They Don’t Make Them Like This Bloke Anymore.

So there I am, sitting at the table with other sports nuts. It’s a lunch. Nothing beats a good lunch because there is the food to consume (hopefully not endure), and there is also the magnificent guilty pleasure of opening a Crown Lager during normal office hours. I’m in an enormous room with 300 or 400 attendees. Must be an RDO.

There is a bloke sitting opposite me. I know him. Everyone knows that face. It’s a face of the 1970s. The era when unpolished professionalism ran into old time amateurism; when beer was part of the training regime, when the clipped English edge of the Australian establishment was rejected for brusque Aussie bravado, when shirts were not tucked in, when sportsmen advertised the clean, fresh taste of cigarettes, and when the Leyland Brothers were taking us around the countryside. It was a time of Kingswoods and big hair, puffy shirts with huge collars and tight pants that flared. It was the time of colour TV, The Box and Number 96. Brocky was the king of the mountain and they started playing cricket under lights. It was a time of risk and mayhem and Gough; when a youthful Australia was getting in with the wrong crowd, when it was exerting its muscle and declaring its protest through a megaphone. This bloke was in the middle of it all. A national treasure albeit a reluctant one.

He’s sipping a Crownie. The enjoyment is obvious. His thinning hair is swept across, though not quite with the same energy as the Kevin Bartlett brush over, and those famous eyes peer out across the room. They’re watery now as age takes hold, but they still sparkle with a hint of mischief and there resides within them an intensity; the intensity of a competitor. He sits slightly hunched over like a bloke trying not to be noticed. I get the impression he’d rather be dangling his legs over a bar stool in a quiet corner of the All Nations Hotel, than seated on a decorated chair in a cavernous function centre.

Around the room a silent auction is being run. Memorabilia of all shapes and sizes is on display. Some of it is excellent. Most of it is crap (who on earth wants a signed Collingwood jumper from the 2014 season?). I reckon a hanky signed by this bloke would out gun all of them. He sits at the table and has countless 30-somethings ask to take a selfie with him. He never says no. But there is an understandable weariness to it all. The selfie might be appropriate if you’re sharing a table with Kim Kardashian because it implies a fleeting interest; a superficial friendship. I’d prefer the dignity of a proper photograph.

He is introduced to the audience. A hand goes up and waves about then returns to the Crownie like a pigeon to the coop. Later he is invited onto the stage to regale the people with tall stories of his glory days. They are told with humour, self-deprecation, and measured skill. He’s done this plenty of times before. He has an alluring irreverence about him. Always has. And that’s how he played the game. It was there, he liked it, they paid him, so he played it. Uncomplicated. Unfashionable. And he played to entertain himself as much as everyone else. His famous moment in Perth in 1974 is testament to that. Others may have watched and waited in those circumstances. He charged.

The day draws to an end. I manage to sit with him and have a chat.

No urge to light up a smoke anymore? I ask

No mate. It’s been 6 years and twenty days since I had a drag. Giving up was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, he says, the sentence dripping with sarcasm.

When did you realise you were bloody good at this game? I ask.

Not sure really, he says.  I just kept going up through the grades.

Do you like the modern equipment? I ask.

Yeah don’t mind, he says. People like the big hits. They like seeing the ball flying about. Then he stops and considers his answer a bit more. But I hate the boundary ropes, he says. The ball needs to go over the fence not the boundary. I’ve been told the boundary ropes make the playing arena 18% smaller. Bloody ridiculous.

He draws a picture on a serviette of the old WACA ground and explains its dimensions and the pitch placements. To get the ball over the fence here, he says sticking the pen through the serviette’s surface, you had to hit the thing a bloody long way.  I’ve seen the film clip where he cleared the very same fence in 1974.

The conversation bounces about. There are 3 or 4 of us shooting the breeze. He talks briefly about the army days. He did Natio for two years right at the start of his career and doesn’t seem to have too many bitter memories of those days. He talks about the mighty West Indies and England’s John Snow (top two or three bowlers in his day). Security asks us to leave – repeatedly. They want to clear the room.

Yeah mate, he says, and keeps right on with his stories. We’re very keen to stay too. Eventually they call in the big shots.

Feel like coming for a few more ales? I ask him as a Maori the size of Uluru escorts us from the room.

No mate, he says. Thanks anyway. I’m going upstairs.

And off he strolled. To go upstairs. Whatever that means. I watched him go. He could have been anyone; any old bloke just making his way through the day. But he’s not. He is a legend.


About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. The Wrap says

    Boonie Dips? Or Dougie?

  2. Wrap – the correct answer wins a half hour kick to kick with me at Petrie Park in Montmorency.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    KD Walters, that was the best six ever hit

  4. KD Walters for mine. No doubt. Dougie always seemed an enigma and a man out of time – even in his playing days.
    Unbeatable on hard, true wickets like the WACA where his eye and nimble feet overcame all the deficiencies of technique. Couldn’t make a run in England to save himself.
    If you gave him the modern bats he’d make Finch and Warner look like cissies in T20.
    The hard drinking, smoking, gambling but always amiable persona seems a bit hard to reconcile these days. Even in the 60’s he looked like he’d stepped off a train from the 30’s.
    I always think of him as a bit like Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones (great autobiography) – kids, don’t try this at home if you want to live a long or happy life.

  5. Great read Dips. KDW is on my list of people I would love to have a drink with.

    Free for kick-to-kick whenever you are ;-)

  6. Thanks Dips, was only talking about him with some dads whilst watching school cricket last Saturday. Interesting that we associate him with the late 60s and the glory teams of the 70s, but he was still playing tests into the 80s. I grew up on books about the 74/75 series and accounts of that century.

    Just checked cricinfo for his stats. 15 100s, played with Wally Grout in his first test, AB in his last, incredible endurance and longevity for someone whom his body was a temple but he tore it down and put up a pub instead


  7. Georgie Howitt says

    Lovely story Dips. I met KD in 2013 at the races. I said, why is Australia so crap at cricket? (we’d just been demolished by the Poms). He said “That Peter Siddle should eat a big fuckin’ steak”.

    The framed photo of KD and I which I gave dad as a joke for Christmas remains one of dad’s most prized possessions, and only slightly because I’m in it.

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I am privileged that I have done several coaching clinics with Doug and I can assure you every drinking story you have read about Doug is 100 per cent correct , convinced the man has 2 livers . Very dry sense of humor just a genuine aussie bloke

  9. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Such a wonderfully paced piece Dips with respect without fawning. I was too young to remember KD at his best best I do remember watching his last Test century against the Kiwis in 1980-81. He should have gone to England in ’81. Might have made the difference in a divided dressing room. Wish I had his liver. Terrific story.

  10. Peter Flynn says

    Played Dips.

    KD Walters and centuries in a session.


  11. I would not have guessed who you were talking about Dips – the ’74 reference before my memory kicks in. I don’t know if I remember watching Dougie make 100 in a session (possible given he played into the 80s) or if I just remember it being talked about and highlights shown while I watched the cricket in the late 70s early 80s.

  12. Keiran Croker says

    Great piece dips.

    KD was one of three ambassadors/patrons, along with Trevor Chappell and Bob Holland on a Vets cricket trip I did in Sri Lanka in 2006. On non playing days Doug could be found all day at the end of the outdoor pool bar with beer and smokes at the ready. I never approached him. There were plenty of others ready to chat.

    One morning as I moved to the breakfast table where several of my colleagues were seated, I noticed Doug was at the top of the table. I caught his eye and brightly opened with “How are you Doug”. One word answer …. “Fragile”.

  13. Yes it was the great KD Walters.

    PB – you are spot on. Quite the enigma was Dougie.
    Georgie – glad you didn’t get the selfie with KD. There’s something about the selfie that just doesn’t feel right.
    DJ – I’m pretty sure Dougie only made one century in a session (I say “only”!!). That was 1974. Watch the You Tube. He’s throwing the bat like a bloke swiping flies.

    Not many people get to truly define an era.

  14. Peter Flynn says


    A correction.

    A better rated Walters’ Test century in a session by those in a position to compare was against the WI in Port of Spain (1972/73) against Lance Gibbs on a turning pitch.

    He also made a hundred in a session against the Rest of the World (in Melbourne I think).

    Definitely plural.


  15. PF – yes you are quite right. Hope Dougie accepts my apology.

  16. Oh, great stuff, Dips.
    You made me wish I was there.

  17. Thanks Dips – I guess my memory is of people remembering the time he did it and not me actually watching it.

  18. Great story and a pretty good day out for yourself, Dips.

    In I think One For The Road he tells the story of how he and his room mate on the last tour we made of South Africa took turns ordering each other breakfast.

    Chappelli had told Dougie he’d be 12th for the last Test, so on the first morning he and his room mate ordered up many, many beers. They got to the ground just after the toss. Australia were batting. Chappelli was cranky.

    There was a last minute change and Dougie was in.

    He finishes by saying that later that day he made his only hundred on tour.

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