‘The Brian Dorman Show…….’ – KB Hill

When old Wangaratta Social Cricket Association stalwarts gathered last Sunday, for a charity re-union match, discussion  no doubt drifted to the gun players who graced the competition over its colourful 74-year history.

 

There were a host of those – and countless others who served their clubs with distinction.

 

Occasionally a champ flashed across the landscape like a shooting star – only to quickly disappear……..leaving you with indelible memories of his skill.

 

I recall one of them. At times – in the early to mid-sixties – I had a box-seat to the Brian Dorman Show…………

 

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

 

He stood 6 foot four, tipped the scales at 15 stone, and – brandishing a bat that looked like a tooth-pick in his hands – bludgeoned the bowling as ferociously as any local player I’ve seen.

 

Added to this, he was a high-class wicket-keeper;  creating an imposing presence behind the stumps as he stood up to most bowlers. His glove-work was neat, swift and effective.

 

They called him ‘Horse’. Some said his footy team-mates gave him that ‘handle’ because he took long, slow strides like a race-horse. More logically, it was probably because of his fascination with the sport of kings.

 

He arrived in Wangaratta to take up a job as a foreman for local trainer Hal Hoysted, and, after admitting his fascination for cricket, was recruited to WSCA club Socials.

 

It was a perfect mix. Socials were a motley band of keen cricketers and racing fanatics who included in their ranks a couple of the local constabulary and two or three S.P bookies.

 

Their President – and probably the bloke who recruited ‘Horse’ – was Ray Parkinson, one of the town’s leading bookmakers. Opposition teams irreverently dubbed them the ‘Cops and Robbers’.

 

The Socials players used to joke about the post-mortem of the previous day’s races which would be undertaken during their innings.  It would become so absorbing that a participant could excuse himself when a wicket had fallen, go out to bat, be dismissed and then rejoin the conversation without anyone having noticed that he’d gone missing !

 

Of course that was until ‘Horse’ Dorman arrived on the scene.

 

His debut knock was a signal of things to come, when he hit 99, including 8 sixes and 7 fours, against South Wangaratta. He followed this up with 114 in 72 minutes against Postals.

 

He wasn’t just a left-handed slogger. Possessing a fine array of shots and a keen eye, he exuded great power. Many of his sixes at North Wangaratta’s Sentinel Park ( Socials’ home ground and the local greyhound venue), landed half-way up the adjoining paddock – or smashed into the dog boxes, 30 metres from the field of play.

 

His first season – an interrupted one – netted 867 runs and a premiership.

 

He continued to pile up the runs. I was a decade younger than ‘Horse’ and had the privilege of standing, entranced, at the other end some days as he slaughtered the bowling. In one match our opening stand was 150 ( in 86 minutes ) of which my contribution was 22…… Oh, and that season produced another flag.

 

 

img_3938

 

Later, when he moved to Berrigan, he travelled over for another season or two, such was the enjoyment that he derived from Sunday cricket.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I should fill you in on the Brian Dorman story…….

 

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

 

He hailed from Merbein, a little town just 12km or so north of Mildura….. “There were four of us kids ( we had two sisters Raylee and Annette) and we were all mad on sport,” says his brother John. “Brian was a bit of a prodigy….played senior cricket and footy for Merbein at 15. “

 

“You know what it was like in the fifties…..No such thing as zoning. A bloke called Len Herath alerted Collingwood to Brian, and their Secretary Gordon Carlyon came up and nabbed him.”

 

img_3937

 

“I went down too……Made the list, but got transferred to Boort in the Post Office soon after, so that was that. I wasn’t good enough to play League footy, anyway.”

 

But the younger Dorman made an impression. After three promising games in the Reserves early in 1954, he was named at centre half forward against Geelong for his senior debut. At 16 years 324 days, he had the unenviable task of lining up on Cats premiership defender John Hyde in the re-match of the previous season’s Grand Final.

 

He kicked a couple of goals too, but the Pies were just giving the lad a sniff of the big-time. He was to spend several years growing into his body and suffering injury setbacks before he was deemed truly ready.

 

img_3934

 

His dad Marnie – a wood-merchant and non-footballer – was an old mate of Collingwood captain Lou Richards, who offered to put Brian up at his pub for a while, to keep an eye on him.

 

Firstly, he resided at the Town Hall Hotel in North Melbourne, then Lou and Edna took over the Phoenix, in the city. ‘Horse’ became the ‘star boarder’ for seven years.

 

The Richards’ had the benefit of a baby-sitter, fill-in barman and occasional handyman.
Lou enlisted Brian’s support one night, when a customer who’d been at the bar all day, collapsed, and, to all intents and purposes, appeared to have gone off to his mortal coil.

 

They carried the body out of the pub and around the corner . Lou suggested placing it in a phone-box, so as to avoid any adverse publicity for the Phoenix Hotel.

 

At that moment a passing policeman queried what was going on…..“We think he’s dead,” said Brian….With that, the cop gave the bloke a good kick in the midriff, and he awoke, startled………..

 

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

 

Besides his run of footy injuries, Brian copped another when he was on National Service duty at Watsonia. The Army jeep he was driving, rolled over and he sustained a broken pelvis. It cost him half of 1956, and all of the ‘57 season.

 

Collingwood was heading towards one of their most famous premierships in 1958. ‘Horse’ had played the bulk of the season in the key forward post, but rolled his ankle in the second-semi, and was ruled out for the season.

 

But by 1960, he had hit his straps. He’d booted three goals in each of his three previous games, and when he lined up at CHF in the Preliminary Final against Fitzroy, was considered one of the keys to the Magpies’ victory chances.

 

The ‘Sun’s’ preview of the clash stated that: “……with more pace, Dorman could be a top-line forward…..He’s not a slow thinker and knows what to do with the ball when he gets it. He was the side’s most positive forward in the semi-final………..”

 

Alas, the Dorman career ended tragically that day, when he took a mark, attempted to kick on the muddy surface of the MCG, and his left knee caved in. These days, it would just require a ‘reco’, some rehab and he’d be back as good as gold in less than twelve months.

 

img_3933

 

 

But in that era it spelt disaster. His career with the Magpies was finished, after 51 senior games. He was grateful for the resultant job offer from Hal Hoysted, as he was enthralled by the racing game .

 

He attempted a footy come-back of sorts a year or so later, when he had a run with Wangaratta, but the knee continued to ‘blow up’. It was all over for ‘Horse’………

 

img_3936

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

 

Brian was lured to Berrigan by an old mate, Bert Honeychurch, and became Stable Foreman for the Training legend, thus beginning a 46-year love affair with the small Riverina town.

 

After a lengthy training ‘apprenticeship’ he obtained his own trainer’s licence in 1977, and, with wife Jan ( a Wangaratta girl ) started operating from the Berrigan Racecourse.

 

Soon after, Brian’s keen eye for talent saw him purchase Warlike, a seven year-old, for $1,250. It proved a sound investment, as the gelding was to take the $10,000 Golden Harp at Broken Hill, the Deniliquin Cup, and got up – at long odds – in a shock result at Moonee Valley, among its 14 wins.

 

Namrod ( Dorman spelt backwards ) was also a more than handy galloper who landed a few wins at double-figure odds.

 

He continued to chalk up the winners, particularly on Riverina tracks, over the next 35 years, and numbered Griffith, Albury, and Chiltern Cups – and a Riverina Cup with Master Delville – among his many successes.

 

‘Horse’ battled cancer for two years before finally succumbing in 2012. He left wife Jan, who still resides in Berrigan, and two daughters, Marnie and Anissa, who live in Albury.

 

His memory is perpetuated by the Berrigan Race Club who annually name one of their races, the Brian Dorman Memorial Handicap…………….

 

img_3935

You can read more of KB Hill’s fascinating stories by clicking here.

To find out more about Almanac memberships CLICK HERE

Comments

  1. Love the snap with Bill Serong. Two larrikins and a gentleman Thorold Merrett. Geoff Lane was a prominent hoop at the time.

    Endearing image of Brian Doorman is of him writhing in agony clutching his left knee after injuring it in that prelim final against Fitzroy. Used to see it on every piece about knee injuries in the 60s.

Leave a Comment

*