Almanac Teams: An innings cut short


Reading Phil Dimitriadis’ article about AFL/VFL footballers whose careers were cut short I noticed Dave Nadel’s’ points re John Greening. I recall the day in July 1972 when a violent on field action destroyed Greening’s career.  He’d been in sterling form that season, and to suffer what he did was criminal.


I remember his come back game against Richmond in 1974 when Collingwood thumped the reigning premiers. He only played a handful more VFL games after that, a career devastated by a vicious act .


He came downto us at Port Melbourne where he played in a flag in his first season; 1977. This was the first of three seasons at the ‘Burra’. He later carved out a career as a ‘bookie’.


Subsequent conversations about Phil’s’ article have led to me compiling a sad list of cricketers whose careers were cut short. Not by back injuries, or knee injuries, but rather more permanently by tragic misfortune. Some were impacted by an on-field incident, others off the field, then there were those lost in the fields of war.


The loss of Phil Hughes is still fresh in our minds less than five year since his death. An opening batsman whose career started so promisingly, then found some technical defects only to have it horribly taken away , his loss still causes great angst in the cricketing fraternity.


Opening with him  is Colin Milburn the bulky, big hitting English opening batsmen who lost an eye in motor vehicle crash. Though he returned to county cricket a few years later he was nowhere near the same player.


Nari Contractor is next in: the captain of this team. He was the Indian captain on the tour of the West Indies in 1961-62,on which he suffered  a grievous injury . Whilst distracted at the batting crease, he lost sight of the ball which struck him in the back of the head. Contractor spent 6 days in a coma, requiring numerous blood transfusions. He lived though his cricketing career was over.


I’m sure we all know the sad tale of Archie Jackson . A contemporary of Sir Donald Bradman, the classical young batsmen was bedeviled  by health problems, dying of tuberculosis aged only 23. To emphasise the sadness of it, his body was transported back to Sydney by train, the same train on which the Australian and English test teams were also travelling.


Will Slack had a brief career with England though was a loyal servant of Middlesex. He developed a problem of passing out, this taking place on the oval, also at training. Tests determining the cause were inconclusive. In the English off season he was playing in Gambia where he collapsed and died during a match.


Mark Boucher was a very recent tragedy. Such was his skill he holds the record for the most dismissals by a test wicket keeper. However, in a match against Somerset in 2012 he was struck in the eye by a bail. It caused such damage  his career was over. Despite subsequent surgery he never played cricket again, finishing his first-class career with 998 dismissals.


Ben Hollioake was one of two Australian born brothers who played for England. His career was cut short when he crashed his Porsche into a wall in Perth. Aged 24 years , 123 days he is the youngest English test cricketer to die.


Frank Milligan was an English all-rounder who played two tests. He toured South  Africa during the Boer War. He forsakes any further cricket, joining the army, only to be killed in action.


Albert ‘Tibby’ Cotter was an Australian fast bowler at the turn of the twentieth century. He was one of the  ‘Big Six’ , that declared themselves unavailable to play against England and South Africa in 1912. He never got another chance to play for Australia being killed in the famous light horse charge in Beersheba.


Hedley Verity was an English spinner of the 1930’s whose test career was cut short by World War 2. He was killed in action during the allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. Verity dismissed Sir Donald Bradman 8 times in tests, more than anyone else. As a spinner it is likely Verity would have returned to the English side after he war .


David Lawrence was a  English fast bowler in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. I mentioned earlier I wouldn’t include knee injuries, you know the common garden variety  PCL/ACL, ( I know a bit about it as I’ve done an ACL; it’s no fun) .   David’s case was more severe his left knee cap (patella) shattered in the middle of a delivery stride, the sound of it heard in the crowd. He tried a few come backs but retired at the age of 29.


Carrying the drinks is South Africa’s Claude Newberry who would have been at his peak when he was killed on the Somme in 1916, age 27.  He played four tests against England during their 1913-14  tour. With 11 wickets he was  his sides second highest wicket taker. War broke out and as they say; the rest is history.


Here’s a sad list of test players who never had a chance to retire on terms befitting them.

P Hughes (Aust.)

C Milburn (Eng.)

N Contractor (Ind.)

A Jackson ( Aust.)

W Slack (Eng.)

M Boucher (SAf.)

B Holioake (Eng.)

F Milligan (Eng.)

A “Tibby” Cotter (Aus.)

H Verity (Eng.)

D Lawrence (Eng.)

12th man, C Newbery (SAf.)




To see the Phil Dimitriadis article referred to above, you can click here.


For more from Glen!, click here:


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  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Nice idea Glen. Would Ian Craig qualify?

  2. Wally from Williamstown says

    Ian Meckiff, hounded out of the game in 1963 for allegedly throwing the ball just because he had an unusual action. He was the victim of an alleged conspiracy by the ACB to look like they were taking action to clean up the game after widespread accusations of throwing in Test cricket during the late 50’s and 60’s.

  3. citrus bob says

    Alhough he never made the Australian side PAUL MELVILLE Victorian & Richmond player was destined for big things when a serious illness cut short his life.
    Ian Craig?
    ROBERT ROSE became a quadriplegic in a car accident was also destined for big things.
    GAVIN STEVENS never recovered from an illness he received in Pakistan during a Test Tour

  4. citrus bob says

    PAUL MELVILLE Richmond and Victorian player destined for a long career at the top cut short by illness.

    ROBERT ROSE left a quadriplegic after an accident was touted as a future Australian batsman.
    GAVIN STEVENS never recovered from a serious illness received on a Test Tour of Pakistan.

    Ian Craig? would have had trouble holding his spot in the team I personally think.

  5. Good call Wally. I often wonder what Meckiff thinks about his treatment after what happened with Murali. In my opinion Ian’s action was the less controversial of the 2

  6. Rabid Dog says

    A sad read. Should we include Eddie Gilbert who was excluded at Bradman’s behest? Wally, Meckifff was a chucker. I have it on first hand authority. A chucker like Murali. Bob Woolmer to coach?

  7. Ta Chaps, a few names/memories there.

    Paul Melville was dropped from the Victorian side after the opening shield match at the ‘Gabba in 1978-79. He died a few weeks later. I have recollectoins of his Richmond team mate, Victorian/Australian captain) Graham Yallop making comments about winning the Ashes for him. Not to be.

    Robert Rose had wonderful 1973-74 season as an opener, he seemed destined for bigger things. Sadly never got the chance.

    After putting this team together i recalled Ken Wadsworth, a wonderful New Zealand wicket keeper who died of melanoma before he was 30. In the early 1970’s he was a fine opponent, his adventurous, determined spirit was like an earlier version of Brendan McCullum.

    Other contibutions noted.



  8. Dave Nadel says

    Frank Hyett, foundation secretary of the Victorian Railways Union is better known as a Trade Union leader, socialist and anti-Conscriptionist. However he played Cricket for Victoria and was actually representing Victoria in Sydney in 1919 when he became a victim of the Spanish Influenza pandemic and died shortly after at age 37. He was a close friend and associate of John Curtin.

  9. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great idea Glen !
    Very sad. Agree with Citrus re: Robert Rose. Tragic in so many respects.
    Raman Lamba from India played 4 tests and 32 ODI’s . Died as a result of being hit in the head by a bounce. RIP

  10. Well played, Glen !

    I reckon Victorian opening batsman Matthew Elliott was never the same player after injuring his knee in that infamous mid-wicket clash with Mark Waugh.

    Over 17,000 first class runs @ 47. Not too shabby

  11. I seem to remember Jeff Thomson colliding with someone (can’t remember who0 whilst attempting a catch in the outfield. Whilst his career continued, he was never really the same after.

    A brilliant WA bowler (whose name escapes me) who took numerous pommy wickets (mainly lbw in England had an altercation with a streaker and injured himself making him unable to achieve his past glories. Can someone jog my memory.

  12. Wally from Williamstown says

    Thommo collided with NSW opener, Alan Turner, and Terry Alderman did his shoulder tackling a spectator.

  13. PS That bowler was Terry Alderman – I’m getting forgetful for names in my old age – sorry about that. Terry ran after the streaker and caught up with him in a running tackle thus doing himself a mischief.

  14. Did Rick McCosker come back after copping that horrific injury in the centenary test? I can’t recall.

  15. Dave Nadel says

    Yes, his face was covered in bandages. He looked like Frankenstein’s monster and everyone admired his courage.

  16. Luke Reynolds says

    Dare I mention Hansie Cronje, whose career (by his own making) then life ended prematurely.

    Zimbabwe’s Trevor Madondo played 3 Tests, scoring 74 not out in what turned out to be his final Test against New Zealand in 2000/01. He died a few months later from malaria aged just 24.

  17. G’day Fisho ; ‘Thommo’ was certainly a tragedy. He had a long, financially successful test career in which he picked up 200 wickets but his peak was a bit like Haley’s Comet. It rushed past very quickly and if you saw it you’d never forget it but it didn’t last long.

    We know in 1972-73 he made a wicket less test debut , courtesy of a broken bone in the foot. His return in the 1974-75 Ashes series was phenomenal. He and Dennis Lillee were written off pre-series, but they certainly had the final word. Sadly ‘Thommo’ did his right shoulder playing tennis on the rest day in the Adelaide test. Series over.

    He returned in England for the 1975 tour, Despite the dead pitches he was still a danger to the health of batsmen as the Sri Lankans can testify from their World Cup encounter with him. The following summer he helped destroy the visiting West Indies picking up 29 wickets in the 6 test series.

    Sadly he collided with Alan Turner on the opening day of the 1976-77 Adelaide Test Vs Pakistan. He dislocated his right collarbone. Though he returned to play for Australia until 1985 he was never the same bowler. Probably his best/fastest spell was in Bridgetown, Barbados in the second test of the 1978 series when he terrorised the home sides upper order in response to the West Indies brutality against a young,inexperienced Australian batting line up.

    The speed, the destruction he meted out for nigh on two years, 1974-76 was basically a memory beyond that. He was never the same ‘Thommo’, who had thrilled us for that brief period.

    Luke you may dare mention Hanse Cronje, as his death, then that of Bob Woolmer leave many questions unanswered. Trevor Madondo: it’s a sad story.


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