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By Peter Hanlon (The Age Newspaper, Melbourne)

SWAN Richards describes himself as “58 going on 95”, and there are few who would dispute he’s crammed enough in to warrant it. At Caulfield Racecourse tonight, there will be toasts aplenty for a cricket institution that has his fingerprints all over it as the Crusaders celebrate their 30th anniversary.

“I think if cricket has the right system in place, you don’t need academies,” Richards said yesterday, before adding current Victorian state players Clinton McKay, Rob Quiney and Aiden Blizzard to a list of former Crusaders Colts who have “bypassed the system”, along with the likes of Shane Warne, Paul Reiffel, Darren Berry, Matthew Elliott and current Cricket Victoria chief Tony Dodemaide. It was with Dodemaide’s 1977 equivalent David Richards and his president Ray Steele who Richards dined at the Windsor Hotel, and out of that gathering came the Crusaders.

They have been represented since by more than 2500 players, in more than 1500 games, toured England and Europe 11 times and, through Swan’s incredible capacity to get things done, forged enduring relationships that extend all the way to the Prime Minister’s office.

Star’s story an absolute Monty

AT TONIGHT’S dinner, a toast will be made by Premier John Brumby and a congratulatory letter from former Australian captain

Greg Chappell read, saluting all who have given their time and energy to a program that began with state and district players playing against schools each Wednesday and broadened to encompass the Colts (their own academy of sorts), annual scholarships (which brought Paul Collingwood to Melbourne long before he was an England Test cricketer), matches against politicians and the latest foray into the western suburbs. “Many boys have enjoyed the support and assistance that the Crusader program has offered them,” Chappell wrote, “and while not all of them have gone on to follow a career in cricket, all have become better human beings and members of their community because of the lessons learned.” Richards has many favourite graduates, among them Brett Montgomery

who, after being dumped by Essendon Football Club, concentrated on cricket for three years with Ringwood and won a Crusaders scholarship. “He came to me and said, ‘I have to give it (footy) another try’, went to Footscray with Alan Joyce, worked his butt off, and became an All-Australian and premiership footballer,” Richards said. “That’s a lovely story.”

Swan and his ducks

RICHARDS left school at 12, found his way into cricket bat repair in Adelaide and helped set up Gray-Nicolls’ Australian manufacturing operation. A self-described “scrubber” at the game himself, his progression from Robert Milton Richards to Swan came when he was playing in the Prospect sixth XI in Adelaide and had made eight ducks in a row. “They said no one had made so many ducks so gracefully, so they called me Swan.” It is a name known from cricket’s grassroots to the highest office in the land, and all the way to Buckingham Palace: “They give me a hard time there, too.”

Boof! Take that!

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN cricket is in something of a crisis, a state not helped this week by the retirement of its most loved and legendary figure amid allegations of a rift with cricket boss Rod Marsh. But after the events of Wednesday evening at Adelaide Oval, it’s fair to say the city’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser, jumped the gun a little on Tuesday when it declared that “the Darren Lehmann carnival is over”. Certainly not for the 2579 fortunate souls who gave “Boof” a standing ovation as he came to the wicket, and were then treated to what Allan Border, commentating on Foxtel, described a couple of hours later as “something very special”. With former Victorian opener Matthew Elliott, he shared an unbroken 236-run partnership, running down Western Australia’s 6-305 with 18 balls to spare in the biggest successful run chase in Australian domestic limited-overs history. “That is as good as I can play in one-day cricket,” Lehmann said after plundering 126 not out off 104 balls (Elliott made 133 not out off 137). “It was just a freakish day.”

Hogg feels the heat

NOT about to disagree was Australian one-day spinner Brad Hogg, whose eight overs cost him 64 runs, including 17 off one in which Lehmann, taking strike almost a metre outside leg stump, had him completely rattled. When contacted yesterday, Hogg was studying for a tax subject as part of his Bachelor of Commerce, which he described as “more riveting than my figures last night, anyway”. “It’s pretty difficult,” he said of bowling to an on-song Boof. “You can’t really chase his feet because if you bowl it and he walks across his stumps, it’s deemed a wide. I was pretty happy with the way I bowled, but Boof just had a night out.”

Dougie’s tip: he’s not changing saddles

WITH the nation deciding tomorrow (finally), Sporting Life thought it a little unfair that Melbourne Grammar School principal Paul Sheahan was the only former Test batsman whose views had been sought on the campaigns of John Howard and Kevin Rudd. So we rang his former teammate Doug Walters. “Got you at a bad time, Doug?” “Yeah, it’s the middle of a bloody race.” After allowing sufficient time for the second at Tatura to be completed, we rang back. “Doesn’t matter, the bloody thing only ran third anyway,” bemoaned the man whose love of a drink, smoke and punt has enhanced the legend of the Dungog batsman as much as his 5357 runs at 48.3 from 74 Tests. So Doug, how can they buy your vote? Free beer? Cheap fags? “Mate, they don’t have to try and buy my vote; I’ve been happy with the way the country’s been run for the last 12 years. I’m not about to change.”

Right in the meat of the batsman

SO WE moved on to a wager between Walters and his former captain Greg Chappell. Two years ago, when Dougie turned 60, the first thing he did was send Chappell a message reminding him of a pledge he had made some years earlier, that he would relax his vegan ways to eat steak, drink beer and smoke fags with Walters if he managed to reach the milestone. “Yep, he honoured his bet — three to four months ago at my local pub,” Walters reported. “He didn’t go with the smoking part, but he had the steak and he had the beers. I think he enjoyed it. I’m sure it did him the world of good.” Walters has not caught up with Chappell since, but thinks he’s looking better now: “He could be back on the steak full-time.”

Original story can be found here.


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