Almanac Cricket: UQCC – Interview with the Keepers (Part 1)

By Ian Elks, for the UQCC Old Boys Cricket News

Did you know that there have been only fourteen wicketkeepers who have played for Queensland since the inception of the Sheffield Shield?   Three of those originated from UQCC including the record holder for the most dismissals.  I had the privilege to sit down with these three gentleman and ask them a few questions about their backgrounds, their cricketing experiences and what Uni meant to them.  It turned out to be quite a session so I have broken the chat into two parts of which Part One of “The Keepers” is below.

====

 

Among its many achievements, UQCC can be proud that it is the home club of Queensland’s leading run maker (Martin Love), Queensland’s leading wicket taker (Michael Kasprowicz), and the holder of the most dismissals as a keeper for Queensland.

Recently, Chris Hartley achieved this distinction as wicketkeeper, after overtaking the previous record holder, and another UQCC keeper, Wade Seccombe.

In a long line of tremendous UQCC glovemen, Wade, Chris and Lew Cooper (now 78) are the three wicketkeepers from UQCC who have played for Queensland.

Late last year, I took the opportunity to sit down with Lew, Wade and Chris to have a couple of beers and ask them a few questions about their respective careers for Uni, Queensland and Australia.

The following is the result of this meeting. So rich was the information and stories, the interview will be published in two parts. In Part 1, the keepers talk about their formative years, cricketing heroes and influences, memories of great characters such as WEP Harris and Thommo, and what playing cricket for UQCC meant to them.

[Note: JTH wrote WEP Harris’ obituary which appeared in The Australian. It was posted here in 2012. – Ed]

 

Lew Cooper, Wade Seccombe and Chris Hartley

Lew Cooper, Wade Seccombe and Chris Hartley

 

Where were you born/raised, and your earliest cricketing experience?

Lew – I was born in Mackay in 1937, and attended primary schools at Finch Hatton and Marian State Schools, which are located West of Mackay. During the Second World War, my father was a POW in Singapore, and my mother ran our post office. My mother’s family owned cane farms at Marian. I also lived in Toowoomba, before boarding at The Southport School for my secondary education (1949–1955).

Ian – TSS, good pedigree.

Lew Cooper

Lew Cooper

Wade – I was going to say good pedigree Toowoomba. How long did you live in Toowoomba?

Lew – 1948 to around 53. We owned the Billiard Saloon, in Margaret Street, located opposite Tattersall’s Hotel.

Wade – Now we’re learning a little more about your education.

Ian – Were you a good snooker player?

Lew – Well, I won the Cricketers’ Club championship a few times. We had five billiard tables there in those days, and I was the club champ for a few years. I beat Eddie Charlton, then World Champion, once. We only played two frames, I won the first and he won the second. He died shortly after that so we never got to play the decider! I remember making a break of around 50 in the first game, but he made a break of over 100 in the second. It was pretty embarrassing, as it was an exhibition game and everyone had come to see him play, and I won the first frame! The people in the audience were crying ‘Foul!’ So the second game, I smashed them up and he cleared the table.

I went off to TSS and played rugby, initially at half back and then at five eighth. Five eighth was a very difficult position in those days, as we weren’t very strong, and most times I had two of the opposition breakaways tackling me before I got the ball! I didn’t play cricket until the age of 14 or 15, having mainly played rugby up to that age. The TSS cricket master, Ron Pearson, invited me down to Firsts training after watching me play in an interclass match at the school.

Anyway, I played in the Firsts for a few years and then they picked a GPS team at the end of the cricket season. Ray Reynolds was the keeper in the first GPS team. Ray played for Queensland as a batsman while he was still at school. He didn’t play any club cricket before being selected for Queensland. During that final year (1955), Ray scored 100s in every GPS cricket game for Churchie, and went straight into the Shield team as a result of that. I was selected in the second GPS team, which played Uni at Uni.

Wade – Born in Murgon in 1971 and moved straight to Toowoomba, where I went to Harristown Primary School and Toowoomba Grammar School thereafter. Started playing in Grade 10 in 1986, and we won the GPS premiership for the first time in 50 years. We won it for the next two years on the trot after that, in 87 and 88. Played cricket with Jason Little, Leon Love (Marty’s older brother) and ex-Uni player Tom Garde at TGS during this time.

Wade Seccombe

Wade Seccombe

Chris – Born in Nambour in 1982, then the family moved to Brisbane. I went to Kenmore Primary School and Brisbane Boys College from 1995 through to 99. Our coach at the time was Darryl Case who played a bit of cricket with Wests. I had three years in the Firsts from Grades 10 through 12.

Ian – I would have thought David Biggs or David Ogilvie would have had some involvement with your cricket at BBC?

Chris – I didn’t have any involvement with David B until the Lord’s Taverners at Uni, and although I knew David O had played cricket for Qld and Australia, he didn’t have any association with cricket at the school, at least while I was there.

Ian – He was a fine player for Queensland and Australia. I remember him hitting something like four or five consecutive 100s for Qld.

Lew – David made 100 in every Shield game (eight) during one season, but wasn’t picked for Australia until a little further down the track. He was belatedly selected to tour the West Indies with the Australian team as a replacement for an injured player. He was a different sort of lad — an outstanding fieldsman and, as a batsman, a real eye player. He was one of the first that I ever saw, when the bowler dropped it short, he would club it straight back over the bowler’s head — all the umpires knew to hit the deck. He was very unorthodox — he was like a baseballer playing cricket — but an outstanding cricketer.

Ian – Very good, two country boys and we’ll claim you as well Chris, given you were born in Nambour.

Chris Hartley

Chris Hartley

 

Why Uni?

Lew – I was picked in the second GPS side and we played Uni. When I was playing in this game, a couple of Uni Cricket officials approached me to see whether I would play with them when I left school. They must have had a bit of a recruiting drive going on because Tom Veivers, Ian Callaghan (the High Court Judge) and Bobby Mihell had also just arrived to play for Uni. Dick Grice came the year before. Originally, I was selected to play B Grade, but when I turned up at the match, they said, ‘You are wanted up on No 1 as the keeper in Reserve Grade, Ronny Edwards, is sick.’ So I kept in Reserve Grade that game, and managed to hold that place for a few games.

Then they picked me in A grade, and I took Brian O’Callaghan’s place, which was a little bit controversial because he had been there for about 15 years as keeper. He was also an Australian Rugby Union referee and a bank manager with the ANZ bank, so he had a bit of pull. I didn’t realise that all of this drama was going on behind me. So we played Easts in my first match, and I had just turned 18. Kev Duffy was the off spinner. Magnificent off spinner, and took a lot of wickets for Uni. Big fella, around about 18 stone. Anyway, he bowled one to Peter Burge, and he went down the wicket and I stumped him. So Duffy came down the wicket and lifted me up and said, ‘You’ll do me son — I haven’t had a stumping for five years!’ So I was anointed by Duffy and was there for another 25 years!

Wade – School coach Graham Smythe, who knew WEP, said, ‘I think you have to go and play for Uni, it’s the club to play at.’ I lobbed down to training one week and pretty quickly worked out who WEP was.

Chris – I was recommended to play in the Under 16 Lord’s Taverners competition by a peer of mine and his father — I had no idea what they were talking about, but I turned up to training and that was where I first met David Biggs our coach.

Wade – On the recruitment drive, I think it was Scotty Muller who was responsible for getting Kasper to the club. Scotty was playing at Uni a year or two before I started, and Kasper was just finishing school. He asked Scotty where he should play and Scotty said, ‘You have to come to Uni, they don’t lock the fridge so it’s free drinks after training.’

Then when they did put a padlock on it, you could still open the fridge far enough to get a can when you used the tongs from the kitchen! I’m sure every year WEP used to top it up for the ‘shortfall’.

Lew – That’s unbelievable.

 

The first thing that comes to mind about WEP?

WEP

WEP

Lew – It used to be a ‘pigsty’ in that kitchen, which WEP used to keep. He used to serve afternoon tea out of a big metal pot that he got off the stove. WEP would be on the phone most of the time. Harry Jefferies, from the Brisbane Telegraph, would be there. He’d be pissed, so WEP would write most of the column for the day. Harry would go off to the local bowls club and WEP would finish everything off.

He’d always be saying, ‘Those (St) John’s kids!’ Anything that happened, it would be ‘the John’s kids’. He’d join Tom Moran in the US every year, and come back with a different hat or sunglasses or some play thing. A good bloke WEP. I knew him real well and he was very good to me.

Wade – His heart was in the right place. I’ll never forget him answering the phone, ‘Hello, St Lucia.’ One year he came away with the Qld Colts team to Sydney. We played at Hurstville and the phone rang in WEP’s general vicinity. Instinctively he picked it up — ‘Hello, St Lucia.’

I remember him at the back of the nets, bellowing out instructions. But whether we were sitting on the balcony of the club or having a beer at the Regatta, he would have a photographic memory of any player at any club, and of their strengths and weaknesses. His knowledge on club cricket was unbelievable. He used to attend all the selection meetings ‘to stop the rorts’.

Lew – Probably came from the Clem days — Clem would pick his mighty C (Fourth) Grade team first, and the other teams were selected after that. Bobby Crane said he was never ‘promoted’ to C Grade, but was fortunate enough to play B Grade.

Chris – Similar memory — whatever WEP said, I just went along with it. You really got the idea that the club ran around and through him.

 

WEP’s unique catering style

Lew – I was a school teacher originally, and then a hotelier and licensee at pubs and clubs. I’d go into WEP’s shed/kitchen (at Uni No 1), conscious of the businesses that I was running, you know kitchens/bars etc., and the place was just a mess.

People would be getting fed out of there and I could hardly believe it. Everything would be semi- disorganised, but we’d always get there.

Ian – When we were playing, WEP used to get a student on a part-time basis to give him a hand to make burgers, mix drinks, serve the beers and clean the bar/BBQ afterwards. I remember WEP used to refer to one of the girls as ‘Stacia’. In WEP’s inimitable fashion, ‘Where’s Stacia? Stacia did this, Stacia did that.’ After all these years, Stacia turned out to be Annastacia Palaszczuk, who was putting herself through Uni flipping burgers for us. So she’s a Uni girl.

 

WEP’s car

Lew– I remember WEP was the first President of the Cricketers’ Club when I ran it. He wasn’t a big drinker, but he’d drink in the top bar of the QCC with Quentin Rice, who was a state selector at the time. They’d go home together and always stop at the South Brisbane Railway Station to pick up all the interstate newspapers.

WEP was a prolific reader of all the papers. After they finished reading them, they’d throw them over into the back seat of the car. So the back seat was full of newspapers and Christ knows what else. Anyway, he bought a new Datsun, and I was talking to the bloke who traded his old one in — Wally Taylor (Australian Champion boxer) — he said, ‘You know Lew, the newspapers filled the back seat up to the windows. That wasn’t so bad, but when we cleaned them out, we found an empty five gallon keg under them all!’ — that was WEP.

 

What was the strongest friendship you made playing for Uni and what does playing at Uni mean for you?

Chris – The BBC cohort who went on to play for Uni — I have very strong friendships with Craig Philipson, Jarrod Turner and Tim Wheller. That’s the thing about Uni, you get lots of different people from different geographical locations and backgrounds, and the camaraderie that this brings is not matched by any other club. It is one of the strengths of the club.

Because you play for the state side, you’re always coming and going from the club, but I’ve always loved going back there because you just slot in so easily. It doesn’t matter who is back there running on the field with you — it’s unique.

Wade – Kasper (Michael Kasprowicz) who played a lot at Uni and for Qld. The other is probably Flegs (Shaun Flegler) — good mates in junior cricket and we’ve remained tight ever since.

Ian – Lew, over all those years, who are some of the strong friendships you’ve maintained?

Lew – Probably Trevor Stewart — Trevor’s lost his legs now, he’s got diabetes. Tommy Veivers and Bob Crane … but there are so many people who I get along extremely well with, and who have been very good to me over the years. I’m just so bloody pleased that I played for Uni. It’s just such a decent club, with the sort of people that you meet. We never had any altercations; there was no shit that went on. You could see it at other clubs, it never happened at our club. It was just all good fun and very enjoyable and it was just a privilege — I was very lucky to play for them.

Wade – My first game we had to go out to Chinchilla to play, and Rod Rice (state selector) took me aside and said, ‘We’ve got our eye on you and you’re going alright, but don’t get caught up in the Uni way.’ I said, ‘What’s the Uni way?’ He said, ‘They all have a really good time, but they don’t take their cricket that seriously.’ That was the perception out there. I went ok — but I still think I played it the Uni way. The beauty of it is, that’s the reason you play the game and come to a club like Uni — to enjoy it.

Lew – I wouldn’t have it any other way. I couldn’t get over it when Sammy Trimble left Wests and went and played for Souths. Souths!? That just shocked me. It wouldn’t have even entered my mind to go away from Uni. I just felt that privileged to be there and play there. It was just part of my life.

 

What was your nickname? Any other good nicknames come to mind?

Lew – Ludwig — I couldn’t get over it. Lou Merzwa was in the team, and his name was Ludwig and they called him Lou. My name was Lew and they called me Ludwig! Not as good a nickname as David Sincock, who used to be known as ‘Evil Dick’!

Ian Quick, a Victorian left-hand finger spinner, was known as ‘Cure-em’, after the indigestion pill ‘Cure-em Quick’. There was a South Australian player, Jeff Hammond, who was known as ‘Prawnhead’ (Shit for Brains)!!!

Wade – Chuck — under 17 trip away, got up to no good and was pegging berries off the bridge — got caught, we got into a bit of strife for that one. Got back to Uni, and of course, Dog Courtice suggested I was Chuck Berry, and it just stuck. Other good nicknames — Pasito Kid (Graden Atthow) was fitting, and another Courticism.

Chris – Harts, Hannibal (sometimes bite off more than I can chew), Hooters, Hammer — a couple of teenagers in a quiet SCG ground had had a few and spent the afternoon getting behind the Qld keeper and calling him Hammer Hartley — it comes out occasionally. Ryan Broad’s nickname of Dagger was good, given his old man, Wayne Broad, was known as Sword.

Wade – One of the clever ones was always Chips — Sam’s Boy (Sam Trimble’s son).

 

WEP the commentator

Lew – (WEP) was the manager of the Qld Sheffield Shield side, including the Southern Tour one year. He’d giggle away — ‘Hee, hee, hee.’ Bill Buckle was on the trip, he’d remember it.

He also used to commentate on baseball and rodeos. His baseball commentary would carry over to his cricket commentary when he used to host the Channel O knockout games. Guest players such as Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson use to come up and play with the club sides. It was televised and WEP’s favourite phrase — ‘a swing and a miss’.

 

Biggest influence on you as a cricketer?

Lew – Donny Tallon — he was my schoolboy hero. I saw him keeping to a medium pacer one day at the Gabba, and I saw him stump Keith Ziebell down the legside — he was a great stumper. Also WEP — he was a big influence and a very loyal supporter.

Wade – Parents — old man, uncles — good country players.

Chris – Parents, although neither of them had a cricket background. It was more their attitude towards sport and how they instilled that into me. Trying your best — they let me go about in my own way, but were very supportive along through the whole journey, without being too much.

 

Best keeper you’ve seen or best keeper ever

Lew – Tallon for both. Great stumper — he broke two world records during the 1938–39 Sheffield Shield season. He didn’t go to England with the 1938 Australian team. They took two blokes called Charlie Walker and Ben Barnett. In one match that season, Tallon equalled the world record of 12 dismissals, which was held by EA Pooley from the 1880s, and then in another match in the same season, he took 7 dismissals in an innings, which was a world record at the time. Wally Grout beat that — I was 12th man for that Shield match at the Gabba against Western Australia, and he did it in the second innings when he took 8 catches. He was a great catcher Wally. But I think Tallon was a better keeper than Grout because of Tallon’s stumping ability. Bradman rated Tallon as the best keeper he’d ever seen.

Wade – Heals was the best keeper I have seen and probably the best ever. The other I really liked was Jack Russell. I remember playing against him in my first game for Queensland. It was at Roy Henzell Oval at Caloundra against England A, and he kept very well. I also remember that game because, in one of the rain breaks, I got a phone call from you (pointing at Lew). I don’t know if you remember this, but the first thing you said to me was, ‘From one Uni keeper to another Uni keeper, congratulations on playing for Queensland and well done.’ I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned that to you since, but thank-you, it stuck Lew, and I appreciated it.

Lew – I had another bit of influence on your career.

Ian – Did you meet Wade’s mother?

Lew – I was watching the cricket one day, and NSW was playing someone, and Brad Haddin had missed at least two stumpings and I was so annoyed. Then on another day, I watched him do the same. He was just bloody terrible. This day, he missed four stumpings!

I got on the phone to John Buchanan, who was the Australian Cricket Coach at the time — I knew him pretty well as he’s an old TSS boy and I used to coach him at Uni. I said to him, ‘John I want to talk to you about something in private. Where are you?’ He said, ‘I’m on the team bus but go ahead.’ I said, ‘No’, but he said, ‘Just talk and I’ll say “yes” or “no”.’ I said to John, ‘I was watching the cricket this afternoon on TV and that Haddin, he just can’t keep. He can’t keep over the stumps, he’s hopeless.’ Anyway he said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, thanks Ludwig.’

Next week they picked the Australian team to go to India/Sri Lanka, and Haddin didn’t make it — a bloke called Wade Seccombe was picked.

Wade – Good man, thank-you very much. Not only did that give me three games in Sri Lanka, but it gave you (Chris) three games for Qld at the end of that season, including a final where you fielded for three days.

Chris – That’s true.

Wade – We were in Sri Lanka and Qld makes the Shield final. Gilly says, ‘Are you going to ask to go home to play in the final?’ I said, ‘Mate, I don’t want to sound rude or anything, but I’ve played 100 games for Qld, this is my second for Australia. I’ll hang around here thanks very much, just in case you fall over or I hit one too hard at you at training.’

Lew – Ian Healy’s keeping improved as he went on. I thought he struggled a bit early.

Wade – I assessed him really well the older I got. When I was younger, there was a bit of glory eyes looking at these senior players, but the older you get, you watch it pretty closely.

Ian – What I think is pretty special is that we have you three guys here, we’re talking about Tallon, Grout and Healy — the one thing in common, all Queenslanders!

Chris – I think the best keeper that I ever saw, and the best keeper of all time, was Heals. I think technically he did everything that you want wicketkeepers to do. He made few mistakes, and he was equally skilled back as he was over the stumps. His keeping to Warne was such an example of wicketkeeping as an art. I think he was the best ever.

It would have to go between Heals and Chuck. For different reasons — you talk about that halo effect of looking up to the player, and Heals was my first cricket hero as a youngster I suppose.

I appreciated Chuck’s keeping because I saw it up so close when I was starting off. I appreciated the skill that was there as I witnessed it day in, day out at Qld training. The difference is, and I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way, but Heals was all about the technique. It was always there and always very polished. With Chuck I learnt — and it was huge learning thing for me because Heals was the person I tried to model myself on — Chuck had the technique, but he also had this naturalness about it. It looked very free, and that was something I tried to learn off him because I knew that I was very mechanical in my movement. The reason why I rate you highly was because the technique was there, but also this naturalness in the way you caught the ball. There was something just so … I enjoyed it almost as an art form, the beauty of the movements. And he was equally effective over the stumps and back.

Ian – How do you teach a young keeper that naturalness and freedom of movement, it’s a difficult thing to replicate?

Chris – Chuck can say for himself, but as far as I was concerned I was, and am, a cricket nuffy. I will ask lots of questions and learn about the game as much as I can. So when I was first in the squad, I annoyed him with all my questions. I know that my enthusiasm to improve, which was probably mirrored in trying to perfect the movements, was probably why I was a bit mechanical.

It was Chuck that said to me that those fundamentals are important, but there has to be an element of freedom. For me, this led to a better mindset and attitude when it came to training and keeping in matches. It comes from hours of training and learning to loosen up during that process.

Wade – Heals and Harts are very similar personalities, very structured in the way they go about doing things. Heals could explain to anyone how you take the ball down the legside to a spinner, and I was just — you catch the thing! It wasn’t until I got older and started coaching that I had to come up with the right answers to tell someone how to do it. I think you are a little bit like that — structured in the way you trained. I would turn up not knowing what I was going to work on, but would work it as we went. At times it might have been frustrating for you because you had a structure in your head, but at times it might have been good for you.

Chris – My keeping improved immensely when I opened myself up to ‘coming back from this end of the spectrum’ and loosening up a bit.

Wade – The best way to keep is when you don’t think about how you’re doing it. My best keeping days were at St Lucia No. 1 because I had Lovey, Binge, Waldo, Gardy (under the lid, wherever we could hide him) to talk to, and I was relaxed, and this led to my best performances.

 

Memories of Thommo

Lew – (Thommo) first came and played as a guest player, along with Terry Jenner, for Uni in a Channel O “Knock Out” Match, at the Gabba, in a game vs Valleys.

I didn’t know who Jeff Thomson was? We fielded and he bowled off his short run (it was raining). Bill Buckle was our Captain and he set the field. Bob Crane first slip, Bill Grienke second slip, Terry Jenner fourth slip/gully.

I looked around the field and noticed that Terry was fielding in a position which was a lot nearer to third man than in the gully! I said to Terry, mate, you’re in the gully – up here – and Terry said to me, “Have you seen this bloke bowl”? I said No? “Well I’m stopping here and you’re too f…king close”.

Anyway, every time Thommo bowled a ball at Geoff Gray, who was opening the batting for Valleys, it used to go straight through him. He wouldn’t get out of his block. Sh.t, he was quick. I couldn’t believe how quick he was. So I kept on going back and Terry Jenner kept yelling, “I told you so you mug”.

On the third ball, it was wet and I use that as an excuse, the ball went through my gloves and hit me in the guts and left me with one great big bruise. When we went off, I asked Jeff Thomson what he was up to and he said, “The f…ing NSW selectors don’t know what they’re doing.”

In my then position as Secretary Manager of the Qld Cricketers’ Club and with Greg Chappell’s permission, I approached Thommo about coming to Queensland. He said he’d come and have a look.

I got him a job at Sharp’s Electrical, through a bloke who use to drink in the Cricketers’ Club’s cocktail bar.

After an interview for the job, Thommo said no, I’m not going to do this. So I said to him if you do come to Brisbane what do you want to do? “All I want to do is go fishing and play cricket,” (replied Thommo)

I said mate, if you gonna come up here you gotta work. What sort of work do you want to do?

“Aren’t you fu.kin listening”, he said, “All I want to do is go fishing and play cricket!”.

So that’s all he bloody well did. He hung around the Cricketers’ Club and drank and ate with his good mate Lenny Pascoe. 4IP came to the party and paid him a motza. Gave him a Maserati and the rest is history.

(Thommo) came on a Wanderer’s Tour with us once and normally you get two men and a dog along to a game – there was 2000 to watch him play, he was such an attraction.

What’s more, the crowd was full of women, trying to get in the dressing rooms and on to the team Bus. All the young fellas, like Greg Ritchie, thought it was marvellous as they were all getting the cast offs and the seconds. Good trip it was.

 

==

In Part 2, the Glovemen talk about training/playing routines, changes they’ve witnessed in the game, cricketing triumphs/disasters and memories of the Gabba

 

www.footyalmanac.com.au is the website of a community of sports writers and readers established by former UQ cricketer John (Darky) Harms whose first three books Confessions of a Thirteenth Man (launched by Andrew Courtice and featuring such legends of UQCC and Queensland life as Elton Rasmussen and Kasper), Memoirs of a Mug Punter and Loose Men Everywhere are available in the omnibus Play On. [email protected]

Leave a Comment

*