Familiar faces among Assumption College Kilmore cricket greats…. KB Hill

Another fantastic story by KB Hill from his On Reflection site.

 

A rare night out for me usually entails a Pot and Parmie at the Pino, with Moira and a few of the kids.……

 

So it’s with some trepidation tonight, that we’re treading this elaborate staircase, adorned with marble balustrades and plush carpet. We’re headed for Crown’s swanky Palladium Ballroom – long-time venue of the Brownlow Medal-count and former home of the Logies.

 

It’s akin to a second-rate bush nag being thrust into a Group One Classic at Flemington.

 

The occasion is Assumption’s 125th Gala Dinner, at which they’ll be inducting several of the famous Kilmore College’s high-achieving alumni to their Hall of Excellence.

 

Another feature of the night – and of particular interest to me – is the unveiling of their ‘Cricketers of the Century’.

 

In the meantime, we’re downing canapés and pre-dinner drinks and watching celebrated Old Boy Billy Brownless natter to arriving guests on the blue carpet……

 

There are in excess of 600 guests expected, and, as we cast around, we spot a few of the school’s illustrious sporting products……

 

You never forget that craggy face…. It’s the inimitable ‘Crackers’ Keenan….there’s ‘St.Francis’ Bourke, the ex-Richmond legend………we notice former Collingwood defender Peter McCormack……….. Shane Crawford is buzzing around, as usual. ‘Crawf’ joined footy’s elite at this very venue when he snared the Brownlow in 1999…………..

 

 

One super-veteran, decked out in a light sports coat and shuffling around with the aid of a ‘walker’, button-holes us. He must be well into his nineties and almost takes a tumble as he leans forward. Surely he’ll struggle to see out the evening……

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The function is every bit as classy as anticipated…….Good meal, impressive speakers…….. And we’re among chatty, warm company……… When it comes around to inducting the eight people who have achieved excellence in various walks of life, it’s humbling to gain an insight to the journeys that they have undertaken.

 

A standing ovation is reserved for the final nominee – Neale Daniher – whose four-year campaign to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease has warmed the hearts of the nation…….

 

Shortly after, another ‘notable’ is introduced to the crowd, and it’s obvious, from their reaction, that he’s held in the highest regard. He’s somewhat of an institution at Assumption.

 

His name is Ray Carroll……………..

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Still boasting a full head of hair and wearing dark glasses ( obviously  his eyesight isn’t too flash these days), he belies his 81 years. It’s acknowledged that he’s the most successful cricket/football coach in the history of Australian college sport.

 

Amazingly, he spent 53 years at Assumption, devoting himself to the betterment of kids’ education, both in the classroom and on the sporting field.

 

Ray grew up in the tiny Western District town of Hexham, situated about 14km from Mortlake; son of a stay-at-home mum and a rough-hewn but kindly dad, who was a shearer and occasional tent-boxer.

 

From an early age his twin passions were cricket and footy. He played Country Week cricket; trained with, and followed the fortunes of Mortlake’s formidable Hampden League side, but had his eye on a career as a Teacher.

 

His first job, though, was as a cadet surveyor. When an opportunity bobbed up to attend Teacher’s College, he grabbed it with both hands.

 

I like the story he tells of graduating, at the age of 21:

 

“Out of the blue I was told there was a vacancy at Kilmore. I’d never heard of Assumption. When I arrived for an interview, Brother Sylvester, who was the principal, said: ‘I suppose you can teach…… and I hear you like football and cricket…..You can start on Monday.’ “

 

“On the first morning, Br.Sylvester told me I was in charge of a class of 65. I mentioned that I didn’t have any text books. He handed me a strap and a cane and said: ‘The boys’ll have books….Just keep one page in front of ‘em…..’ ”

 

The Carroll philosophy in life has been to “always treat people the way you’d like to be treated, and treat them with respect.”

 

He took charge of Assumption’s First XI team in 1967, and became the First 18 coach in the mid-70’s – the first lay person to accede to the role.

 

He was a mentor, and a second dad to a lot of kids, especially those who struggled with the transition from the open spaces of, say, life on a Riverina farm, to boarding school at Kilmore.

 

When he began coaching the First XI he was not much older than many of the boys, but down through the years, coached their sons – and in a handful of cases – grandsons.

 

Apparently the Carroll coaching methods never changed. He felt no need to tweak them, as they still proved stunningly successful, but time marches on, and he finally, reluctantly, stepped away in 2011.

 

 

He’s an icon of Assumption, and it’s obvious that he has maintained contact with most of his old pupils. They all seem eager to renew acquaintances………

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One of the countless sportsmen who came under Ray Carroll’s influence was Jon Henry. The boy from Kamarah, situated between Moombooldool and Ardlethan in the central Riverina, once kicked 201 goals in a season for Assumption.

 

He captained both the First XI and First 18, and recalls his coach being big on loyalty. “He preached playing for the school and sticking together. Ray’s a lovely fellah, and was ultra-competitive. I really think cricket was his first love, though.”

 

“ But on the footy-front, I remember we clashed with Melbourne High at the Junction Oval one day. They had about 16 Thirds-listed Melbourne players in their side, and Ray emphasised how important it was to gain the upper-hand. He had us really fired up. We came out and knocked them off. It was one of the best wins we had in my time there…….”

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I run into Peter Tossol, who’s reminded of his boarding days at Kilmore: “We were having an impromptu game of cricket in the dorm late one night,” he recalls. “ I’ve grabbed the bat and shaped up as Simon O’Donnell begins to steam in down the corridor to bowl to me.”

 

“I said: ‘Righto, O’Donnell, bring in on.’ Just then the door opens and one of the Brothers is there, arms folded, with a stern look on his face. He grabbed the bat and gave me a couple of whacks across the backside. Simon also copped a couple, for good measure.”

 

Toss says he used to bowl first change in the First XI, whilst O’Donnell would wreak havoc with the new ball. “He was positively fearsome at times. Simon had both openers out hit wicket one day, trying to get out of the road. He did all the damage. When I came on all I had to do was mop up. What a player he was as a school-kid……”

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I’m predicting ‘Toss’ and ‘Henners’ to to be walk-up starts in this team of ‘Cricketers of the Century’. And there’s no doubt that Simon O’Donnell, Assumption’s greatest cricketing export, will be named skipper.

 

So it transpires.

 

O’Donnell, Test cricketer, veteran of 87 one-day internationals and a star of Australia’s 1987 World Cup victory, gets the captaincy nod.

 

His deputy is Peter Ryan, a talented right-hand batsman of the late sixties and seventies. He played 84 games of District cricket with Fitzroy, and moved to Queensland in 1971, where he appeared in a couple of Sheffield Shield games.

 

The team is announced, to much acclaim:

 

SIMON O’DONNELL (c). ( Class of 1980)

PETER RYAN (v.c). (1969)

NEALE DANIHER. (1978)

PETER CRIMMINS (1965)

RAY POWER. (1982)

NILDO MUNARI. (1957)

STEVE GEMMILL. (1987)

JASON SMITH. (1990)

PETER TOSSOL. (1980)

 

 

JON HENRY. (1988)

JAMIE SHEAHAN. (2008)

JARROD TRAVAGLIA. (1998)

DAVID JOSS. (1932)

JOHN BAHEN. (1962)

TALLAN WRIGHT. (2010)

DES PURDON. (1942)

 

The experts claim that it’s a ‘ripper’ side. I’m familiar with the bulk of the names, and naturally, it was great to see Wangaratta ‘imports’ Tossol and Henry being called to the stage, along with former Rovers footballer Jamie Sheahan.

 

Jamie Sheahan, with a ‘Hanger-on’.

 

Six members of the team played League football and several progressed to Premier cricket throughout Australia and to English County cricket. Four of them still play, including 48 year-old Steve Gemmill, who, after five years at North Melbourne, returned home to Cobram to carve out a fine career.

 

Again, the charismatic Daniher received a huge reception. It was said  of the talented left-hander, that a berth as a Shield or international player, awaited him. Fate decreed that his future lay in football.

 

Similar tales such as this, continued to unfold ….It was my type of night  ………….

 

 

 

For other fabulous stories by KB Hill click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. So, umm, what were “the Carroll coaching methods never changed”?

  2. Dave Brown says:

    I bought Vic Marks’s ‘Marks Out of XI’ about England’s 1984/85 tour of India (and briefly Australia) in a second hand bookshop last year. In it was a postcard of Assumption College’s cricket ground from Ray wishing Maurie best wishes on his 60th. Can only imagine that was Ray Carroll.

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