FROM ARARAT……. AND BEYOND

Ararat, the ‘Golden Gateway to the Grampians’, is the birthplace of Olympic sprint cyclist Sean Kelly, ‘Bush Bradman’ Henry Gunstone, and the old Collingwood heroes Barry Price and Rene Kink.

Kink was later dubbed the ‘Incredible Hulk’ in a colourful journey as a footballer, hairdresser and fleeting film star. He was in his last year of Ararat cricket before seeking wider horizons, when a feisty youngster, Duane Kerwin began to make his way through junior ranks.

The Kerwin story is that of a sporting journeyman who found recognition on the other side of the state as a champion cricketer – one whose feats place him among the greats of the game in Wangaratta.

He first landed here as a 20 year-old in 1985, transferred in employment by the National Bank, but with a reputation that preceded him as a capable all-round sportsman. He had already made his mark in Grampians and Hamilton cricket and early evidence was that of a super-competitive player.

He had a season with College, which included a century and 24 wickets, and proved to be a footballer of promise in  Wangaratta’s Reserves premiership side………….

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But a football odyssey to the far north saw ‘Kerwy’ spend successive footy seasons in Brisbane and Cairns.

He played under former Wangaratta Rovers and North Melbourne legend Mick Nolan, at QAFL club Mayne, and then spent a gruelling season with North Cairns, during which he represented North Queensland.

It was an idyllic lifestyle. To all intents and purposes Wangaratta had seen the last of the nuggety sporting all-rounder.

Fate intervened. His acceptance of an invitation to the wedding of his mate ‘Chimpy’ Lockyer saw him lob back in Wangaratta and yield to the pressure of the Magpies, who urged him to stay.

What a far-reaching decision !

He enjoyed a dream season as an in-and-under onballer, won Wang’s Best and Fairest, and represented the Ovens and Murray League the following year.

However, the first of a number of shoulder dislocations  eventually prompted a ‘reco’ and ended his career with the ‘Pies.

When he had returned to full fitness, he headed out to Greta  as assistant-coach to Peter Mulrooney, then Rod Canny.

‘Kerwy’s’ four seasons  with the Blues included  three Best and Fairests and and a starring role in a dramatic 1993 premiership triumph, against the odds, over the unbackable Chiltern.

But niggling shoulder and knee injuries eventually forced him out of the game and prompted him to concentrate his energies on cricket.

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He had given Wangaratta Cricket Club a huge lift when he joined them on his return from Queensland.

But it wasn’t until he formed an opening liason with Rick Lawford after being there for a few years, that the cricket public sat up and took notice. Their stand of 228 against Whorouly in 1991/92 was followed by 170 against Bruck the next week.

Finally ‘Kerwy’ had won respect as a more than capable player.

This breakout season saw him make 548 runs and take 36 wickets, as he cleaned up several Association honours. He was a busy right-arm bowler who could vary his pace with great success.

His ability to use the new ball and also come on as a change bowler and occasional ‘offie’, was an added facet to his game. Able to shuffle down the batting order, from 1 to 9, he could play with studied responsibility or recklessly wield the willow.

He did the latter with great effect in an Ensign Cup game at the Bruck Oval, in an innings of 144 in 123 minutes, against Euroa.

‘Kerwy’ was the WDCA’s Cricketer of the Year on 6 occasions and won 7 Chronicle Trophies. He won 2 Bowling Averages, was runner-up twice and took out the Batting Average in 1999/2000.

Ample proof, indeed, that he was among the competition’s best-performed and most consistent-ever club cricketers.

In 1996, he and good mate Ian Rundell took a cricketing holiday to England. ‘Kerwy’ had arranged to play at an attractive Cumbrian town named Cockermouth. He made a huge impression, with the highlight being representation for his league against the might of Yorkshire.

In a summary of the season, the ‘Cockermouth Post’ reported: “…. Everyone will be well aware of the phenomenal all-round contribution made to the cause by the Australian Duane Kerwin, who scored over 1000 runs and took 86 wickets. It is not surprising that several North Lancashire clubs are keen to recruit him if he does return to England next year….”.

But ‘Kerwy’ and ‘Knackers’ headed home, richer for the experience and eager to snare another premiership with the now-merged Wangaratta-Magpies.

They had to wait until 2000/01 to inflict defeat on the powerful Corowa, but they reckoned that sharing that flag was more than all the individual honours that had come their way. Both of his WDCA flags ( the other was in 1993/94) came at the expense of the Roos .

Kerwin relished the step up to representative cricket. He had nine trips to Melbourne (two as captain) and seven to Bendigo and was an automatic selection in Wangaratta’s Ensign Cup team.

As a four-time ‘Rep’ Cricketer of the Year, he was at home against the best from the bush. But he met his match in an Ensign Cup match against arch rivals Albury & Border, when opposed to West Indies batsman, Clayton Lambert.

A typically  ‘cool’ left-hander, Lambert smashed ‘Kerwy’s’ first couple of balls over his head. “After this I thought, why not try going around the wicket “, he said. “I’ve never forgotten Lambert’s reply to the umpire “. “Good”, he said in his deep Caribbean voice. “I knew then that I had my work cut out! “

His 212 WDCA matches yielded 5461 runs ( including 7 centuries) and 528 wickets. His career-best bowling figures (14/53) were obtained against Beechworth in 1996/97, among the 61 victims that he claimed that year.

‘Kerwy’ had also been a proven performer in Sunday cricket for many years, playing with a group of mates, for Royal Vic Cricket Club. The two WSCA Chronicle Trophies he won sat nicely alongside the  7 WDCA awards he received.

It was a shock in cricketing circles when the reigning Cricketer of the Year and representative captain declared that he had lost the battle with his body and could not go on. So, in 2004, he turned his back on cricket.

He returned  for a brief period as coach of Bruck and enjoyed imparting his vast knowledge of the game to willing youngsters.

The golf course provides an outlet for his highly-tuned competitive juices these days. He plays off single figures , in between following his kids’ sporting pursuits.

There was little doubt that ‘Kerwy’ extracted the maximum out of the sporting ability with which he was endowed.

That was the secret of his success.