‘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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FATHER-TIME NAILS ANOTHER SPORTING ICON.

Another local icon has been cast onto the sporting scrap-heap.

I called in to pay my last respects the other day. Just as you would stumble across the uncared-for funeral plot of a long-lost relative, it looked dishevelled and unloved ; hardly bearing testimony to the  good times it had enjoyed throughout its 69 years.

The Bruck Cricket Ground is no more. The kindest description of its demise would be that it’s a victim of progress.

You could hardly define the old girl as an Oval ; more like a gently sloping paddock with a ring of trees skirting its perimeter. In fact it was the trees, of various denominations, which gave the ground its character.

I looked across from the now-dilapidated pavilion and had visions of a scorching summer’s day, the last of the spring grass having dried, when a sedately-played shot, or a tentative nick, would scoot past the slips cordon and gather pace as it ran down the hill, towards the boundary……..

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Bruck Textiles set up in Wangaratta in 1946, just in time for the re-formation of the WDCA after the hostilities of war.IMG_0820

There were a couple of keen cricketers among the newcomers, including a suave, moustachioed, Managing Director, Stanley Messenger Arms, who agreed that it would be an excellent idea to have a team comprised of Bruck workers, playing in the local comp.

That’s when the real estate was set aside for a new ground.

Stan Arms was a cricketer of modest talent, but a man of influence, and had a genuine love of the game. In time he acceded to the Presidency of the Association and ensured that the town’s most prominent industry provide the funds to keep their cricket team viable.

The turf pitch was laid in 1952 and a state-of-the-art ride-on roller was on hand for the curator, who received a healthy stipend from the company.

And when the tidy little English village-style ‘dressing room /afternoon-tea room’ was installed, it was named the S.M.Arms Pavilion.

Alongside it was a small white construction on stilts, with louvred pull-down shutters, which housed the scorers.

This was the domain of Bruck’s scorer – Mrs.Beeby – who reigned supreme. Her lilting Pommie voice would lift a few decibels if the opposition scorer had the temerity to infer that her books mightn’t balance.

Come to think of it, scorers in those days provided something of a side-show to the action on the field. There were a few dominant personalities wielding the pen and they weren’t short of offering advice on field alterations and bowling changes, in robust language, to their team’s skipper.

Mrs. Beeby was no exception.

Her son Jack was naturally her favourite player. Short, and of stocky build, he worked up a decent head of steam and always operated from the Highway-end at Bruck. On a good day he could be quite fearsome.

Long strands ofIMG_0821 hair were combed over Jack’s balding pate. They would flop around as he charged in to the wicket and be re-arranged on the return to his bowling mark.

Max Bussell, who achieved hero status when he took 8/23 in a Country Week final against Shepparton in 1954, claimed that it was Beeby, operating from the other end, who set up the carnage.

He reckoned that Jack’s spell that day was the quickest he ever saw at Country Week.

Bob Hutchieson, now 91, was a member of the inaugural, post-war team and thinks he is the only survivor. He can remember the excitement when Bruck clinched  its first WDCA premiership in 1953/54. A capable all-rounder, Bob played his part, but says it was a masterful, unbeaten 135 from Mac Holten that guided them home.

Holten, Wangaratta’s highest-profile sportsman at the time, was appointed ‘Sporting Director’ by the textile company. The main specifics of that role would have been to coach the cricket team – and make plenty of runs.

He also kept an eye on Rayonaires, another Bruck team, which was  formed in 1954 but disbanded four years later. ( Incidentally, Rayonaires was also the name of the Mill baseball team that played at the ground for several years.)

Bruck had a few influential officials, who formed the power-base of local cricket in the fifties. Chief among these was Alf Kendall, a tall, statesman-like Englishman, who succeeded his boss Stan Arms as WDCA President.

Alf had been one of the originals of the Bruck team and was a starchy, conformist type who sometimes clashed with some of the more free-wheeling blokes from other teams.

He had a love-hate relationship with Wangaratta’s ‘Mr.Cricket’ Clem Fisher, and it came to a head when heavy rain fell over the Labour Day week-end of 1958.

The WDCA elected to transfer the second day’s play of the semi-finals to concrete pitches. Fisher accused Kendall of helping to engineer the venue-change so that Bruck wouldn’t lose the chance of entering the final.

Kendall and Secretary Bernie Morris ( also a Bruck man) were indignant, claiming that Fisher’s remarks were a ‘despicable insult’.

The club’s second flag came in 1962/63 under the coaching of Graeme Leydin, who had been poached from Rovers. Leydin, a former North Melbourne cricketer and Essendon footballer, enjoyed a memorable season with the bat.

But, as the years wore on there were to be more downs than ups, as player-interest dwindled and the input of the parent company lessened.

It led to their withdrawal from the WDCA for a while, and left the Bruck Sunday Association team as the sole occupier of the Ground.

After their re-formation in 1978/79 the club returned as a power in the eighties. They snavelled another flag in 1983/84, with players of the calibre of Russell Wood, Brian Fisher, Doug Cruickshank and Ian Dinsdale forming their nucleus.

‘Deano’ undoubtedly played more innings on the Bruck wicket than anyone else. A prolific accumulator of runs, with an almost impenetrable defence and a bat that sometimes resembled a barn door, he has spanned four decades and still soldiers on.

The modern era saw the club chalk up five flags in thirteen years and boasted an assembly-line of stars, such as Jon Hyde, Mark Higgs, Jeremy Wilson, Tim Wood, Craig Startin and the inimitable Darren Petersen.

The Bruck ground played host to just the one WDCA Final in its long history – the 1991/92 encounter between Corowa and College.

College, the underdog and sentimental favourite, did well to compile 284 on the first day. But that evening vandals scaled the high-wire fence and took to the wicket with hammers.

Despite misgivings about the state of the ‘track’, play eventually proceeded with minimal discomfort. In a match which produced 883 runs, the highlight was the twin knocks of 153 and 59* from Anthony ‘Psycho’ Carroll, who guided Corowa to their fifth straight flag.

Ah, the memories !……

I can recall play being halted for what seemed like five minutes ( but was probably only a minute and a half) every time a goods train would chuff past and interrupt the batsman’s eye-line……

And another indeterminate delay when you’d have to retrieve a ball which had been belted over the wire fence, into the pile of briquettes……

It could be a batsman’s paradise, as the stylist, Graeme Leydin, proved when he scored a double-century against Combined Schools in 1963…..

Or when Whorouly’s punishing right-hander Ian Nicoll ( later to play on a wing for Carlton ) scored 205* and helped put on 302 for the fifth-wicket with his uncle Lex, in the final round of 1964/65…..

I suppose if I was to portray a snapshot of cricket at Bruck through the ages it would be of that indefatigable, misIMG_0822erly medium-pacer Brian Fisher trundling up the mound from the Sisely Avenue end and attempting to penetrate the defence of the dour, the ‘unbowlable’ , Ian Dinsdale.

Would that be enough to stir the ghosts camped under the shade of the old peppercorn trees ?……….IMG_0823