Dodders looks back

Ken Piesse caught up with former international and Bushrangers' star Tony Dodemaide, who reflected on his playing days.

Tony Dodemaide is proud of his representative record which includes 34 Australian and more than 100 Victorian appearances. He’s also particularly proud to have amassed more than 150 games for Footscray-Edgewater, from his first XI debut as a 17-year-old.

Cricket Victoria’s long-time CEO, Dodemaide, 49, hails from the inner west where he first played for Footscray United in Maidstone and for Yarraville in the Under 14 Hatch Shield… his first taste of turf cricket.

He still remembers Footscray legend Ken Eastwood dropping by to talk to his parents about “young Tony coming to Footscray” following that Hatch Shield tournament.

“Soon I was playing juniors in the mornings with United and then seniors at Footscray in the afternoons,” he said.

“One season (1980-81) I started in the thirds and was lifted into the seconds under Ken Eastwood for the majority of that season. With two or three games to go, Barry Watson was forced to withdraw from a (first XI) game and they promoted me.

“It was a terrific learning experience that season under Ken – who of course had played for Australia. One very hot day at Toorak Park, it must have been 40-odd degrees, there was this massive thunderstorm and they didn't get the covers down straight away. It passed and after a short delay we played on an old fashioned sticky. I was batting with Ken and it was a real education. He was just so experienced and composed.tony_dodemaide

“There were plenty of bowling mentors at the club too like Ron Gaunt who had also played Tests.”

Tall and athletic and a true sporting allrounder, Dodemaide was part of the Chisholm College first XVIII which won the Herald Shield school football competition at VFL Park in 1981 - the night Tim Watson hurdled a pack and kicked one of the great night final goals. “We beat Mazenod by ten goals in the final after knocking off Assumption by only four points in the semi,” he said.

“Footscray subsequently invited me down to trial with the Under 19s and after a few weeks asked me to stay on and play a few games at the end of that season. Dad told me I was playing District cricket, doing my HSC (final year of high school) and now here I was wanting to play footy as well. Something had to give. It was a fair call to go with cricket.”

A tall allrounder, Dodemaide initially struggled to get a bowl at Footscray with so many quality new ball bowlers at the club, including  Merv Hughes, Lenny Balcam, Watson and Rex Bennett.

“The cricketing Bulldogs won the flag under captain-coach Lindsay James in 1979-80, Merv was in that side, but I was still in the thirds. By the time I got through to the firsts he was playing with Victoria.

‘Merv and I did play a couple of Victorian second XI games together, one of which was particularly memorable under captain Brad Green in Adelaide.  Guys like Sniffer (Simon) Davis and Warren Whiteside were also on that trip. That was quite an experience. It certainly wasn’t as professional as it is now!”

Upstairs at the Western Oval having a drink after his debut first XI match, one of Collingwood’s most seasoned players, John Berechree, told him he’d been playing at first XI standard even before Dodemaide was born! “Playing against hardened cricketers like that is invaluable, as was the chance to talk to them afterwards. Mustering the courage to talk to guys like John was almost as hard as facing them in the centre! I soon learnt, though, that most were generous with their time and experience. I have never forgotten the significance of those early lessons,” he said.dodders_vic

Dodemaide had three years with the Victorian Under 19s, including one in Brisbane as a 17-year-old where he played purely as an opening batsman and didn't bowl.

“There was a strong fast-bowling bowling culture at the Dogs. There always seemed to be a bit of juice in the deck and we used Platypus balls with their seams raised a bit more. The grass was always long at Footscray – maybe that was just a Council thing, they didn't like cutting it too much – but we’d  regularly make just 100 or 110 in a one-day game and defend it.”

A breakthrough performance in Dodemaide’s career came when he gathered a career-best eight for 56 against Prahran at Footscray. It helped to give his career some genuine impetus.

“Lindsay James was our captain-coach and a great mentor who played hard and (mostly!) fair. He looked after me in those early years, there is no doubt about it. I’d find myself being brought back on (to bowl) when the tail was in and there were some cheap wickets on offer. That helped me to keep the momentum going. I had no idea at the time, of course, but he was certainly grooming me. Some other senior players might well have cause to be a bit miffed, but he was always strong. It was great leadership.

“The eight-for was pivotal, as was the time with the Vic Under 19s. That exposure helped me advance.”

Chosen for the Under 19 trip to England in 1983 alongside fellow Victorians Darren Tindale and Greg Connors, Dodemaide’s allround wares made him a valuable member of the team.

At the end of the tour at Chelmsford, Merv Hughes, in England on an Esso scholarship at the same time, joined the team for some after-match drinks at a local hotel and they ended up being the last to leave.

“Merv was delighted to see another young bloke from Footscray, 13,000 miles away. We’ve been the greatest of mates ever since. We’ve played with Footscray and Victoria and occasionally for Australia together. We still have a terrific bond.”

In his desire to improve, one Christmas Dodemaide even took himself up to Willowfest with his brother’s local team to have some extra bowling “and a bit of a hit” – obviously well before the days of individual workload management!

“In my first game in 40 degrees at Wentworth, there were a few murmurs around because they didn’t often see current first-class players in the tournament.

We batted first and I was not only out first ball, but was the third leg of some kid’s hat-trick! My mates love to remind me about that. I think that young bloke didn’t have to buy a beer for the rest of the trip!”

Both Dodemaide’s brothers also love cricket, older brother Warren and younger brother Alan both playing with Tony at club level in the early years. Alan and Tony briefly played together as all-rounders with Footscray at first XI standard before Alan had some games at South Melbourne and Williamstown.dodders_ceo

Warren was good enough to be named as opening batsman in Footscray United’s team of the 20th century.

Among few regrets in Dodemaide’s club career was not playing in a senior premiership at Footscray. “We played finals a couple of times but didn't win a flag. It’s something I’ve always regretted. Having played all levels of cricket it was something I would have dearly have loved to have achieved.

“Prahran gave us a thumping in one semi-final and Northcote beat us in another, reasonably comfortably. When you lose you don't always remember the scores.”

As an international cricketer Dodemaide took six for 58 and five for 21 on his Test and ODI debuts. No Australian allrounder for 80 years had been as successful when Dodemaide replaced  the injured Hughes on the morning of the Melbourne Christmas Test in 1987-88.

Tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka – alongside a young Shane Warne – and administrative stints in London (with the Marylebone CC), Perth (the WACA) and now back in home-town Melbourne are also part of his C.V.

Ken Piesse
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