Sport

Greats salute Big Max

MAX Walker said he was always happy playing second fiddle to Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson but after his death from cancer aged 68, the lovable larrikin should be remembered as more than a bit-part player.

Walker first came to note as an Australian rules footballer after signing for Melbourne in 1966.

He was still at high school when Demons coach Norm Smith went to the Walker home in west Hobart.

The following year he made his VFL debut and spent six seasons with the club, playing a total of 85 games and earning one Brownlow vote in 1968 as a ruck/defender.

At the same time he had been playing Sheffield Shield cricket for Victoria and also earned a call-up for the Australian Test side, and was juggling the two careers.

Then, after coming home from the Australian cricket team's 1972-73 tour of the West Indies, he told the Demons his footy career was over.

Football's loss was cricket's gain and Walker went on to be one of the country's best-loved players of the 1970s.

Recalling his career recently on Fox Sport's Cricket Legends, Walker said he did not mind being in the shadow of Australian greats, but his career figures suggest he should be remembered as more than the bloke who came on after Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

"You're sitting in the dressing room and you look around and see Dennis Lillee, Rodney Marsh, Ian Chappell, Greg Chappell, Dougie Walters, Ashley Mallett, (Ian) Redpath, (Keith) Stackpole, and you think 'my goodness I come from Hobart, Tasmania, what am I doing sitting here?'," he said.

"It was such a privilege to be selected and to bowl behind and in collaboration with Lillee and Thomson, arguably one of the best fast-bowling attacks ever.

"For me at leg gully to watch them bowl was extraordinary."

Someone who knew him best was his captain for most of Walker's 34 Test matches, Ian Chappell.

Speaking to 3AW Mornings, Chappell recalled Walker's second Test against Pakistan when he took 6-15 at the SCG with the visitors only needing 156 to win and with Lillee struggling with a back problem.

Walker's spell won Australia the game and the legend was born, and so was the nickname.

"Tangles (Walker) was all elbows and arms and thrashing around. As you said, he wasn't the quickest ... and he certainly wasn't the best-looking player, but I reckon he would have been a nightmare to play against," Chappell said.

Greg Chappell, who played with Walker in all of his 34 Tests, said the man with the strange bowling action was a true Aussie great.

"What did he come over from Hobart as, a footballer who could bat a bit? And he finished up playing a significant part as a bowler in a successful era of Australian cricket," said Chappell, 68.

"Max had a degree in architecture, even if he claimed the only thing he ever designed was a chook shed.

"He must have been clever because as he often joked, he managed to transform a career in cricket, football and architecture into talking and writing bull***t and getting well paid for it.

"I still meet people regularly who have either read one of 'Tang's' books or heard him speak and loved his work.

"And that was because he always gave value for money, either on the field or off it.

"There was a degree of truth in all those stories he told and the rest he embellished very cleverly, often concerning his father Big Max.

"I can't remember a day when he was less than happy and I was very saddened to hear of his passing."

Chappell was Walker's captain in the 1977 Centenary Test against England at the MCG, and said one of the many highlights to come out of that game was Walker's performance.

"The right arm over left earhole is how he described his bowling," Chappell said.

"Maybe Mike Proctor and Lance Cairns were similar but part of Max's distinguishing feature was his unusual action meaning batsmen were never always sure where the ball was coming.

"In the Centenary Test he knocked over English captain Tony Greig prompting a massive roar. The only difference was the roar came largely from Tangles as he charged down the pitch."

Another of Walker's teammates from those great Aussie sides of the 1970s, Keith Stackpole said his public persona was exactly the same as the one he had on the field.

"He was lovable, uncomplicated and a very astute man," said Stackpole, his captain for Victoria.

"In fact he became a legend when you put everything together that 'Big Tang' did.

"He was loved around the world by teammates and opponents alike and, to my mind, (was) seriously underestimated in part because he was first change to Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

"You think of 'Thommo' and Lillee as the tearaways whereas 'Tang' was a medium-pacer with the biggest heart I have come across on the cricket field.

"Once he realised he wasn't a fast bowler, as distinct from a medium-fast bowler, he became a very, very good player.

"He changed, giving away the bouncers, and relying on his swing and line.

"In the West Indies in 1973 when Lillee broke down he carried the attack. Bob Massie was a spent force, Jeff Hammond did his job up one end, we had a pair of medium-pacers in Doug Walters and Greg Chappell plus a couple of average spin bowlers. 'Tang' did the hard work, but that's what he was always happy to do."

After his cricket career ended, Walker had a successful career in commentary, presenting and writing books.

A lot of people will know him for his time on Channel Nine's Wide World of Sports.

But he should be remembered, as his career statistics suggest, as one of Australia's best medium-pace bowlers.

He certainly should not go down in history as the other bloke who bowled with Lillee and Thompson.

Big Maxy was much more than that.

MAXWELL HENRY NORMAN WALKER

Born: September 12, 1948, West Hobart

Tests: 34, wickets: 138, best bowling: 8-143, average: 27.47

ODIs: 17, wickets: 17, best bowling: 4-19, average: 27.30

First-class games: 135, wickets: 499, best bowling: 8-143, average: 26.47

Topics:  max walker obituary sportfeature


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Carols ring out across the region

CAROL TIME: Student Alex Pereira prepares for his bass solo which he will sing at 'Shop Baby Carols in the Heart' at Oakes Oval.

Local towns prepare to sing in Christmas cheer

Council works to preserve cultural gem

VISIONARY: Boomerang Festival Photographic Exhibition will feature Ben Knight's photo of Pat Tierney

Committee to brianstorm ideas to enrich Boomerang Festival

Rate rise on the cards for Ballina Shire

Ballina Shire Council chambers

Rates could rise to 4.4% by next year

Local Partners

Shark nets 'definitely in the water': DPI

FIND out about the shark net trials at drop in sessions in next two days.

Five things to do in Ballina this week

ICON: Renee Geyer is coming to Ballina.

Music, theatre, culture and more

Elvis is about to leave the building for good

FOR THE LAST TIME: Elvis impersonator, Craig Teys, will perform for the last time at the Slipway Hotel on December 3.

"I wouldn't change it for anything. But it is time to finish.”

WATCH: Local artists featured on ABC's iView

DOCUMENTARY: Behind the scenes of Createability short film Corey the Warrier are Yuin/Bundjalung man and painter Corey Stewart and filmmaker Isabel Darling.

Short films feature local artists living with disabilities

Brad Pitt bids to keep custody battle private

Brad Pitt will go to court to keep his custody battle private

Sia has split from her husband

Sia has split from her husband Erik Anders Lang.

Amy Schumer thanks Barbie trolls for hateful comments

Amy Schumer is in the lead role for the new Barbie movie

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing for destroyed sex life

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing her former manager

Azealia Banks' battery case against Russell Crowe dropped

Russell Crowe will not be charged with battery

Mel Gibson named Best Director at AACTA Awards

Mel Gibson poses in the media room after winning the AACTA Award for Best Direction for Hacksaw Ridge.

HIS wartime drama Hacksaw Ridge sweeps 6th annual awards in Sydney.

INSIDE STORY: The highlights of your $150 million CBD

GRAND PLAN: The highlights of the Ipswich CBD redevelopment and where they will be located.

Work on city heart's radical transformation to begin next year

VOTE IN OUR POLL: Sand mine opponents face serious dilemma

Public meeting for the proposed sand mine at Maroochydore last week.

Coast MP calls on Minister to stop KRA proposal with stroke of a pen

Developer's grand new multi-million dollar estate

NEW ESTATE: This is the only plan revealed by the property developer's new Billabongs Estate in Agnes Water.

DEVELOPER given the go ahead for a massive estate with 149 homes.

Banks reclaim Gladstone homes as job losses bite

LONG FALL: Property experts Heron Todd say, based on key market indicators, Gladstone is still travelling to the bottom of the market, with property prices set to get cheaper.

Property valuers say Gladstone housing market hasn't hit the bottom

The million dollar property to test Mackay's market

This Victoria St building will go to auction Tuesday and investors will be watching closely to see how much it sells for.

'High profile architect designed CBD asset' goes to auction

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!