Record breaking former Australian cricket coach John Buchanan has delivered a wonderful compliment to the late Andrew Symonds during a wide-ranging interview on the eve of the start of the GPS First XI cricket season.
Buchanan, the Queensland Hall of Fame inductee and coach of Queensland’s first ever Sheffield Shield winning side, will return to GPS cricket as coach of Brisbane Boys College – 53 years after helping The Southport School to a drought breaking First XI premiership in 1970.
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Buchanan, who has been a master of cricket milestones both as a player cricketer and a coach during his life, offers a rare insight during a wide ranging Q and A interview with News Corp, a story which kick-starts the www.couriermail.com.au’s coverage of GPS sport this year.
First memory of cricket: When I was about five I remember lying in my parents bed listening to Ashes from England.
Childhood hero growing up: Tom Veivers (former Australian and Queensland all-rounder) who I met at the Gabba when he was playing Sheffield Shield cricket. I wrote to him when he was on tour of South Africa and West Indies in 1965 and he brought me back autographs of the teams. He was then in my first A-Grade team at University when I played in 1971.
Fondest memories of your time playing GPS cricket at The Southport School: We had a terrific team of boys, none of whom were outstanding, apart from all-rounder Ross Wallace.
Yet, captained by Doug ‘Norm’ O’Neill, we won the First Premiership playing at BBC in 1970 for the first time in some 40 plus years. That season, every time we took a wicket, we would come together and sing the XXXX jingle – “Here’s to the sparkling amber beer, XXXX beer; Refreshing cool and clear XXXX beer; That is why it gets more popular every year XXXX beer; So here’s to the sparkling amber beer, XXXX beer …. XXXX BEER.”
We had about three or four of us who were dayboys, the rest were boarders. So the dayboy parents took it upon themselves to help transport the team, hold team BBQs and so it was a very harmonious and successful group.
That experience formed part of the fore runnings of my coaching method and style.
Best teammate (or teammates) you played with and why:
1. At School: While at TSS – all of the First XI were great teammates, as we really enjoyed each other’s company, at training, in games and at school.
2. While playing club cricket: All the guys I played with at Uni from the time were great teammates, from the time I started until I retired from Tom Veivers, Bob Crane, Bill Buckle, Lou Cooper, Tim Crommelin, Barry Maranta, Dave Ellis, Dave Ogilvie, Scotty Ledger, Brent Masters, Brian Rubb, Charlie Mengel and Norbury Rogers.
We won a couple of premierships along the way and I was fortunate to be named Brisbane Cricketer of the Year twice.
When I heard the news for the first time that I had won one of those two awards, Brian Rubb and I were driving through Europe having landed in Paris.
We had hiried a car to do some sightseeing before the season started in England as I had gone to England to play League cricket for Oldham in the Central Lancashire League.
Somehow Radio 4IP, which sponsored the Brisbane Cricketer of the Year, found us, and via telephone directed us to Frankfurt airport where I flew back to Brisbane. I stayed at home on the Gold Coast, and then was miraculously brought out on stage to receive the award during the presentation evening.
The next day I was back on plane to Frankfurt where Rubby (Brian Rubb) was waiting at the airport, and so we continued our European trip and then onto Oldham where we played Joel Garner’s side Littleborough after the snow had been cleared from the ground.
3. While coaching club cricket at Uni: I coached (Uni) from 1991-93 including Andrew Courtice (BBC old boy), Roger Traves, Martin Love (TGS old boy), Geoff Foley, Wade Seccombe (TGS old boy), Michael Kaprowicz (BSHS old boy), Paul Jackson, and so on where we won the premiership. It was the first time I had had premiership success since I was a part of the 1970 TSS premiership side.
4. Great teammates while playing for Queensland: They were all a pretty good bunch of guys but Max Walters, whom I replaced in the team after he was hit between the eyes by Bob Willis at the Gabba, became a good friend especially, as he took over as Chairman of Selectors when I was coaching the Bulls from 1994-95.
Best opposing player you played against:
1. At school – David Ogilvie, Andrew Jones, a batsman from Toowoomba Grammar School, and John Tealby, a left arm quick from BGS.
2. Playing club cricket – Jeff Thomson, Phil Carlson, Alan Jones, Bob Joyce, Greg Chappell, Trevor Hohns, Don Allen, Bill Albury, Carl Rackemann, Peter Donaldson, Tim Caban, Malcolm Francke and Dennis Lillie, among many others.
3. While playing for Queensland– John Maclean, Geoff Dymock (both Qld teammates), Geoff Lawson, David Hourn, Alan Hurst, Dav Whatmore, Jack Simmons, David Boon, Rodney Hogg, Craig Sargeant, Terry Alderman and Wayne Clark, among others.
The fastest bowler you faced: Jeff Thomson (Qld, Toombul), Joel Garner, Franklyn Stephenson, Colin Croft (all West Indians). The latter three I came across when I was pro for Oldham Cricket Club.
The Best batsman or batsmen you played against across your career: Greg Chappell (Souths).
I also coached against was Brian Lara who was the best when it was his day; Sachin Tendulkar for consistency; Kumar Sangakarra in his conditions and VVS Laxman when India toured Australia.
What would be the three most satisfying moments of your coaching career involving:
1. an individual – I always find this a hard question because as a coach, you play some role in their development, but so do many others
2. A team – Always being involved with the Bulls in the first ever Sheffield Shield win; then the Australian team to help create the record we did from 1999-2007. In among that was the Ashes win in England 2002, winning in India for first time in 37 years; regaining the Ashes 2006-07 and winning a second ODI World Cup undefeated in both.
The player or players you coached who were most likely to put a smile on your face, no matter the situation: Andrew Symonds.
Who were the players who you would describe as a coach’s dream: First let me describe a “coach’s dream’’. They perform on the field; they train hard and inspire everyone else to do likewise; they are the glue of the team, so well liked; they tell the coach what is happening in the team; they are accountable for their actions; they hold others to account, even if they are not perfect themselves; they are a leader without a formal title (often); they have a strong sense of family; they are selfish when it comes to their preparation which means they are their own best coach, and totally selfless when it comes to pitching in and help teammates prepare; they are often humorous without knowing it; they do not take themselves too seriously; they are grounded and never forget where they have come from and who has helped them along the way; they accept the accolades that come their way but do so with humility; they show themselves to be vulnerable at times when things on or off-field are not going their way; they are not totally consumed with cricket – they have a life and passions away from the game………this describes Andrew Symonds.
And probably close behind him, Adam Gilchrist, Kaspa (Michael Kasprowicz), Bich (Andrew Bichel).
Is there a player you or players you most admire for extracting every bit of ability out of themselves to achieve: Paul Jackson (three-time Shield winning spinner) comes to mind here. A player not blessed with a lot of natural athletic ability, someone who always had self-doubts and who had little batting talent – while not being the best fieldsman. However, Jacko (Edward scissor-hands) was one of the all time great competitors and team men. He was one of the key men in winning the Sheffield Shield and the continuing success of the Bulls.
The best player for a crisis that you encountered:
1. As a player – John Maclean (BSHS old boy, ex-Qld captain and Test keeper), Derek Parry (West Indian all-rounder) whom I played with at Cambridgeshire in Minor Counties, and Bill Grienke (University).
2. As a coach – The best player for a crisis that I coached were Martin Love (TGS old boy), Matt Hayden (Marist Ashgrove old boy), Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan in the ODI arena.
The best bowler for a crisis was Carl Rackemann (Qld champion, Test bowler), Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne (Test legends).
What you were most looking forward to when coaching Brisbane Boys College: We have talked a lot about how to play the game as an individual and as a team. I am looking to see these elements to batting, bowling, fielding gradually improving by individuals and by the team through the season. If we can see this improvement, the boys continue to have fun at training and in games, and we can win a few games along the way – I believe we will have a very good season.
The most underrated players you encountered as both a player and a coach: I think there were a number of players I played with at Uni CC who should have been given opportunities or more opportunities to play for Queensland. I am thinking of Bill Grienke, Brent Masters, Scott Ledger, David Ellis, Brian Rubb and Mark Shackel. At a national level, players like Brad Hodge, Simon Katich, Scott Muller (TSS old boy), and others could have had extended careers but for the quality of the players ahead of them.
From your recent three seasons coaching at Western Suburbs, what gave you most satisfaction:
Watching the likes of Blake Edwards, Brendan Doggett and Sam Truloff progress to play state cricket, and watching Patty Dooley (Hobart Hurricanes) break through to shine this year in the BBL.
Also watching the likes of Steve McGiffin, Snelly, (Isiah Snell) and Aiden Watterson achieve, and just being around a young group of guys to help guide them a little to what is expected of them individually or collectively to win consistently
Footnote: The www.couriermail.com.au will again cover the season starting on Saturday, then provide regular cover both midweek and every Saturday late afternoon.
GPS FIRST XI ROUND 1
Brisbane Grammar School v Brisbane Boys College (at BGS)
The Southport School v Ipswich Grammar School (at TSS)
Churchie v BSHS (at Churchie)
Gregory Terrace v Toowoomba Grammar School (at Tennyson)
Bye: Nudgee College
Originally published as GPS First XI cricket: From TSS schoolboy to Test coach – John Buchanan recollects