Queensland’s Sheffield Shield campaign of 1973-74

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In the world of Queensland cricket, there were three great “almost” eras – times when we (warning: I identify with the Queensland cricket team far too strongly for my own good) consistently almost won the Shield but stumbled at the final hurdle.

The best remembered is that period from 1983 to 1993, when we made the final six times out of 10 and failed to win each time. The least remembered is in the late ’50s and early ’60s, when Queensland came second for three seasons. Then there was the ’70s, when we came second four summers out of five – starting with 1973-74 which I’m talking about today.

The decade prior to this summer had been grim for Queensland – we’d come last for eight out of the previous nine seasons.

There were good players, just not enough of them: Sam Trimble was a stalwart opener (in 1973 he was the oldest cricketer playing Shield cricket in Australia), John McLean a superb keeper, Phil Carlson a capable all-rounder, Trevor Hohns had just begun his first class career, plus some very good bowlers: Malcolm Francke, Geoff Dymock, Tony Dell.

But we kept losing.

And it was frustrating.

So, for 1973-74 Queensland decided not to stuff around.

First off, they employed the services of Pakistan captain Majid Khan, who’d impressed on the 1972-73 Pakistan tour of Australia. Queensland had a long tradition of foreign imports (Wes Hall, Tom Graveney) and Khan’s contract was believed to be worth at least $10,000 with incentives.

Then in May 1973 it was reported the Queensland Cricket Association (powered by QCA chairman Norm McMahon and Brisbane Lord Mayor Clem Jones) had written to four South Australian players – Ashley Woodcock, Ashley Mallett, and Greg and Trevor Chappell – asking them to consider moving to Brisbane. This concerted effort reportedly “stunned observers”.

I don’t know why the QCA picked on South Australia – maybe it was a Sir Joh versus Don Dunstan thing.

Anyway, Mallet – who had been offered the job as press secretary to Jones as an extra inducement – turned down the offer as did Woodcock, and Trevor Chappell. Greg Chappell originally turned it down too but changed his mind by July.

He was enticed by a job offer worth $50,000 over three years, as well as the Queensland captaincy (brother Ian was blocking him from doing that in South Australia and John MacLean, current Queensland captain, offered to step down).

Greg Chappell’s job at the time in Adelaide was a promotions rep for Coca Cola along with Terry Jenner – he was offered employment at Friends Provident and Century Life Group, a life insurance company. “It is an extremely progressive and forward step,” said Alderman Jones, adding, “Queensland will be a real force in the Sheffield Shield now.”

Greg Chappell

(Photo by Matt King – CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)

Chappell later claimed Don Bradman tried to talk him out of moving to Brisbane – not by offering a similar financial inducement (which Chappell was hoping for), but rather by bagging Queensland administrators. However, in public at least Sir Don defended the Second Chappell.

Touchingly, Greg Chappell said, “My leading South Australia will probably give Trevor a better chance of getting into the state side and I think it will be a good thing for him.” (Spoilers: it wasn’t, but Trevor Chappell did thrive as a player when he moved to Western Australia and then New South Wales.)

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Under Shield rules at the time, Chappell had to be a resident for Queensland for three months before he could qualify to play for them. This would have meant he missed the first two games but the rule was waived to enable Chappell to lead Queensland in the first Shield game of the season.

This was against NSW. We started well, declaring at 5-325 (Khan 107, Maclean 34 off 33 balls). and dismissing the southerners for 191 (Francke 5-41). Queensland made 216 in response (Khan 80), setting NSW 351 to win. At one stage we had NSW 8-279 with ten overs to go but Kerry O’Keefe and Mick Pawley held on and the game ended with NSW on 8-295.

Damn New South Wales.

Still, we took points. And Chappell’s presence sparked interest in the game in Brisbane – the first day crowd of 3575 was the best in five years, and the Sunday crowd of 7492 was a record.

Queensland then played Victoria.

This didn’t go well at first – they declared at 5-314 (Robert Rose 118 not out), Queensland made 315 – of which Chappell scored 180! Victoria made 7-293 in their second dig, setting Queensland 293 to win. We went for it – and were on track at 2-215 with Khan and Chappell scoring centuries, but we fell just short at 7-286.

Two games, two thrillers, two outstanding games for Chappell and Khan, two slightly disappointing results for Queensland.

Game three was against South Australia. There was a lot of interest in this match because the crow eaters’ side included Ian and Trevor Chappell, and was managed by their dad Martin. We dismissed them for 224 (Ian Chappell 70, Dymock 4-59) and then put on 5-400 (Trimble 147 – equalling Peter Burge’s record of 22 Shield centuries for Queensland, Carlson 103).

We dismissed South Australia for 247 (Ian Chappell 126, Greg Chappell 4-47, which is just too cute). Queensland got the 72 runs needed for the loss of just one wicket. This put us on top of the Shield table. Queensland cricket writer Jack Reardon said: “I’ve been bitten too many times to be carried away by one day’s cricket but this looks the best team Queensland have had in ages.”

The hot streak continued against WA, who’d won the Shield for the last two summers. Queensland were dismissed for 175 (Carlson 48, McKenzie 5-51) but we got WA for just 150 (Dymock 4-48). Queensland then put on 361 (Ian Seib 101) and dismissed WA for 194 (Dymock 4-47). Huzzah! Queensland still on top!

“Queensland is the glamour side at the moment,” wrote Ian Chappell in his column, pointing out that all their remaining games were away from home, “and as leader its victories will all have to be earned the hard way. To compensate this fact the Queensland players will all be chock full of confidence that is brought about by winning.”

New South Wales then moved to the top with an outright win against WA, but then Victoria overtook them with some outright wins.

Queensland played a game against New Zealand, dismissing the tourists for 100 (Dell 6-40), scoring 263 (Chappell 165), then knocking over the Kiwis for 161 (Dell 6-23). We also played a one-day game against New Zealand without Chappell and Dell, made 274 (Carlson 89) and dismissed NZ for 203 (Carlson 5-35).

Generic cricket ball

(Steven Paston – EMPICS/Getty Images)

Confidence!

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At a NSW-Victoria game at the MCG, 18,450 people turned up on Boxing Day for one day’s play, with 48,054 seeing the match – the best Shield Crowd in 20 years. Victoria won that game too and were now ahead on the Shield ladder. Queensland were their only threat.

Queensland played Victoria next. “This game will be so close it could be a Test match,” said Greg Chappell. “We were a bit stiff not to win last time. We are out to do better this time.”

We got them for 182, then put on 227 (Greg Chappell 115, Ray Bright 5-38), knocked them over for 162, and were set 118 runs to win. We were cruising, ish, at 3-94 but then collapsed and only another lone hand from Greg Chappell (53 not out) saw us get home by two wickets. Bright took 4-17.

“It was too close to be comfortable,” said Chappell. “Close games may not be good for the weak hearts of blood pressure but they teach you a lot and we will all be better for the experience. It is a good sign when you win games under pressure and we have now won two close ones.”

Incidentally Geoff Dymock got picked to play in the third Test against New Zealand, replacing Tony Dell.

Anyway the table was now Victoria on top with 89 points from seven games, then Queensland and NSW both on 67 points, though from five and six games respectively.

South Australia helped out again. We batted first, declared on 5-325 (Greg Chappell 158 not out, Carlson 59), got South Australia for 311 (Dymock 4-75), put on 254 (Greg Chappell 72) then dismissed them for 155 (Francke 6-62). What a game! By this stage Greg Chappell’s average was over a 100 and he had scored more than 1000 first class runs.

We were on a hot streak.

The thing about Queensland Sheffield Shield campaigns, though, is that New South Wales tends to find a way to ruin them.

In this case it was through New South Wales being beaten by Victoria, enabling the Vics to finish their season on 105 points.

Queensland were on 88 points with two matches to go. An outright victory in one of their next two games – or if they collected enough bonus points – and they would win the Shield. If Victoria hadn’t beaten NSW…

Ah, anyway…

Greg Chappell and Geoff Dymock were unavailable for the next game against WA, both away on Test duty. Ian Chappell wrote: “I think the competition will go to the final game, as I can’t see Queensland beating the west in Perth without Greg Chappell and Geoff Dymock.” Chappelli, alas, was spot on.

WA put on 298 (Inverarity 143), we collapsed from 0-62 to be all out for 143 (Trimble 53), followed on, made 192 (Khan 66) and WA got the required 38 for the loss of two wickets. To make things worse for Greg Chappell, while playing in the Test his house in Brisbane was damaged in the 1974 floods – he flew back and at one stage had to fire off shots on his rifle to scare away looters (the source for this is Adrian McGregor’s excellent biography of Chappell).

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Chappell was back for their last game of the season – against NSW.

Queensland had to gain 15 points from this to win the Shield. Majid Khan – whose form had tapered off the longer the season went on – had laryngitis but Chappell insisted he play. “This is the game we have worked for. I’m confident we can win it. They don’t remember the runners-up.”

Sam Trimble gushed: “Greg is averaging 100 – he’s three payers in one. Every time we go on the field with Greg in the side, it’s like having 12 players in the team.”

NSW picked Jeff Thomson in this match, for his first game for the state that season – despite having played a Test the previous summer he’d been overlooked in favour of Gary Gilmour, Steve Bernard and David Colley.

Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson together in England

Dennis Lillee (left) and Jeff Thomson. (PA Images via Getty Images)

And so, this game.

Sigh.

New South Wales battled first. At one stage we had them on 4-24 but they recovered to make 249 (Francke 5-81). Queensland were often tormented by some random batting well – in this case some bloke called Rosen scored 94.

Queensland was knocked over for 205… with Jeff Thomson taking 7-85. “He’s the fastest thing we have seen in Sydney since West Hall in 1960-61,” said Richie Benaud. “I haven’t encountered anything quicker for a while,” admitted Chappell who added bravely. “Games have been won from here.”

NSW batted again, making 314 (Ian Davis 84), leaving Queensland to score 359 in 330 minutes. We made 191 (Colley 5-46) Victoria won the 1973-74 Sheffield Shield with 105 points against Queensland’s 98.

Basically it was those last two games that stuffed us.

Oh, and those first two games.

Oh, and New South Wales.

Keith Stackpole, captain of the winning Victoria side, said he felt NSW was the second best side in the Shield, arguing Queensland was “too much of a one-man batting side – but their bowling is okay.”

Harsh, but fair? Maybe.

Chappell had a blinder (1013 Shield runs at 92 ) – so did Dymock (39 at 20.6), Francke (38 at 22) and Dell (30 at 29.7) Trimble batted well (595 runs at 40). But Major Khan disappointed (492 runs at 32.8). The other batters let him down.

Chappell’s effort was extra remarkable considering his home was damaged in the Brisbane floods in January, and he suffered from bronchial pneumonia and his wife went into hospital on the last day of the final Shield game.

But he couldn’t pull it off. And he never would – not in the next 10 years he played for Queensland, or in the few years after that when he was a selector. The Sheffield Shield remained a Queensland white whale.

Barry Richards was going to play for Queensland in 1974-75, and he might’ve gotten us over the line. But that fell through. Instead we got Jeff Thomson, who would be part of several Queensland teams that came second for the next decade.

Anyway it’s all kind of small potatoes compared to an event at the end of the summer. On 14 February 1974 Robert Rose was injured in a car accident and rendered a quadriplegic. He died in 1999.



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