“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…………

“THE ARTISTIC SPINNER……….”

My Dad was no slouch as an off-spinner in WDCA cricket……..

He took hundreds of wickets, in a thirty-year-plus career, with a combination of variety, cunning and competitiveness.

But, long after his retirement, when we’d throw up the names of the competition’s spin-bowling greats, he was adamant.

None of them, he said, could hold a candle to Jock Thomlinson……..

I was just a whippersnapper when I first saw Jock mesmerising local batsmen. Standing about 6’4”, he would compulsively hitch his cream cricket strides above the waist, lick his fingers, take a leisurely 6-7 paces to the crease, and wheel down his orthodox left-arm spinners with an effortless action.

He was a larger-than-life character who made a huge impact on local sport – and life in general – during his 14 years in Wangaratta.

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Joseph Richard Thomlinson was Jock’s full ‘handle’. He was born and bred in Bendigo and displayed no real fascination for sport as a young fellah.

Somewhat against his wishes, and having never played cricket, he fronted up to a school match with Gravel Hill Primary, and was asked what he did: “I open the batting and bowling and field in slips,” was the chirpy reply.

Thus, on the strength of a couple of good deliveries which managed to hit the pitch and turn, duly impressing those in charge, a career was launched.

He also gravitated to Baseball whilst completing his secondary education at the Mines School in Bendigo, Because there was no organised football competition during the war years, the nearby American Army Base provided the opportunity to play the game that the Yanks boast ‘was made in heaven’…..

When he moved to Melbourne to further his studies he was invited to play cricket and baseball with the M.C.C, but wasn’t totally enamoured with the ‘elitist’ atmosphere at the famous old club.

He once recalled: “I wore a light blue tie. The fellows would come up to introduce themselves, and say: ‘Oh, Geelong Grammar ?’ “I would shake their hands and reply: ‘No, Bendigo Tech……How are you ? “

After three years, during which he’d graduated from the Thirds to the Second XI, he had come to the conclusion that the MCC wasn’t really his ‘cup of tea’.

He was teaching at Maryborough when North Melbourne Cricket Club invited him to try out. In the meantime, fortuitously, he was transferred to South Melbourne Tech……….

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Jock found playing and training in the shadow of the Old Gasometer much more ‘up his alley’. He spent a touch over three years ( playing 33 First XI games ) as the Kangaroos’ frontline spinner and, with his outgoing nature, cultivated friendships which lasted a lifetime.

He’d moved to Wang in late 1951, when he received a teaching promotion to the local Technical College, but had continued to travel back to play with North for the best part of another season.

His love for the game had prospered and he was now a well-rounded player. He quickly immersed himself into life in his new home town.

His arrival had coincided with that of a young Art teacher, Stuart Devlin, who was later to achieve fame as the designer of Australia’s first decimal coinage – and coins for nations around the world.

The pair became firm friends, and together, mapped out the Tertiary Art Courses which would complement Wang Tech’s existing program. Both possessed an individualistic flair, which resonated with their students.

Not only that, they became team-mates at Glenrowan Football Club ( it is said that Jock’s lanky, graceless frame was rarely airborn ), played in the same Basketball side, and were key components of leading Baseball club, Dodgers.

Thomlinson, who utilised the same gift that he did in cricket – of being able to make the ball ‘talk’ – was the team’s pitcher; Devlin was his Catcher.

Baseball was a popular sport in Wangaratta in the fifties, and Jock’s importance to Dodgers was emphasised when he mentioned, before one season, that he’d probably have to rule himself out. He had too much work in front of him, he stressed, on the house he and his wife Gloria were building in Medowra Avenue.

Still unsure whether they were being ‘conned’, his team-mates rolled up to several week-end working-bees – at the culmination of which their star pitcher agreed that he’d be right to play…….

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Jock began his WDCA career with Rovers, spent a couple of years with Wangaratta ( whom he helped to a Premiership in 1956/57) , then was a key figure in the formation of new club, Combined Schools the following season.

Schools were a mix of Teachers and Students, and took no time to become a power in the competition.

Their debut also heralded a stand-out season for Thomlinson. He snared 120 wickets in all grades, including a North-East Cup record 17 in a match against Upper Murray, at Corryong.

His figures – 10/52 and 7/33 – remain a NEDCCC record.

If local followers needed any further convincing of his talent, they saw it when he weaved a web around the cream of South Australia’s Sheffield Shield batting talent in January 1958.

The Croweaters played a North-East XI at the Showgrounds, and included stroke-makers of the calibre of Colin Pinch ( fresh from twin centuries against Victoria), Neil Dansie, Les Favell and Gavin Stevens in their line-up.

They were dismissed for 150, with Thomlinson (5/58) and Stan Trebilcock ( 3/55 ) sharing the spoils. The local side replied with 192, but much of the praise from the visitors was lavished on the athletically-challenged left-armer.

The following season, the visiting Englishmen, captained by Peter May, met a Victorian Country XI at the Showgrounds, eliciting much excitement and anticipation, preceded by the opening of a flash new Grandstand.

The Poms spoilt the party when they crashed through the locals for a paltry 31, with pacemen Peter Loader, Freddie Trueman and spinner Jim Laker doing the damage.

Amidst the batting carnage that followed, Thomlinson was able to maintain his equilibrium, with figures of 3/60, including the scalps of left-hander Willie Watson, Raman Subba Row and Trueman.

Jock was a regular ‘50-wicket a year’ man in Club matches, and a two-time winner of the bowling average, but his ‘dream-season’ came in 1960/61.

Earlier, he had played against a Victorian XI at Wangaratta, and enjoyed a fruitful time in North-East Cup matches, including one haul of 8/69 against Wang’s arch rivals, Benalla.

He also guided Combined Schools into their first WDCA Grand Final, in what was to prove a memorable encounter.

They collapsed for 72 in their first innings, with only Gerry Rowe (44) providing any resistance to Magpies’ leg-spinner John Mulrooney. When the Pies replied with 139 the flag was within their grasp.

But Schools, with Rowe contributing another 60, raced to 7/234 in their second ‘dig’, setting Magpies a target of 166 to clinch the game.

It proved a dramatic finale’, under leaden skies, with time entering into the equation. A young left-arm speedster Robin Kneebone piloted Schools to victory. His 4/41 gave him 10 ‘scalps’ for the game and ensured that they got home by 13 runs.

Amidst the premiership celebrations, Thomlinson remained the most sober member of the Schools’ camp. He’d been coping with a painful health condition during the game, which necessitated him spending long absences from the field.

But it had been a significant achievement to lead his side to their first title after four years in the competition…………

The following season they were unbeaten – 10 points clear – going into the finals, but bowed out to new team United in the Semi-Final.

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In 1961/62, 14 year-old Greg Rosser, was one of a batch of talented kids to make their way into the Schools line-up under the watchful eye of Thomlinson and his senior team-mates.

“Jock was a great leader, good cricket thinker, and always up and about……” Greg recalls.

“He caused problems with his flight and drift. One delivery might come through without deviating…….the next would turn sharply……His height enabled him to get deceptive bounce….It was an education to see him work a batsman over…..”

“He was bowling to a kid ( about 17…..his name slips me at the moment ) who had the impudence to drive him through the covers off three successive balls……..Jock sidled up to me, with a smile creasing on his face: ‘Greg, will you go up and tell this young fellah who I am !’…….”

Thomlinson enthusiastically embraced the concept of the WDCA electing to send a team to Bendigo for the first time in January 1962. It comprised a smattering of ‘old heads’, with the remainder of the side made up of youngsters.

It provided the opportunity to blood promising kids under Country Week conditions. Jock captained the side for the first two years.

In his final WDCA game – the 1964/65 Semi-Final, he captured 6/89 against eventual premiers United. His departure to take over as Principal of Bairnsdale Technical School, left a hole in local cricket……..Within three years Combined Schools, the team he had helped form eight years prior, were forced into recess……..

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One of the stories that best illustrates Jock Thomlinson, the sportsman and educator, pertains to Lorna Chick, a Wangandary resident and farmer’s wife, whose interest in an Art appreciation course had been piqued after she’d originally studied book-keeping and jam-making at Dookie College. This led to her two sons, Marcus and Louis, entertaining a desire to follow suit.

The only place in the area that ran an Art course was the Wangaratta Tech School. Lorna later recounted that, as she sat in her car whilst her boys were being taught, Jock came out and invited her to come inside and participate; an idea she hadn’t considered.

He did little more than show Lorna how to mix and apply paint to canvas, but later wrote of her ‘unique perception and understanding of her compositions, which were underpinned by a strong determination and interest in technique.’

Her work, which largely depicts the agricultural landscape of the North-East, led to her international standing as an ‘iconic naive painter.’

The paintings of Lorna Chick ( who passed away in 2007) now hang in the National Gallery and appear in the Worldwide Encyclopedia of Art………

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After spending three years at Bairnsdale, Jock was appointed Principal of Shepparton South Tech School. It was said that his foresight helped turn it into a leading light in the Arts and media Education field, before he retired in 1986.

He then continued his passion for Art as his hobby, which resulted in a solo Exhibition In Shepparton, in 1994, featuring 32 of his favourite works.

Jock Thomlinson passed away in 2014……

With assistance from Lesley Preston: Voices from Technical Education (Shepparton South Technical School )

‘ RAGS TO RICHES ‘……..THE ASHLEY GILBERT STORY….

Ashley Gilbert recalls the moment that a WDCA Final turned on its ear……..

His memory flicks back to March 1992…….. As he assumes his spot in first slip, he’s privately chuffed that his middle-order half-century has pushed ‘Cinderella’ side College to a defendable first innings total of 284.

“We knew that if we could pick up Corowa’s ‘danger-man’ ‘Psycho’ Carroll early-on, we were in with a real show. My opening partner ‘Bouncer’ McCormick takes the new pill; ‘Psycho’, still on zero, slashes at one outside off stump, and I grass the catch. He goes on to score 153 and steer his side to victory………”

What was shaping as a ‘rags to riches’ story for College – the popular underdogs – turned todisappointment, as powerhouse Corowa clinched their fifth straight flag………
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‘Rags to riches’ is perhaps an appropriate way to summarise the career of Ash Gilbert.

He’s a Lakes Entrance boy, and grew up with no great pretensions to sporting glory. “I played a bit of cricket as a kid, but didn’t crack it for any rep sides, or the like. I had a few other priorities,” he says.

When he landed a job in Leongatha, with the National Bank, he was enticed into having a game for a year or so. “But, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t all that keen. I drifted away.”

A transfer to Wangaratta in the bank changed all that. A new work-mate, Donna Grady, suggested that, for a bloke of his size he’d make a good fast bowler. “Well, I have done a bit of bowling, “ Ash replied.

Donna’s husband Pat, recruited him to College. For the first couple of games he rolled his arm over in C-Grade. But the boys knew they had a player on their hands and, once he had qualified, slipped him into the Senior line-up on the eve of the finals.

College had finished on the bottom of the ladder for the previous five years, but surged dramatically, to finish as minor premiers. With their lethal new-ball combination in fine form, they wrecked Magpies in the semi-Final ( Gilbert 4/21, McCormick 3/30 ).

The Final was one of the most gripping – and certainly controversial – in WDCA history. After College had batted for all of the first day, vandals found a way into the padlocked oval that night, and took to the wicket with hammers.

Corowa had misgivings about commencing their innings, but, after a delay, play continued. It was the mercurial Anthony Carroll who then stepped up to take the game out of College’s hands………..
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The two and a bit seasons he spent in Wangaratta revived Ash’s enthusiasm for cricket. Batsmen found him a difficult proposition – a 205cm gangling giant, propelling the new cherry from a great height, and continually forcing them onto the defensive. His batting, too, proved more than handy.

Saturdays were spent with College. On Sundays he turned out for Moyhu in the Social Association. Inspired by the friendships he had created, his competitive juices flowed. He revelled in the argy-bargy of a tough game of cricket.

He shared in a premiership for Moyhu in 1992/93, and just missed out the following season, when they almost had one hand on the Cup. Ash’s 4/23 had limited West End to 9/146. Moyhu, needing just 13 in two overs, with six wickets in hand, fell 5 short.

“It was a good standard of cricket in both competitions,” he says. “People used to knock the Sunday comp a bit, but gee, there were some good players and the top teams were fairly even.”

In the brief time he spent in Wangaratta, Ash made trips to both Melbourne and Bendigo Country Weeks in successive years. He found himself well-suited to the bounce and carry of the good tracks in the city.

He hadn’t given much thought to his cricketing future, but when he received a bank transfer to Euroa, initially decided to travel to the ‘big smoke’ each week, to try his luck with North Melbourne.

“ ‘Bouncer’ (Barrie McCormick) had been down there for a season, and had made a big impact. I think, from memory, he played a game or two with the Victorian Second XI. They gave me a chance and I settled in okay, sharing the new ball with him,” Ash recalls.

He had played 45 District games with the ‘Roos over three seasons, when he and North parted company three games into the 1997/98 season. “To be truthful, I wasn’t very fit, but the culmination of it was that I had a ‘blue’ with the Chairman of Selectors,” he says.

He started training with a suburban club, Caulfield-Glenhuntly, and had just about decided to sign on, when Carlton all-rounder Ian Wrigglesworth, who knew him from their days in Gippsland, contacted him.

“The best decision I ever made,” he says, of the Blues enticing him to Princes Park.
Carlton found him a job reading gas meters, which involved plenty of trudging around city streets.

“I dropped a heap of weight. For the first time in my career I’d got really fit.”
In the off-season he was invited to the Cricket Academy in Adelaide for three months, by its head coach, Rod Marsh.

He worked on refining his technique, rather than just loping in, using his height and strength and letting the ball go. They impressed upon him the importance of getting his run-up smoothed out, and bowling the right lines.

He played for the Academy in a couple of three-day games in Brisbane, against New Zealand, then in a one-dayer against Australia.

“I had a front-row seat to the Adam Gilchrist Show, and looked forward to seeing another great knock from him. But I had to be a smart-arse, and get him caught behind first ball,” he recalls.

When he followed this up by having  Steve Waugh caught at third-man, eyebrows were raised. This bloke had something……..

At the airport a week or so later, Waugh met a Carlton official, who mentioned that he was heading overseas to sign mercurial Pakistani leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, for the 1998/99 season.

“With Qadir and the big bloke, Gilbert, you’ll have the most lethal club attack in the country,” said the Aussie skipper.

Ash’s performances for Carlton duly earned him a spot in the State squad and, eventually, his first-class debut for Victoria against the touring Englishmen.

He earned a pass mark, with figures of 2/44 and 2/63, and the plaudits of the experts, who felt that he was ‘dangerous enough’. It was a run-in with English batsman Mark Ramprakash which produced the headlines, though.

The right-hander didn’t relish the send-off he received when Gilbert dismissed him in the second innings. The English press zeroed in on the aggressive speedster.
Ash played one Shield game – against Tasmania – that season, and featured in four Mercantile Mutual one-dayers.

But he realised his first-class career was limited. “When they were all available, I had Paul Reiffel, Damien Fleming, Ian Harvey and Matty Innes in front of me in the queue. I knew I wasn’t quite good enough,” he said.

He was still rated among District cricket’s top quicks, and played on for another three seasons.

His District career produced 97 games ( 45 with North Melbourne and 52 with Carlton). He captured 190 wickets and scored 911 runs over eight years.

“The end came when I decided to go to the races early in the 2001/02 season, and missed training. ‘Scholesy’ ( Carlton coach John Scholes) wasn’t too impressed. He said: ‘That’s it. You’re finished.’ “

He spent the rest of that season with Bentleigh, where he won a Club Championship, then had more than a decade away from the game, before saddling up with VTCA club Strathmore.

“I was in my forties, but was enjoying my cricket, until I did my knee last season. It was time to pull the pin,” he says.

Ash operates his own business, servicing fire equipment, and is now back at Carlton, as bowling coach. He’s excited about some of the lads coming through at Princes Park, like 16 year-old all-rounder Mackenzie Harvey and talented speedster Xavier Crone.

I suggest that, had he been lured to District cricket as a teen-ager , rather than his mid-twenties, it might have had a big impact on his career.

“Who knows…….. but I’m happy with the way things panned out,” he says………..