Working Man’s Hero

Published: 2022
Pages: 14
Author: Francis, Bill
Publisher: Cricketers In Print
Rating: 5 stars

It is an overused expression, but this time I can put my hand on my heart and say that I have read something that actually brought, if not quite a tear to my eye, then that rather prickly sensation that you get when the tear is on its way. And that was just a couple of paragraphs in.

Dick Motz was the first New Zealand bowler to take a hundred Test wickets. He did so in 32 appearances in the 1960s, and those wickets cost this right arm fast medium bowler 31.48 runs apiece. So Motz was no Richard Hadlee, but in a side that was never particularly strong that is a more than creditable average and his wholehearted approach to his bowling, together with the belligerent late order batting that brought him three Test half centuries, endeared him to all his countrymen.

Unfortunately for Motz a displaced vertebra in his spine brought his playing days to an early close, at just 29. After that, and without an established career outside the game, life was rarely kind to Motz. Married twice his only son was the innocent victim of a newly released prisoner with a gun who went on a murderous rampage before turning his gun on himself. How does a man get over something like that?

Motz tried a number of ways of earning a living, those involving the licensed trade creating a man who found food and drink difficult to resist and whose weight ballooned alarmingly as he aged, and then there was that day in 2007 when his old skipper, Graham Dowling, answered the call to go and check how his old friend was doing, by then housebound and living on benefits. Dowling got no answer when he arrived at the door. He found the door open so went inside to discover, and it shocks even though as reader you sense that it is what is coming, Motz lying lifeless on his kitchen floor.

It is remarkable just how much detail of Motz’s life Bill Francis fits into the 14 pages of this mongraph, so much so that reaching the end you almost feel like you have read a full biography. The story Working Man’s Hero tells is utterly compelling, and whilst I wouldn’t normally give a monograph a five star rating, it would quite wrong to do anything else with this one.

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