“THE SPORT-MAD KID WHO MADE THE GRADE……….”

Tony Fisher was a sporting prodigy of the sensational seventies……….

At the age of 17 he already had three seasons of A-Grade WDCA cricket under his belt…….had represented Victorian Country in Basketball……and was an irresistible junior football talent – that is, when he wasn’t tearing around bush tracks on his motor-bike……..

His mum Shirley recalls his Galen College teacher, Br. Gerard, stating the obvious at a parent/ teacher interview: “I’ll put Tony on a pedestal for sport…..but knock him off it for anything else…..”

Then again, the Fisher siblings were all blessed with talent…….The eldest , Peter, was a more than handy footballer, and Tony’s four sisters – Leanne, Kathy, Jane and Jackie – wore the country ‘Big V’ in Under-Age National Basketball Carnivals……..

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Their dad, Jimmy, was one of those real characters you come across in sport. He played footy for the Rovers and Greta and, at the tail-end of his long career, took on the coaching job at North Wangaratta.

North were battling along in the Benalla & District League at this stage, and one of the long treks they used to undertake was to play at Tatong, in the rain, hail and fog.

“Apparently snow also fell at half-time in this particular game,” Tony says. “Visibility was poor and conditions were appalling, but North snuck home in the dying minutes to record their second win of the season……Dad took the boys to the Tatong pub to celebrate, but unfortunately it was closing early that night because of a wedding ….”

“They scored an invite to the wedding, had supper, then went back to the pub, and continued on ‘til all hours…..”

“Overwhelmed by the hospitality of the locals, they arrived home on Tuesday…..”

Jimmy kept wickets for Greta until he was in his late fifties, and Tony remembers his parents dragging the 6 kids along to games ever since he could crawl.

“I started taking my gear when I was 10 or 11, in the hope that the opposition might be short and could need a ‘sub’ in the field.

“I was in the deep one day (subbing for West End, I think) when John Tanner skied a pull shot…..I ran around, dived, and caught it on the boundary……..That was the end of me fielding against Greta…..”

‘Nirvana’ for Jimmy, was relaxing after a game, over several quiet ales and sharing tall tales and true with team-mates like Tanner, Max ‘Pigsy’ Newth, Richie Shanley and ‘Jackie’ Corker.

“It was cut-short one night when someone mentioned that a few ducks had been sighted on a nearby dam…..That was enough for Dad…..He grabbed his gun out of the car, and started to head off with ‘Newthy’…

“Mum complained in vain: ‘You can’t go….the kids have got school in the morning…”

“She got up the next day, looked out of the kitchen window, and here’s Dad fossicking around in the garden, still in his mud-splattered whites……She’s never found out, to this day, how he got home….”

“He always reckoned that was the only day he ever made a duck and shot a duck……”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

At 14, Tony played junior cricket with United on Saturday mornings, lined up with their senior side in the afternoon, then stripped with Greta – alongside his Dad and elder brother in the Sunday competition.

He was a right-arm quickie and dashing left-hand bat, and has the distinction of winning the WDCA’s inaugural junior Cricketer of the Year Award in 1975/76. He also guided United to the flag, with 108 and 5/27 in the Final.

On the same week-end, his 8/46 helped Greta win a WSCA Semi…….

His arrival in senior ranks could have been better-timed, as United’s unprecedented run of dominance was drawing to a close…… he missed the opportunity to share in an A-Grade flag. As a tireless youngster, he bowled with pace and accuracy, and could swing the ball both ways – often in tandem with wily left-armer Geoff Welch.

His blood boiled over against the Rovers one day, however…..

Tim Carr had nudged along into the nineties and was seeing the ball like a water-melon…..In exasperation, he ran in and bowled one ball left-handed to the unsuspecting right-hander…

“ Tim said to old Freddie Larkin, the umpire: ‘Did you see that ?’…… Freddie gave me a nice old serve…”

“Geoff Welch was a big help to me in my cricket…….In fact, he and Geoff Lacey, who was my first football coach, were the two greatest influences on my sporting career….”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

At this stage, with his involvement in cricket, basketball and motor-bikes he hadn’t given much thought to football…..His cousin, Russell Harris, suggested: ‘Why don’t you come out to Greta and see how you go ?”

“I played my first game in the 2’s……For two quarters……. then they ripped me off and put me in the Seniors….I really enjoyed it…….once I got into it I took to it like a duck to water…”

He was going on 18, and played the remainder of the season, as Greta stormed into the Grand Final.

“We had a terrific side – Paul O’Brien had returned from the Rovers; Dessy Steele was still starring….we had ‘Gunner’ Williams, Barry Tanner, Geoff Lacey was a brilliant leader, and there was a fella called Leigh Candy, who virtually walked in off the street….”

“He was an off-beat sort of bloke….He’d come in at half-time and smoke a pipe……but he was an absolute ripper….”

“He didn’t get a touch early in the Grand Final….. I remember ‘Lace’ dressing him down, and he replied : ‘My yings and my yangs are not working properly……..’Lace’ said: ‘Well get your yings and yangs in line.”

“He did just that; kicked five goals after half-time and we knocked Whorouly over by 29 points…..The only problem for me was that I got rubbed out for a couple of weeks for striking Alan ‘Cocker’ McNeil….”

Geoff Lacey suggested that Tony would ‘walk’ into Ovens and Murray footy…….So he went in to have do a pre-season with Wangaratta, and performed well in three practice matches.

The Pies were keen to test him in the Reserves when the season got under way, but Greta were adamant – they’d only supply Match Permits if he played Seniors.

He decided to stay at Greta but, as luck would have it, missed the majority of the season with Glandular Fever………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Basketball played a huge part in the lives of the Fisher clan……Tony’s arrival on the scene came at a time when the game was possibly at its peak in Wangaratta.

“The ring in the backyard at home used to get a decent work-out and the girls were mad-keen…….It was our life……I started at Hustlers, moved on to Gotsims, (where he won a competition B & F), then coached Wranglers when I was about 20…..”

“A car-load of us – Ronnie Graham, Phil Dent, Rod Orton, Steve Harries, Greg Canny and myself – used to travel up to play in the Myrtleford comp each Wednesday night……called ourselves the Myrtleford Tigers…”

The friendships he formed with several Myrtleford footballers who were also involved, influenced Tony’s decision to play with the Saints in 1982.

“They lined up a job for me with Myrtleford Tyre and Battery and I lived up there. I had a terrific time at Myrtleford. The guys were so tight and the families really looked after us,” he says.

The highlight, no doubt, was his second season, when the Cinderella Saints came from second-bottom to almost pinch a Grand Final spot.

They were helped, of course, by the recruitment of Gary Ablett a couple of rounds into the ‘83 season…..

“We’d heard whispers about him coming, but it was a fantastic atmosphere when he turned up at training for the first time….”

“I remember his first game, on the Rovers’ ground……A few minutes in, our coach Greg Nicholls was poised for a mark at centre half forward, when Gazza climbed all over his back to take a screamer….”

“Next minute Greg yelled out to the runner, Sam Holmes: ‘Sam….Sam..get out here…Ablett to the centre…..I don’t want him on my bloody back all day….”

“He kicked a goal that they still talk about, from 80 metres out, to help us beat North Albury in the First Semi….”

The Saints trailed by 22 points with seven minutes remaining when the Ablett heroics unfolded. They took the game out by 4 points.

The following week, a battle-royal with Albury unfolded . Ablett was again the dynamo in a tough, spiteful clash.

“It’d been close all day….But the turning-point came when one of the Doolan’s ( who was injured and wasn’t playing) ran out and clocked a Myrtleford player. We lost concentration after that, and went down narrowly,” Tony recalls.

“It was a hell of a side….Bobby McNamara, ‘Chad’ Light, Terry Burgess, Ablett, Peter Ruscuklic and Greg Nicholls all represented the O & M…and Burgess won the Medal….”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Tony was lured to Canberra the following year, signing on with Ainslie ( Greg Nicholls’ old club), and working with the Electricity Authority, laying underground cables.

Canberra footy suited his game and he starred, playing as a winger, or centreman. He was best-afield in ACT’s inter-state clash against the Mick Nolan-coached Queensland, in Brisbane, but unfortunately, sustained a stress fracture of the lower-back late in the ‘84 season…..He missed Ainslie’s flag triumph.

“A few of us got together the following summer and got ourselves really fit. That, and playing A-Grade cricket with Norths, had me really prepared……I think I played probably the best footy of my career in 1985,” he says.

He again represented the ACT, finished runner-up in Ainslie’s B & F, and the League’s Mulrooney Medal, which helped ease the disappointment of being narrowly beaten by Queanbeyan in the Grand Final…..

Collingwood came knocking, with an invitation to do a pre-season, but Tony and Dianne weren’t keen on heading to Melbourne…….instead, they landed in Adelaide, and he signed with the reigning SANFL premiers, the Graham Cornes-coached Glenelg.

“They were a really settled side……Chris McDermott had the centre tied-up, and Tony Symons and David Kernahan were the incumbent wingers……..It was hard to break into that line-up…..”

“You’d be picking up 30 possessions a week and thinking: ‘Maybe I’m a chance next week….But next week never came…”

He played a handful of senior games, but spent most of his two seasons in the Reserves side, coached by ex-Essendon star Geoff Blethyn.

“We became really good mates, and started up ‘Toil & Soil’ in Adelaide……Then Di and I went out on own, carting rocks out of the Adelaide Hills.”

Tony’s final two seasons of footy in Adelaide were spent with Southern Association club McLaren Vale……….

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

When the Fisher’s headed back to Wangaratta, there were dreams of a nostalgic return to Greta, who were now in the hands of his brother-in-law Robbie Richards, and good mate Brett Keir.

But it wasn’t to be….He played two Reserves games, ‘did’ a Driver muscle and that was it. His career was over…….

Tony had brought his Bobcat and Equipment over from Adelaide, and he, Robbie and Len Richards set up Toil & Soil in Wangaratta.

“We did that for two years….Then I came home one night and said to Di: ‘Come on….Let’s pack the bags….we’re going around Australia……Destination Darwin….”

They lived in Darwin for 10 years….Tony worked for a travel company, Billy Can Tours, for a good while, then went out-bush, building camps and working with the indigenous…..”It was great…..I saw country that a lot of white people had never been to……..” he says.

On their arrival home in 2007, they bought a farm at Myrrhee, and Tony began his present job, working with Brown Brothers, at Banksdale……..They also purchased the Milawa Bakery in 2008, which they still operate.

He’s done alright, this sport-mad kid, whose teachers reckoned, was on a path to nowhere………….

‘THE AGONY AND ECSTACY OF A GRAND-FINAL…..”

It was, they said, the Grand Final that the WDCA had craved………a fluctuating, high-standard clash between two of the competition’s keenest rivals ……..

It featured dashing stroke-play, more twists than a winding mountain road, a dramatic batting collapse…….and finally, one of those last-wicket stands that evoke the suspense of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller………

Firstly, I must offer a disclaimer……….I wasn’t there…….and wasn’t party to the pressure-cooker atmosphere that someone mentioned resembled one of those classical ‘Local Footy Derbies’………

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

‘Prav” – The Gun

Instead, as the game progresses, I’m relying on periodic score-updates. Early on, they verify my pre-game trepidation ………that Wangaratta-Magpies’ brilliant Indian all-rounder Pranav Menon, is going to have a profound influence on the game.

The trouble is, when you’re bowling to ‘Prav’, he’s so dominant, and scores so quickly, he can take the game away from you in a jiffy…….

His third-wicket stand with skipper Jack Davies adds 100 in just 80 minutes, before Jack is skittled by left-arm quick Paddy McNamara for a handy 36……But by now the Pies are 3/126, and headed for a huge total.

Brady Bartlett, whose 25 wickets have rounded off the Hawk attack nicely this season, collects another timely scalp when he traps ‘Prav’ in front eight runs later. His 59 off 64 balls was, I’m told, an essay of fluent, wristy strokeplay.

From then on in it’s a matter of the Wang-Magpies lower-order eking out crucial runs – and the Hawks keeping them in check. Despite the best efforts of the bowlers, the Pies finish with 8/163…….Bartlett (3/31) and McNamara (3/23) take the bowling honours.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

‘Runs on the Board’ is a well-worn adage in finals cricket…….Four runs an over, against a side which, time and again this season has been able to put the screws on their opposition, is a tough proposition.

But I’ve got faith in Bailey Dale and Luke Whitten, who have developed into a handy combination. Luke seems to have been inspired by Bailey’s cavalier stroke-play and has, himself, become more uninhibited……..The extent of this partnership could, I believe, determine the match…….

They’re off to a flier, and the updates I’m getting ( scoring at almost eight an over ) indicate that they’ve given their side a really handy launching-pad.

It’s 1/67 when Whitten is adjudged LBW to Zac Guilfoyle, but Dale and the incoming Jacob Beattie ( who’s also a free-wheeler) keep the run-rate flowing nicely.

When I succumb to temptation, and ring for someone to ‘paint the picture’, I’m told they’re 3/112…….Dale had skipped down the wicket to spinner Menon and had been neatly stumped by keeper Cooper Matheson for 45…….Beattie’s 22-ball knock had come to an end when the newly-introduced Nick Pell dismissed him for 28.

The Hawks had experimented with Beattie at first-drop, late in the season, with some success, and again, he had produced valuable, quick runs.

I’m delighted…..surely they should do the job from here……Only 50-odd runs, with heaps of overs in hand and plenty of batting to follow…….

Then the reports start coming through…….I’m informed later that the under-rated Pell is bowling ‘hand-grenades’……..6/120….7/129….8/131…9/136……

I receive an ominous four-word text from a knowledgeable Hawk….’Not looking good, KB’……. which sends me into the depths of depression….

Ah well, the dream’s over…….the boys have had a good season…….and the Pies deserve it. They’ve been outstanding all year ……..

I’m anticipating the final death knell……Half an hour passes by…….No word…Surely the game must be over by now…..

Then the belated message comes through………They’ve pinched it……..Unbelievable…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

So I sit down to watch the live-stream this morning, to recapture the drama of this Grand Final of the Ages ( I note that there have been more than 820 views on You-Tube, which shows the interest in the contest ) ….It’s every bit as riveting as I’ve been told……particularly that last-wicket stand of 28 between Alex McCarthy and Brady Bartlett, which finally swings the pendulum the Hawks way.

Equally as interesting is the ‘chit-chat’ from the crowd, amidst the excitement from both camps:

‘Pelly…Pelly….Pelly…’ as the ex-Greta paceman is cutting a swathe through the RUB middle-order…….

‘He doesn’t have faith in ya mate…….Can’t ya handle the pressure, Bartlett….’

‘Pull ya head in, why don’t ya….’

‘Very uppish shot that…You’re looking scratchy, McCarthy…..’

The partnership develops: A Bartlett pull-shot scoots to the boundary, as does a streaky shot backward of point………They chip 10 runs off one over, then Bartlett hammers a shot back at tiring medium-pacer Matt Gathercole, who just can’t grasp a difficult chance, with the score on 149….

A single here and a strong off-side shot there from McCarthy, who’s been solid, maintains the pressure……….It’s down to 11…..then another Bartlett boundary off Guilfoyle brings the crowd to fever-pitch………Seven to get…. another boundary reduces it to three……

And now they’re home……. Bartlett, whose handy all-round contribution has been as significant as anyone in the match, executes a strong drive, ushering in celebrations and commiserations among the combatants, neither of who deserved to lose………

Rovers-United-Bruck 9/164 defeated Wangaratta- Magpies 8/163

“CRICKET FINALS PRODUCE HEROICS……..”

Local cricket fans will be licking their lips at the Norm Minns Oval this Saturday, when the Hawks and Pies meet in the ‘Battle of the Laneway’, to decide the WDCA A-Grade Premiership.

It’s the first meeting of two Wangaratta-based teams in the ‘big one’ for 11 years……..and the first between entities of the two Clubs since Wangaratta/Magpies and Rovers/United tangled in a famous encounter 20 years ago………..

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Yesterday’s Semi-Finals were typical, pressure-packed affairs.

Delatite, who won the toss and batted, got off to a horror start…….They lost both openers, Earl Ree-Goodings and Nick Scales without a run on the board. It was up to Mitch Copey to perform a rescue act in the face of some pin-point bowling.

His patient, undefeated 51 off 109 deliveries – with some assistance from experienced Chris ‘Fatty’ Anderson and Matt ‘Bull’ Stevenson – enabled them to crawl to 5/97 off their 40 overs.

It was hardly enough against a Wangaratta-Magpies side containing the competition’s ‘Recruit of the Year’, Pranav Menon. The former Prahran star’s 638 runs for the season have included only a couple of failures.

The Indian-born right-hander again lit up proceedings. He had cultivated a sprightly 41 when the Pies reached their target, off 27 overs, for the loss of just two wickets………..

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Meanwhile, high drama was unfolding over the road, at the Findlay Oval, as Rovers-United-Bruck elected to bat.

The Hawks had certainly done their prospects no harm the previous week, when they snaffled handy extra bonus points, to clamber over the top of Yarra-Mulwala, into second spot, and earn the right to host the Semi.

The Lakers were certainly up and about, with consistent left-arm paceman Angus McMillan and young Rory Bartlett proving a handful for the openers. The first significant blow was struck when bulky ‘Gus’ enticed Bailey Dale to nick a superb delivery through to ‘keeper Reid Clarke.

Surprisingly, Jacob Beattie was promoted in the batting order and several daring shots by the tall, free-wheeling all-rounder kept the run-rate ticking over. He’d scored 16 when Bartlett ripped through his defences.

And that was probably the tale of the Rovers-United innings…………Handy partnerships continued to evolve, without any batsman taking complete charge. Paddy McNamara’s score-card showed a ‘picket-fence’ of 13 singles, but at least he was enterprising enough to keep turning the strike over.

The highest score of the day ( and easily the most impressive knock ) came from the blade of Alex Grant, the Kenyan recruit, whose tidy 20 included 2 fours ( the only boundaries for the game).

A more than handy last-wicket stand of 21 by youngsters Darcy Wilson and Brady Bartlett took the Hawk total to a challenging 9/123. Considering that the track was ‘doing a bit’, you felt that there was still plenty to play out in this encounter……..

What followed probably caused the Lakers’ highly-vaunted batting line-up to endure a sleepless Saturday night……..

The new ‘cherry’ was handed to the usual second-string paceman Brady Bartlett, who produced handy pace and life in his opening spell.

Surprisingly, spinner Jeremy Wilson operated from the other end. Considering that the Yarra/Mul openers had quilted the pacemen in their previous meeting, it proved an inspired move, as they approached him with uncertainty.

Bartlett had Ben Irvine fending at one in his second over, to be smartly snapped by ‘keeper McCarthy……..then the normally cavalier Josh Lawrence prodded at one from Wilson and was on his way…….2/5.

The situation only deteriorated from there……..Matt Knight was snapped up off Jacob Schonafinger ( who had immediately hit the spot with his medium-pace ), Matt Casey never looked comfortable in his 18-ball stay, and was a Paddy McNamara victim…….

The very next ball, Ben Radford nicked a McNamara flier to be caught behind.

At 5/9 the competition’s most outstanding upper order was in disarray. There was some resistance from Reid Clarke and leftie Fraser Smart, but by now the run-rate was also careering out of control.

Schonafinger nabbed his fourth victim – Brock McCabe – to close off the Yarrawonga-Mulwala innings for 56, and finish with the figures of 4/13 off 7.4 overs.

The other Rovers-United bowling figures would impress the most critical of bowling judges: Bartlett ( 4 overs 1/5), Jeremy Wilson (6 overs 1/3 ), McNamara ( 6 overs 2/13 ), Jon Hyde (8 overs 1/16), Darcy Wilson ( 3 overs 0/6 ).

It was a superb bowling performance from the Hawks – and plenty of credit should go to ‘Paddy Mac’, their 19 year-old skipper, who executed the team plan to perfection……………

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

But for a moment, let’s tread down memory lane, to that Grand Final classic of 2001/02……..

If you happen to be strolling around Norm Minns Oval this Saturday, you might come across a bloke, pensively sitting in a quiet corner, possibly with fag in hand, closely following the game.

He’ll be silently barracking for Rovers-United-Bruck ( even though you wouldn’t know it ) and may be inclined to cast a thought back to one of the greatest moments of his sporting life.

Anthony Lawler ( ‘Ant’ to his mates )……was the unlikely hero of a classic premiership victory………

Originally he was the Hawks’ 12th man…….His form as a solid opening batsman had fluctuated during the season, which was the reason for his demotion……But when his side lost the toss and had to bowl he was included, because star left-hander Peter Tossol had footy coaching commitments at Corowa-Rutherglen………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The Wangaratta/Magpies innings was held together by champion all-rounder Duane Kerwin, who remained steadfast when wickets were tumbling around him.

The Pies, in the face of some hostile pace bowling from Adam Booth, Peter Harvey and Trevor Anderson, fell to be 5/59 on the opening day. It was up to Kerwin to nurse his batting partners from then on….

At 7/94 they were still in deep strife; they recovered to 8/139, and finally limped to a respectable total of 151; predominantly because of the magnificent unbeaten 73 from Kerwin…….

With half an hour’s play before stumps on the opening day, a lively spell from quickie Tim Sheldon gave the Pies the upper hand…….The Hawks were 2/18 when play was halted……Importantly, Lawler was looking composed and solid, unbeaten on 11.

Aware of his knack of ‘having a few quiet ones’ to wind down after a day’s play, Tossol and his wife Bronnie invited the nonchalant opener to dine with them that evening, thus eliminating the possibility of being led astray.

When play resumed the following morning, Lawler showed admirable restraint, in the face of a Wang-Magpies attack which quickly gained the upper hand.

With the Hawks limping to 6/67, they appeared near-certainties to lose……..Left-hander Steve Croxford then combined with the redoubtable Lawler to undergo the rescue mission.

They added 68 before Sheldon, bowling as if his life depended on it, claimed Croxford for 34……A couple of balls later, Sheldon struck again, trapping Trev Anderson in front for a duck…..

Seventeen runs were required; two wickets in hand. Five runs later the monumental Lawler stay concluded, on 61, when Sheldon claimed his sixth victim.

There were still 12 runs required, and it was up to last-wicket pair Adam Booth and Peter Harvey to get Rovers-United over the line.

Lawler, after his heroics, couldn’t bear to watch…….He took the pads off and headed off for a long walk and a quiet ‘gasper’, as the runs, one by one, began to be whittled away.

Finally, as Harvey snicked the winning runs, players from both teams literally slumped with exhaustion…….and jumped with elation…….

Are we in for a repeat clash this week-end ?……….

“A ( SLIGHT ) BRUSH WITH FAME………..”

To a thirteen year-old boy from the bush, it was my nirvana.

It was shaping to be a blistering hot late-December day when we approached our destination, after a journey that seemed to take an eternity……excitement-levels soared…….. we pushed through the bustling crowd, joined a snail-like queue which inched towards the ticket-box, negotiated turnstiles, scuttled along dim corridors, up flights of stairs……….

“Get a wriggle on,” says Dad ( the keenest of us all ), “It’s almost 11……We don’t want to miss the first ball……”

And there it appeared…….out of the gloom, a ‘vision’, bathed in bright sunshine…… the delightful green sward of the Melbourne Cricket Ground………..

We took our seats, just in time to catch a glimpse of a superb specimen; dark skin glistening, gold crucifix jangling, chiselled 6’5” broad-shouldered frame swinging rhythmically from side to side, as he approached the crease.

Wesley Winfield Hall, the world’s fastest bowler, was a sight to behold.

His run-up had seemed to kick-start from beneath the sight-screen and I felt for the slightly-built Australian opener Colin McDonald, as he powered towards him………….

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

My curiosity about big Wes had been piqued a fortnight earlier, when he played a significant role in one of the most exciting matches of all-time – the Tied Test at the ‘Gabba.

I can remember being absorbed in a game of backyard cricket at the time, whilst, in the background, the dulcet tones of Johnny Moyes and Clive Harburg provided a graphic description of the closing stages of a game for the ages.

Just to set the scene, the West Indies tail had wagged on the final morning, setting the Australians a victory target of 232………When Hall got to work, he left the Aussie top-order in disarray, removing four of the top five, with the score on a paltry 57. After ‘Slasher’ Mackay fell to the spinner Sonny Ramadhin it was 6/92

Wes, the Windies tearaway had already played a significant part in the game, scoring 50 and 18, and taking 4/140 off a marathon 29.3 overs in the first innings.

As the afternoon wore on, a partnership between all-rounders Alan Davidson and captain Richie Benaud developed, and changed the game’s dimension. They added 134, before Davidson was run out for 80, leaving the Aussies within striking distance.

When the ball was thrown to Wes Hall, they needed 6 runs to win, with three wickets in hand……..It was time for us, by now, to put down the bat and ball and focus on the Test……..

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Who better than the man himself to give you an insight to what happened next:

“The over took 15 minutes…..( After Grout had run through for a bye ), the captain called to me and said :’Wesley, I’m watching you….Whatever you do now, do not bowl a bouncer to Richie Benaud……I said: ‘OK Skipper, you just watch me.’ “

“As I walked back, still very hurt at the shame, the scandal of dropping a vital catch and allowing them another run, my team-mates were saying: ‘We are with you. You cannot even catch a cold’.”

“But as I walked back I had other things on my mind. I turned around, fingered my cross, prayed a little prayer, pulled at my trousers, and took off.”

God was merciful because I found a little pep in my step and a little spring in my heels, and I said: ‘Eh, eh, let’s go Benaud. I’m bowling the fastest bouncer that I’ve ever bowled in my life……..”

“Benaud, feeling surprised, shaped for the hook, it took the glove, and there was Alexander, triumphantly in the air, taking the catch and rolling over in great triumph.”

“I swung around, my arms raised, going towards my captain, hoping he will embrace me. But all I got was stony silence and a wicked stare.”

“So I said: ‘He’s out skipper…He’s out…’ “

He says: ‘What did I tell you.’ “

“I said: ‘But he’s out. He’s out.’ “

“And then the joke was no more. He said: ‘Do you really understand what would have happened if that ball had taken the top edge and gone for four runs ? ‘ “

“For the first time in 12 minutes I realised that Australia needed 4 to win. So there again, in deep despair, a batsman out, but still no joy.”

As the new batsman came in to bat, Meckiff was his name…..A monumental rabbit…Surely he would not stand the test of time, as I moved in….”

But my spirit was broken…How could you expect a man to get a wicket, yet be admonished by his captain ? I walked in meekly, bowled just as meekly, and Meckiff hit it just as sweetly to the mid-wicket boundary.”

He ran one……he ran 2….he ran 3….The ball went right to the boundary….about a metre away….and there was Conrad Hunte, not giving up, chasing all the way, picking the ball just a metre from the boundary and throwing it with remarkable accuracy back to the wicket-keeper, who did not have to move a centimetre. He took the ball……”

”And there was Grout, sprawled out on the ground, two metres out of his crease.”

“So another man was out, and Sir Frank Worrell came up to me and said: ‘You’ve got one ball to go.’ “

“I said: ‘I know.’ “

He says: ‘And what is more, the umpire is watching you too.’ “

I didn’t know what he was saying, so I said to him: ‘What are you saying ?’ “

He said: ‘Well, listen….. If you bowl a no-ball you will never land in Barbados again.’

And I made my last lonesome trek back, 40 yards from the stumps. As I came in, gasping for air, pressing through for the last ball, my feet planted three yards behind the crease, just in case we had a benevolent Australian umpire.

And so, Lindsay Kline turned the ball backward of square for what seemed like an easy run…….It was, really…..until Soloman, little Joe Soloman, moved smartly to his left, picked up the ball and, with just one stump to see, threw and hit it bulls-eye…….The square-leg umpire – an Australian – jumped four feet in the air and still gave him out.”

The West Indian cricketers were sure we had not lost. Ten men were out weren’t they ? But we didn’t know if we had won, either.”

So we all went off the ground – umpires, those who were not playing, and the extras – all gathered in the one Dressing-Room.”

We drank beer, we drank champagne, and Dinner was summoned……and we did not leave there until 10.30 that night……….”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

There were many stars in the Series that revitalised cricket……And Hall was principal among them.

He took 21 wickets, and like all of the Windies players, possessed a magnetic personality. By the time of the deciding Fifth Test at Melbourne, interest in cricket had reached fever-pitch.

A world-record 90,800 people flocked to see the day’s play on the Saturday, and continued to be enthralled throughout a game which eventually went the way of the Aussies.

Upon their departure, the visitors were afforded a ticker-tape farewell throughout the streets of Melbourne, usually only accorded to royalty, or The Beatles………The following summer, when Wes Hall arrived at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm Airport to fulfill the first of a two-year contract to play Sheffield Shield cricket for Queensland, he was greeted by a swarming, adoring crowd.

His 43 Shield wickets set a state record for a first-class season…….He followed that up with 33 the following year, to accentuate his popularity in the Sunshine state.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The next time I see Wes in the skin, is six years later. He’s playing in an up-country match…….. methodically pacing out his run-up, and preparing to send down his thunderbolts to a jittery left-hand opening batsman……….

Me…..

From 62 yards away he looks positively menacing……

My fitful sleep the previous night included nightmares of waking up to stumps clattering everywhere after his opening delivery……… of forgetting to wear a box…….and ducking and weaving a succession of 105 mile-an-hour red ‘cherries’………

In this era – which preceded Helmets, thigh-pads and chest-guards – I have taken the precaution of including an extra hankie in my right pocket, to cushion the possible stinging sensation of a Kookaburra thudding into raw flesh.

Wes, of course, has been confronted with this scenario on countless occasions………He knows a sitting-duck when he sees one………And after all, he doesn’t want to impinge too early upon the entertainment of the locals, who are still scampering to take up vantage spots around this scenic bush oval.

So he sends down a harmless half-volley, just outside off-stump, which any leftie worth his salt should be able to despatch satisfactorily………

It skims through the cover field to the boundary……..To the accompaniment of a polite ripple of applause from the crowd…..

The following delivery is yards quicker……..As I shape to play a defensive shot it’s already in the gloves of ‘keeper Hendricks……..

The next is on me in a flash……It thuds into my pad….There’s a muted appeal from someone ( not Wes )……It feels out to me………But the kindly local umpire answers in the negative and my partner ushers me ( I limp ) through for a leg bye.

I’d like to be able to tell you that what followed was an innings marked by defiance and aggression……….Alas, the very next over, Richard Edwards, a strongly-built Barbadian yet to be honoured with a Test cap, crashes through my flimsy defence and sends the off-stump cartwheeling.

Richard certainly means business……The incoming batsman, Brian Hayes ( one of the best country players you’d find ) tries to fend off a rearing delivery, which breaks his left hand. He bravely stays on, but nicks the next ball to the waiting slips cordon.

We’ve played Edwards into the Test side……….

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

FOOTNOTE:

Wes Hall’s next visit to our neck of the woods came 15 years later. He was, by now, Manager of Clive Lloyd’s emerging team of superstars, and a highly-respected administrator. He later took over as Chairman of the West Indies Board of Control.

Entering politics, he served in the Barbadian Senate and House of Assembly, and was appointed Minister for Tourism of the tiny island.

On a visit to Florida in 1990 he attended a Christian service. Impressed by the Preacher, he made a decision to devote the rest of his life tending to those in need.

He attended Bible School and was subsequently ordained a minister in the Christian Pentecostal Church, in which he is still involved, at the age of 84……………

“SURPRISES CONTINUE, AS FIGHT FOR WDCA FINALS TAKES SHAPE…..”

The WDCA’s 2021/22 season continues to throw up surprises………..

You were probably wondering if successive losses by competition powerhouse Yarrawonga-Mulwala was a mere blip, after a remarkable 14 years of consistency.

Well, they turned in another uncharacteristic performance in the match of the round against Wangaratta-Magpies yesterday, to fall short by 10 runs.

The Stan Hargreaves Oval is a veritable fortress for the Lakers. They were confident of re-discovering their form and proceeded to unveil it …….when they cut a swathe through the ‘Pies’ upper-order, to have them reeling at 8/70.

A formidable obstacle remained, however, in the shape of the competition’s recruit of the year – former Prahran all-rounder Prav Menon.

With support from youngster Tommy Rosser ( who has also proved a fine pick-up after arriving from Greta ), Menon ( 53* ) restored some equilibrium to the Pies’ innings after wickets had been clattering around the Indian-born star.

The pair proceeded to add 47, in a defiant, rear-guard, ninth-wicket stand of 42, to lift the ‘Pies to a barely-challenging total of 8/117.

But, as they say, the runs were on the board………The Lakers progressed at a steady rate, without ever appearing to take complete control.

Tall Matt Casey remained their ‘Rock’, but when he was dismissed for a patient 34 ( off 82 balls ) Yarra were 6/82 and there was still heaps of work to be done.

Spin, which has re-emerged as an attacking option in WDCA ranks this year, again came to the fore. Young offie Jimmy Thewlis sent down 8 overs for 2/14, whilst Menon was similarly miserly, conceding just 21 runs off his permissable overs.

But it was medium-pacer Nick Pell who took the bowling laurels, capturing 3/23, to clean up the tail, and finish with 3/23, as the Lakers were restricted to a total of 107.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Delatite sent City Colts tumbling out of the four when they won convincingly at Lord Oval, Mansfield.

The boys from the hills were well on their way after opener Earl Ree-Goodings (51) got off to a flier. His departure, at 2/83, heralded the appearance of burly Matt Stevenson, whose 55 off just 26 balls assured that Colts would be chasing a formidable total.

The target of 4/207 was always going to prove difficult for Colts to overcome. …..They were dismissed for 84, to end a promising four-match winning streak, which had turned their season around.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Cellar-dwellers Benalla won the toss and promptly invited Ovens Valley to bat in the encounter at Myrtleford’s McNamara Reserve.

It’s been a somewhat hazardous year for the Bushies, and little has gone their way, but on this occasion they were able to run through the home team for just 60, in 23 overs.

The prospect of negotiating his side to victory would no doubt have appealed to Benalla’s super-veteran opener Greg Hoysted, who has revelled in countless similar situations during his marathon career.

With undeniable patience, he faced 100 deliveries, and was undefeated on 23 when the Bushies crawled to victory….

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….,

It’s a rare occasion for a batsman to score more runs, individually, than three other WDCA teams manage to amass for the round; rarer still when he smacks a brilliant, unbeaten century, only for his side to go down in convincing fashion……

That was the scenario, in cloudy, uncomfortable conditions at the W.J.Findlay Oval, when Beechworth’s Kayde Surrey conjured the season’s first A-Grade ‘ton’.

……But in terms of match highlights, the superb knock of 97 by Rovers-United-Bruck opener Luke Whitten also deserved a more-than-honourable mention.

As you can now visualise, the bat held sway in the clash between the two keen rivals.

The Hawks won the toss and, unsurprisingly, took advantage of the sultry atmosphere to put the hard-working, but under-strength Bushies’ bowlers to the sword.

Whitten, who’d suffered the ignominy of being dismissed off the first delivery of the previous week, elected to go on the attack from the first ball.

He and dashing Bailey Dale ( who has a real presence at the crease, and drives as well as anyone in the competition when in full flight ), were in fine touch. They had scored a brisk, entertaining 108 when Dale was removed by left-armer Matty Ryan.

His 42 followed on from an exhilarating 90 the previous week, but Whitten, who had regained superb touch, produced the full repertoire of shots. The best of them, in my opinion, a crisply-stroked on-drive, scurried to the mid-on boundary.

His brother Matt also joined the party, with a polished 22, and Jacob Beattie contributed quick runs towards the finish, to take the Hawks to an imposing 7/217 at the close.

Kayde Surrey’s 3/44 gave him the bowling figures, but was just the forerunner to the exhibition which was to provide him with ‘Man of the Match’ honours.

He had scored four previous WDCA tons – the last of them in 2015/16 . All fans in the area have become fully aware of his ( and his brother Brenton’s ) importance to the Beechworth side.

But the thought did run through my mind yesterday, that anyone popping into the Oval for a casual glance at the cricket whilst he was batting, would be convinced that the local game is still in pretty good shape.

Faced with a target of more than 5 runs per over, Surrey and his fellow-opener Matt Ryan didn’t waste time playing themselves in.

They raced to 45 before Ryan fell to first-changer Brady Bartlett. Unfortunately, wickets began to fall at regular intervals, as Surrey took complete charge, apart for a six-or-seven over lull in mid-innings, when he became quite circumspect.

With the overs ticking by, the right-hander produced pull shots in successive balls – a 6 and a 4, to rush into the nineties – and his inevitable march towards the century.

He had carried his bat, for 106 out of a total of 8/158 when time was declared……. Two outstanding individual innings’ – the WDCA’s highest for the season – had provided the highlights of a batting master-class……