Mr St GeorgeArchie Mac |
Author: Rogers, John
Publisher: The Cricket Press
Rating: 3 stars
Mr St George is the cricket biography of Warren Saunders, a local legend from the southern shires of Sydney. Saunders was a star of Sydney first grade cricket during the 1950s and 1960s. At that time grade cricket was extensively covered in the newspapers, primarily due to the lack of first class cricket let alone Test cricket played. As such the grade cricket scores and champion players were well known to the Sydney public.
As author John Rogers points out it was not unusual to have no Test matches played, unthinkable for the modern cricket fan, in Australia during some summers. This meant that the best players such as Saunders and other contemporary champions like Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson would be regularly available to their grade teams. So it is not surprising that given the quality of players on show public interest was high.
John Rogers was one of the players led by Saunders during those halcyon days of first grade cricket in Sydney, when St George seemed to either win or be in contention to win every summer. Rogers, and in fact all those that were captained by Saunders, speak of him in reverent terms, in much the same way as those captained by Ian Chappell speak of Chappelli.
The author sets the book out in a clever way and avoids the typical year by year approach. He starts with St George at their peak, with Brian Booth, Norm O’Neill and fellow NSW representatives, Saunders and opening partner Billy Watson, presenting a demoralising batting order for any bowling attack.
Despite the stellar line up, we learn that Saunders great captaincy really flourished after he was put in charge of a young group of up and coming stars. One of these players went on to represent Australia in Kerry O’Keeffe. All those touched by Saunders as either captain or mentor still appear to approach Saunders for life advice, which he generously provides.
Apart from the main focus of Saunders, Rogers also includes a brief history of the St George cricket club. One of the clubs early stars was a young Don Bradman, who it won’t surprise dominated during his brief time at the club. Other St George stars are Bill O’Reilly, Ray Lindwall and Arthur Morris. All four were selected in the Australian Team of The Century, which is an unprecedented accomplishment for a suburban club.
Saunders was a very successful batsman at first grade level. His skill was recognised with a few matches for NSW but despite a highest score of 98 he never quite cemented a place in the state team. NSW loss was obviously St George’s gain. Saunders was one of the best openers in grade cricket, and with his captaincy he led from the front. He did not tolerate sledging or poor language and his attitude to the game made him many friends in opposition ranks.
While Rogers mainly focuses on the cricket, there are many other strings to the Saunders bow. He is a successful business man, who raised huge amounts for charity and was an accomplished sport committeeman. The latter saw him on the board of the St George Rugby League Club for 23 years, retiring at the age of 70 in 2001.
Author John Rogers has a long history of involvement in cricket, and is the father of former Australian Test opener Chris Rogers. He writes that he passed on the lessons of life and cricket to his son as learned from Warren Saunders. Rogers has written a well researched and quality cricket book. His secret is to focus on the stars of the period and not to be bogged down in tedious match descriptions. The result is a charming little book that will be enjoyed by all cricket fans.