Almanac Life – Paying Homage to the great DK Lillee

Outside the Riverbank Stand at the Adelaide Oval sits a statue of  Malcolm Blight. At the base of this statue, I have had the good fortune to stand and pay homage on a number of occasions. The great man is depicted in full flight, about to roost the footy. It is not a catastrophe of Cristiano Ronaldo proportions but, with all due respect to sculptor Meliesa Judge, the statue bears only a passing resemblance to Blighty. And I should know because as a North Melbourne supporter, from the ages of 9 to 15 I was a Blighty fanboy.

 

 

Smokie – and good mate Ship – with M. Blight

 

As interesting as the Blight statue is, it bears no comparison to that of Dennis Lillee, which sits just to the right of the entrance to the Members Area at the MCG. Any fan of DK – and I am unashamedly a Lillee fan – would agree that he is perfectly captured in his delivery stride: legs crossed, right arm high and beautifully positioned. The Tower 6 Bar in the MCC provides a pleasant view from which to enjoy Louie Laumen’s magnificent Lillee sculpture.

 

At the Boxing Day Test Match a few years ago, I was enjoying a beer with a few mates in the Tower 6 Bar when none other than Dennis Keith Lillee himself walked in for a beer. Momentarily, the punters fell silent, in awe of being so near to greatness. Sporting the smoothest of domes and a greying moustache, for a man of 68 years of age DK looked as fit as a fiddle. He was with two friends and retired to a corner of the bar for a quiet drink. I glanced over at Dennis, glanced out at his statue, and thought that if only I could get him to move a metre or two to the left I would have a photo that would set Instagram alight. My mates Flynny and Moc did, however, summon the courage to ask for selfies, requests to which Dennis politely acquiesced. After an hour or so, Lillee and his mates departed, at which point the entire bar erupted into a round of applause. Dennis nodded his head in acknowledgement.

 

A few days ago, my son Luke and I rode our bicycles into the city, along Southbank and over to the MCG, where I paid homage to Lillee and took a selfie in front of his statue. We then rode along the silent bank of the Yarra. The streets were apocalyptically deserted, and I dismounted my bike to capture for posterity a picture of myself alone, in the middle of the day, beneath the clocks at Flinders St Station. “Move to the left just a little,” Luke said as he pointed the phone at me. And I did so, while wondering if I should have taken the chance and asked Dennis Lillee if he would have minded doing the same.

 

 

Smokie with old mate Dennis

 

 

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About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. Great yarn Smokie. Growing up DK was the cricketer who loomed large for me. There were plenty of stylish batsman like GS and IM but Lillee had captivating pace and charisma. He was Hellenic menace. The MCG statue is always a port of call when in Melbourne.

    I’m with you on the statue of Blighty. I reckon the one of SK is appropriately faithful and evocative too. Do bowlers lend themselves to sculpture better than batsmen?

  2. Rulebook says

    Geez Smokie poor,DK is still saying I missed my chance of getting a photo with,Smokie.
    DK Lillee was everything developing from the tear away originally with the arms flaying like a windmill on approach to with,Michael Holding the most rhythmic run up in the game the charisma the fierce determination to come back from stress fractures which was a almost experimental phase back then thank you to
    the late,Dr Frank Pyke ( father of Don and James ) for managing to get,Dennis to return to cricket so effectively.DK is still the 1st picked bowler in my side.Unfortunately have to agree re Blighty I reckon at school the words would have been good try have another go thanks,Smokie

  3. Peter_B says

    Grand memories Smokie. Reading Tony Wilson’s 1989 at the moment. Blighty breathes from the page along with many others and I’d rather be in 1989 than 2020. An age of wonder.
    When I now think of old sportsmen and events I focus more on what I remember than what I know (or can google to refresh unreliable memory). I increasingly prefer to live in the blurred dots of a late Monet.
    I was at DK Lillee’s first test in Adelaide. Bill Lawry’s last. A torch had been passed. Earnest plodders like Froggy Thomson and Ross Duncan giving way to DK and what would become the Chappell era. DK was wild but he was exciting.
    I most remember his evolution as a bowler. The second innings of the Centenary Test. Injury and experience and adapting to a low, slow MCG graveyard. DK bowling endless overs of cutters and curlers off a 10 step run up. A man for all seasons and every occasion.
    Can’t think of another bowler who fits that description. Thanks DK (and Smokie).

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    “Meliesa Judge is going to have to live with that. Pathetic”

  5. Mickey – interesting observation re bowlers. I had never previously considered that!
    Rulebook – if only DK was rueing his missed opportunity!
    PB – some wonderful memories there. DK Lillee was indeed a champion.
    Swish – is Meliesa Judge related to David Pittman?

    Thanks for your comments, all.

  6. E.regnans says

    Thanks Smokie.
    I’m with you on the DK statue.
    Beautifully, evocatively captured.

    What was your answer to your wondering. Would you approach him if you had that moment again..?

    I wonder if DK ever needs to reach for his pocket at the MCG.

  7. Rick Kane says

    Great stuff Smokie. DKL epitomizes the idea of legend. Lillie and Marsh are the embodiment of Australian cricket.

    Incidentally, I attended the same high school as the great man and Belmay, where he went to primary school was where we played after school footy.

    Onya

  8. Mark Branagan says

    There were so many incredible performances of the great Malcolm Blight. But if you wanted to select one iconic image of the Great Man for a sculpture it would have to be of him holding the ball above his head, Princes Park circa 1976 (after the siren mind you) lining up for goal some “EIGHTY TO EIGHTY FIVE” metres out – according to Mike Williamson.

  9. Stainless says

    DK Lillee in cricket. Royce Hart in footy. My boyhood heroes. None bigger.
    Coincidentally I walked past that statue the other day. It is a ripper.
    Thanks Smokie

  10. Great read Smokie. The heat of the moment..do I or don’t I ask? the risk of rejection. Had that moment a year ago in a gallery when ken done walked in..led to a terrific conversation as it turned out…but it was a quiet space unlike the tower 6 bar at the mcg. I didn’t regret asking as it turned out in this situation.

  11. e.r. – No, I wouldn’t have approached him had I had my time again. But certainly I am a little jealous of Flynny and Moc.
    Rick, Mark, Stainless, Kate: thanks for reading

  12. Memories of DK.

    How many times did I see DK bowl @ the G? I reckon i saw seven tests. It was unforgettable when DK Lillee, fired up by a big, beer swilling crowd chanted, “Lillee, Lillle’ bowled match winning spells.

    Watching him scythe through Pakistan @ the G, 1976-77. A wicket full of runs until DK changed the tenor of the game, as his bowling saw Australia gain a hard fought ascendancy. An ascendancy that saw us win.

    I was at the centenary test, though on day 4, the day when only 3 wickets fell. The final day i was at school, and scores were being relayed around the classroom(s).I went home to see the Centenary Test have the same result as the First Test; Australia by 45 runs.

    Then 1981-82. I was at home on the first day when Kim Hughes gave the bowlers something to work with, something that included DK knocking off Sir I V A Richards off the last ball of the day. I was there next day when he took the wicket taking record.

    I wasn’t there @ the WACA in late 1976 when he peppered Sir I V A Richards with bouncers before getting him out for a blob. Western Australia had gone from 1-48 to all out for 77, before skittling Queensland for 62. An amazing game, with D K Lillee once again being a match winner, one of many times in a great career.

    Thanks for the article Smokie, it got to digging up some memories from a halcyon time.

    Glen!

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic Smokie. The statues at the ‘G are magnificent, and doubly serve well as meeting points. Lillee and Warne are prefectly sculpted and wonderfully balanced. Always love seeing WH Ponsford when I go to the footy. Really looking forward to the day I can see him again.

  14. D K Lillee – what a cricketer he was . For years I’ve been of the opinion that when giving this great man’s stats we should give him credit for all the wickets he took in the SUPER TESTS in WORLD SERIES CRICKET. In my humble opinion those wickets were against far superior opponents than other players in the tests played during the big split. Lillee’s figures should always show as 355 TEST WICKETS and X (THOSE HE TOOK IN SUPER TESTS). Likewise for the batsmen in that era

  15. Guess I was extremely lucky to have umpired test cricket at its best.

    DKL played his first test in Adelaide in 1971 v England and that was my 2nd test match. Wild boy with very long hair and a long bowling run up. Lew Burdett nearly had to shift the southern fence to let Lillee start his run in to bowl.
    Dennis is a great person, good personality,, no ego and a joy to talk after all these years. A visit to Perth some 3 years ago Dennis hosted me on a half day tour of Perth. Much appreciated.

    I was the only umpire to be invited to appear on Dennis’s This is Your Life tv show.

    Who could ever forget the 1977 Centenary Test in Melbourne and I was in the middle with the great cricket umpire Tom Brooks from Sydney. I was appointed to the Test on a Friday night a week before the Test and had to go to work on the Monday and ask for 10 days special leave.

    We were instructed to be in Melbourne on the Wednesday am prior to the Test.

    The celebrations were amazing with luncheons, dinners, tv appearances, afternoon tea get togethers, Dinner at Parliament t House, MCG dinner, hotel dinner at the Hilton (near the MCG) and the walk thro the Museum at the MCG with Sir Len Hutton, Sir Colin Cowdrey, Sir Donald Bradman, Bob Parish and then introduced to Sir Robert Menzies on day 1 of the Test. I thought I was in Heaven and still recall the highlights of the game.

    When I returned to work as an Accountant at ETSA I was invited to a morning tea by the General Manager of ETSA Mr Roy Colyer, a former A grade club cricketer and a former SANFL A footballer.

    There were 10 Executives at this function and I was asked questions for over one hour about the game..
    Hookes five fours in succession from my end, Randall with a brilliant 174, Lillee’s bowling, McCosker with a fractured jaw, Dr Donald Beard coming out of the field to assist Rick- the list goes on and on.
    .
    Sadly Bob Willis, who represented England in this game, and passed away recently. Bob and I shared a open car drive around the MCG in December 2017 at a reunion of the players from that great match. Great guy and a 100% trier on the field. He would not have had an enemy in the world and great company off the field.

    Never forgotten test and have magnificent items to remind me of the occasion.

    M Son was 6 years old and when I returned home I asked him if he watched the game. He replied “Yes for 10 minutes ” and then said he switched to the kids show on tv.

    ACB and now CA and the MCC Melbourne were brilliant organising the event and to think a quarter of a million turned up of the 5 days. The game was played in between seasons and was shown direct to air in most cricketing countries.

    Meeting Harold Larwood and Bill Voce in the middle of the Oval prior to the test starting was unbelievable.
    Met and introduced to the Royal Couple during the tea break on day 5 and what a great final session of cricket. The game concluded at 5.25 pm on day 5 of the test.

    Sir Donald Bradman told me some weeks after the game that he considered the 1977 Centenary Test match to have been the best test match ever played.

    I should put my story on a tape recorder on the experience and that game resulted in me going to the Northern Territory 31 times in 25 years to umpire carnivals in various towns./ cities in the Territory. Taking my 2 kids with me and letting them go to school and be billeted in various mining towns in the Territory is still in their memories.
    I was invited to umpire at Windsor Castle during a visit to England to see my Daughter Tricia . Met Her Majesty 3 times in 2 days.

    Money could not buy these experiences.

    Max O’Connell Adelaide May 2020.

  16. Bernard Whimpress says

    Great piece, Smokie, prompting superb responses especially from Max O’Connell.

    I like the Blight sculpture but it definitely represents a young man and not the stronger figure he was in his VFL days.

    For anyone who is interested in the Oval sculptures I wrote an article for the journal Sporting Traditions in 2016 and can make a more recent version available to those who want to contact me at [email protected]

    Mickey Randall makes a good point about bowlers making better subjects than batsmen and certainly the pick of Adelaide’s cricket sculptures is the one of Jason Gillespie although sadly out of sight most of the time. The original placement of Gillespie and Darren Lehmann was OK but should now be on plinths on the plaza on the eastern side of the ground.

    In closing I think a lot of the romance as well as power of Lillee was tied up with his dark hair and moustache. I remember being in a lift with him at Adelaide Oval in the 1990s and was amazed at how slight he seemed without the long locks – I must say I was 190cm and 90kg at the time. I contrast this experience with standing in a lift with Peter Darley in his late playing days and his shoulders seemed as wide as the lift.

  17. Thanks again for your comments, all.

  18. Tremendous thread. Generated by a terrific snippet of memory – thanks Smokie.

    Great to read your words Max – welcome to the Almanac.

    I never grow tired of the Lillee statue. It has such form and energy.

    DK Lillee does have a few credits! Lillee has such a place in sport. I was eight when he made his Test debut. The following summer he took 8/29 which we weren’t able to see live on TV because the line failed. He was the hero of the nightly highlights packages from Engand in 72 – then 74-75, 75-76 were simply amazing for a 12-13 year old.

    The walk into a bar thing is a classic too. In 82-83 Lillee didn’t play the Brisbane Test. I remember this because he was on the Gabba Hill on the Sunday afternoon – the afternoon of The Dungers (about 50 of them). Lillee was wandering among his people, having a beer or two. He was in the vicinity of our group briefly – a dozen or so uni students having a serious sip. People were getting items signed – a thong, a bank receipt, and a left breast. He was as natural as natural. The coppers let it happen. It was pe-security zombie days.

    Great piece Smoke.

  19. My first time at the cricket was the day DK broke Gibbs’ test record for the most wickets. Pretty hard to top that – the atmosphere generated was electric with multiple standing ovations every time the great man marched back down to bay 13 thereafter.

    Lillee had it all – the look, the charisma and showmanship, oh and of course the phenomenal skill and smarts to go down in history as one of the best fast bowlers ever. The fabled controversies made him even more compelling. I liken him to being the Freddie Mercury of cricket.

    The statue is worthy of the legend, you often see locals and tourists alike either taking photos or standing there transfixed. Nice work Smokie and the responses to this story also make for great reading.

  20. Tony Taylor says

    Hey, Max. If you ever bump into Dick French, tell him from me that his decision to knock back a Derek Randall LBW off Geoff Dymock in Sydney in the 1978/79 Ashes still aggravates me. Randall made a ton and England went 3-0 up instead of 2-2.

  21. Tony Taylor says

    Sorry, 3-1 up.

  22. I loved watching DK. The chain around the neck. I have a recollection of watching him bowl at the Poms on a stinking day at the G (hope my memory serves?). The deck was as flat as a road, ball wasn’t doing a thing. Gower was on about 106 and spanking the Aussies all over the park. Lillee bowled one of his effort balls, got the nick and Gower walked, nodding his head in approval at the delivery. DK got the ball to do something when it wasn’t doing anything. Brilliant.

  23. Gerard Barns says

    Lovely yarn, Smokie. Telling yarns and limericks by the dozens, something fro which you are rightly noted.
    The first day of the Boxing Day test against the West Indies, 1981, is my most enduring memory of Lillee. On the last ball of an utterly absorbing day of test cricket, he bowled Viv Richards for 2, with Yorker, that sent the crowd roaring with delight. As Richards’ wicket was shattered, Lillee’s follow through continued all the way to the dressing sheds. He appeared to be in another zone. From memory, and I stand corrected, the West Indies ended the day at 4-10, with Lillee taking the scalps of three of the West Indies top order. This day’s play ebbed and flowed, as great test cricket should. Australia were 3 for something below 20, until Kim Hughes, a somewhat tragic sporting figure in my view, took on the fury of the West Indies attack, and scored 100 not out of Australia’s total of 198. While only 208 runs for the day, everyone who was there with have felt mightily satisfied having witnessed an enthralling day of cricket. I remember my dad and myself sat silently in our seats for about ten minutes after stumps.

  24. Gerard Barns says

    Apologies for the numerous typos in my piece. Won’t happen again.
    Gerard Barns

  25. roger lowrey says

    Great piece Smokie.

    Great primary source information Max.

    Love both.

  26. Daryl Schramm says

    Loved watching DKL bowl, especially early in his career. An aggressive tearaway fast bowler on the long, angled run. Later in career bowled short to Rowdy in a shield match. Not happy Jan! Also competitive with the bat. There was a story I recall I think on a NZ tour. A discussion around money and performance. DK made quite a large score at a few dollars per run made. Someone else might be able shed more light. Also, pleased to read Max Pc’s insights on the great 1977 test. One of life’s regrets not getting myself there.

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