.

Springhurst joined the Sunday comp in 1974. ‘Deano’ opened the batting and bowled plenty of overs. He could swing the ball both ways, which earned him plenty of wickets, even though he bowled at such a pedestrian pace that the top batsmen had plenty of time to check their shots.

His team batted around him and his early dismissal was a celebration for the opposition. He won 7 Chronicle Trophies. The last of them came in 2002/03, his 28th season with Springhurst and the final year of the WSCA.

It was  Springhurst’s fourth successive appearance in a Grand Final and they were chasing a hat-trick of flags. The fact that they were defeated by Tarrawingee in a tight game was met with a shrug by ‘Deano’, who was playing his 418th – and final – game with his beloved home club.

He joined Bruck in 1979, along with his mate – and neighbor from a nearby farm – Russell Robbins. After a couple of years at the tail of the ladder there was considerable improvement and in 1983/84, Bruck took out their first WDCA flag in 21 years.

It was a trademark ‘Deano’ performance in the ‘big one’. Whorouly were dismissed for 165, a target which can sometimes prove tantalising in finals. Bruck lost three early wickets. Nerves set in…..

“…..A solid Ian Dinsdale-Russell Wood partnership set up the victory. Dinsdale batted cautiously and ensured the side consolidated. He made a valuable 50 before he was caught behind……..” was the ‘Chronicle’s’ summary of his innings. Bruck passed the Whorouly total for the loss of six wickets.

It was another 19 years before they tasted premiership success – in 2002/03. ‘Deano’ was the sole link with the bygone days, as a new group of players proceeded to lead the club to 5 flags in 11 years.

The WDCA selectors came to the realisation that this fellow – depicted as a painstaking, dour, overly-patient opening bat, who valued his wicket – had something to contribute at representative level. Additionally, he was the safest of safe slips fielders.

He became a regular member of the North-East Cup team and played in 4 winning title teams. His first trip to Melbourne Country Week was in 1984. Two years later, he enjoyed a dream week, with scores of 65, then 107 against Horsham. He followed this up with 81 the next day.

He had earned the respect of every cricket follower. Only 17 individual players have scored centuries since the WDCA started playing at Melbourne Country Week. Hundreds have tried.

It’s important to keep your wickets intact early in Melbourne, to pave the way for the lower order. ‘Deano’ proved ideal in this role in his 10 trips to the ‘big smoke’ ( 8 with the WDCA, 2 with the WSCA).

He was equally at home at Bendigo, where his performances over 20 Carnivals (9 WDCA , 11 WSCA) earned him induction to their Country Week Hall of Fame.

He was a stalwart of the Sunday competition in the ‘Golden City’, and in 2001 his scores of 86, 57, 80,63 and 73 were a significant reason for their title-win. An innings of 119 two years later, capped his final trip to Bendigo.

He has played in 10 Masters Festivals at Cobram-Barooga and twice headed to England as a member of the Australian Wattle Sprigs touring team.

Most of his old adversaries have long since ‘gone out to pasture’, but vividly recall the arduous task they faced in removing the bloke they once called ‘The Rock’.

Gary Lidgerwood, who played against him and was his representative captain, said bowlers would think they were on top of ‘Deano’, when he was in his vigilant mood.

“They would become agitated and try to bounce him out. Taking advantage of his baseball background, he would just lean back and square-cut and hook and escalate the run-rate. The quicker they bowled to him, the further he hit them.”

“The other thing that endeared him to us was that he always made himself available for selection. He has a passion for cricket.”

It’s a credit to him that, nudging 61, he’s still seeing the ball well enough to be a consistent run-getter in the WDCA’s B-Grade. He stepped down from the top level in the mid-2000’s and played his 400th game with Bruck towards the end of last season.

His 285  A-Grade games included four centuries – the first and last of them 22 years apart.

When the new entity – Rovers-United-Bruck – was formed this season, ‘Deano’ handled the transition with ease.

“I still love playing and practicing and enjoy the company of the young fellas”, he says.

So the ‘Rock’ continues to roll on.  With his cricket career showing no signs of ending, and after 41 years of baseball with Tarrawingee, Saints and Rangers, he has found a new passion – Golf- which he plays a couple of times a week.

‘Deano’ has never had much of an eye for stats. I suggest to him that his total of games will never be matched in local cricket and that his tally of runs must be nudging 25 thousand.

“Got no idea”, he says.

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