There have been few better – or more colorful – players in the history of Wangaratta cricket than Charlie Heavey. Certainly none could have been as swashbuckling.
His five and a half seasons produced displays which, even today, are spoken of with awe.
To examine the Heavey phenomenon we need to delve back a touch over 80 years………..
Frank Archman, the brilliant wicket-keeper/ batsman, is walking along Murphy Street one hot January day when he spots a chap of striking build, obviously a newcomer to town, and looking every inch a sportsman.
Ever-eager to recruit a player for his club, Archman can’t resist the temptation to sound him out, especially when he notices that he’s wearing an Essendon Cricket Club blazer.
Yes, the newcomer replies, he does have a hit, and yes, he’d be interested in coming down to training at the Showgrounds tonight.
What a fluke recruiting coup !
From the time he rolled his arm over at the Showgrounds nets, Archman and his team-mates knew that they had a real ‘find’ on their hands.
It turned out that he was a Shepparton boy. He’d established quite a reputation over there before being invited to move to the ‘big smoke’ to play cricket with Essendon.
He was no slouch with the Bombers either, scoring the season’s fastest District century in his first season, and revealing his potential as an all-rounder. His performances were substantial enough to earn him a spot in the Victorian Second XI.
But he had no sooner established himself in District cricket, than he was back in his beloved ‘Shepp’, reportedly falling out of love with the city.
He continued to enhance his reputation as one of the Goulburn Valley’s finest sportsmen and, in his final year with Shepparton Footballers, took 101 wickets. In an astonishing all-round double in the Haisman Cup Final, he scored 141 and took 8/23 against Tatura.
So how did he lob in Wangaratta ?
Well, Charlie explained, his dad was an executive with the Vacuum Oil Company and had suggested that the lad should “clear out for a while” and move to Wangaratta, where he would be under the watchful eye of an old friend, Norm McGuffie.
Heavey loved the outdoors and was happy to drive an oil tanker around, rather than be stuck in an office. Wangaratta suited him down to the ground.
Standing 6’3″ and weighing 16 stone, he was an imposing physical specimen – a Colossus amongst his new team-mates.
Wngaratta cricket’s ‘Golden Era’ of the thirties was enhanced in no small part by the contributions of Heavey. He had a languid bowling action which generated great pace. He was a batsman of style and immense power, a brilliant fielder and a keen competitor.
Charlie’s capacity to socialise prompted the comment that he’d have been an even better player had he not been so partial to an ale.
There was one occasion that no-one would have blamed him for tucking into a ‘frothy one’. He set a new WDCA record in his momentous innings of 299 at the Showgrounds during the 1936/37 season.
In a team total of 388 (the next highest scorer made 34) he hit 34 fours and 11 sixes in a knock which showed no mercy to the Eldorado attack.
He hammered 32 off one over and 29 off another and two of his sixes landed over the tin fence which bounded Edwards Street.
Legend has it that he actually scored 301 and that the Eldorado scorer, in a fit of pique, pinched two runs off his total so that he’d be deprived of the triple-century.
Just for good measure, Heavey snaffled 6/54 and 2/38 the following week.
The luckless Eldorado were also on the end of another Heavey onslaught in the 1935/36 Final, when he scored 187 of Footballers’ 8/634, and took 3/31.
He made 3137 runs and took 224 wickets in his five seasons of club cricket. He scored nine WDCA centuries, five of them in excess of 140.
Charlie revelled in the companionship of Country Week and his capacity to swing the ball both ways and produce telling innings’ under pressure, lifted his team-mates.
His performance in a match at South Melbourne one day, prompted state selector Jack Ryder to opine in that evening’s Herald: ” If Heavey would come to Melbourne he would be a definite acquisition to Victorian cricket “.
Wangaratta took out the A-Group title in 1936 and vice-captain Clem Fisher we moved to say at the mayoral reception on the team’s return: ” This has been our best Country Week performance yet.”
“Charlie Heavey captained the side brilliantly and, whenever we were in a bad position, Charlie was able to pull things together with his batting and bowling.”
Heavey won selection (along with another Wangaratta player, Ken Kneebone) in the Victorian Country XI team which played the Englishmen at Benalla in 1937.
Not to be shackled by the occasion, he raced to a quick 30 before he was stumped by George Duckworth.
The veteran ‘keeper sought him out after the game and suggested that, should Heavey feel inclined to come to the ‘mother country’ for a season, he would arrange a suitable club for him.
Charlie took up the offer and enjoyed considerable success in League cricket, scoring the ‘double’ of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in his 6-month stay.
What his trip to England did, unfortunately, was to bring down the curtain on a scintillating football career with Wangaratta.
He had been among the O & M’s glamour players of the thirties. A strong-marking forward and a beautiful kick,he was a deadly-accurate shot for goal.
He booted 109 goals in 1935 and starred in the 1936 premiership team, which was led by Fred Carey.
Heavey’s final WDCA season was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1940 and he went away to serve in Darwin.
Upon his discharge he re-located to Melbourne and was recruited by the Melbourne Cricket Club. Despite being on the wrong side of 30 and now carrying a burdensome 17 stone, he proved a decided acquisition in his two seasons with the Demons.
That was the last anyone from Wangaratta heard of him, until the Country Week Final of 1954, when local speedsters Max Bussell and Jackie Beeby were cutting a swathe through the Shepparton batting line-up.
High up in St.Kilda’s Blackie-Ironmonger Stand, a voice bellowed out for all to hear: “Pad ’em up two at a time”.
It was Charlie Heavey.
Charlie later retired from his long-term employment with the Vacuum Oil company, and moved, with his wife, to the sunny climes of Maroochydoore, in Queensland, where he died of cancer in 1981, aged 75.