Greats of Australian cricket paid tribute to Rick McCosker on Saturday evening.
With more than 100 people in the audience at An Evening With Rick McCosker at the Inverell RSM Club, several testimonials were read out.
Among them were messages from former teammates, Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Kerry O’Keefe, Greg Chappell and Doug Walters.
There was also a video message from former England captain Bob Willis, who played against McCosker.
At the end of the evening McCosker said he was overwhelmed by the tributes, and said it was an evening he would not forget.
Inverell Shire mayor Paul Harmon presented McCosker with a certificate highlighting the success of the former local.
“It’s amazing the sporting talent we have come out of this town and we should do more to celebrate it,” Cr Harmon said.
Held to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Centenary Test, the evening was the first time McCosker has spoken publicly in his hometown about his sporting career.
For much of the evening, Simon Smith from Inverell Cricket Association briefly highlighted each tour and season of McCosker’s years as a cricketer before asking the man himself about his memories of those years.
From his time as junior cricketer in the local area, to moving to Sydney, being picked to play for Australia, playing in the first World Cup, and the introduction of World Series Cricket, McCosker reflected on his years in the game.
Saturday night was the first time Inverell’s only Test cricketer Rick McCosker has spoken publicly in his hometown about his career.
He’s a true success story of the country boy made good, not just on the cricket ovals of the world, but in the larger playing field of life.
The event, An Evening With Rick McCosker was organised by Inverell Cricket Association to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Centenary Test between Australia and England.
“I didn’t realise it was the 40th anniversary coming up, but when I was contacted, it jogged my memory that it is 40 years ago, which is a long time,” Rick said.
Now living in Newcastle, many years have passed since Rick left Inverell shortly before his 21st birthday.
As well as playing test cricket, Rick has run his own businesses, is a patron of cricket charities, and worked a Catholic chaplain assisting seafarers on coal ships.
It is indeed a life well lived, and one we could all be proud of. He’s had a lot to rejoice and cherish in a long life.
But for many the mere mention of Rick McCosker brings up one of the most iconic cricket images, one that has become synonymous, not just with cricket toughness, but an image of Aussie true-grit and mateship. You do what you have to do for them.
What Rick McCosker did, was perhaps today, unthinkable.
And it’s perhaps explains why “Captain Grumpy”, Allan Border, was critical of new young Australian opener Matt Renshaw leaving the crease to attend the little boys’ room in India two weeks ago.
A young Allan Border would have had the image of McCosker ingrained.
So, for those too young, what did McCosker do?
The 1977 Centenary Test was one of the truly great Tests, for so many reasons.
Here’s just a snapshot: It was won, by Australia, by 45 runs. The same result as the first ever Test between the old foe and Australia 100 years prior.
David Hookes, who had just scored five tons in six innings in 17 days in domestic cricket was rushed into the team touted as the new “Bradman” from South Australia.
The excitement around the 21 year-old continued when he hit Tony Greig for five consecutive boundaries.
Dennis Lillee, the great Australia quick, bowling with a body that tried to throw in the towel but was driven on by fierce pride and will, took 11 wickets and was chaired off by his teammates.
It’s a powerful image: Lillee so stuffed he couldn’t raise a smile and who acknowledged his mates and the crowd with a weary wave.
And even he, was outdone by the perky, pixie-like figure of the Englishman, Derek Randall.
Randall made 174 in the second innings. His innings was highlighted by superb cover drives and an impish devil-may-care attitude which bemused and frustrated Australia.
And for all the heroics and standout performances, including a ton from Lillee’s partner-in-pommie-torture, Rod Marsh, the enduring image is of Rick McCosker, his face looking like mooshed up rockmelon wrapped up bandages left over from a production of The Mummy.
And lodged on top? A skew-iff baggy green. Helmets weren’t to come into the game for a year or more after.
The Test had begun disastrously for the Aussies and Rick McCosker.
He played too early, missed a bouncer from Bob Willis which cannoned into his jaw breaking it in two places.
While the Poms rejoiced, McCosker was on hands and knees holding his face, spitting out blood.
McCosker was to return five days later, in those bandages. Even his mate Rod Marsh told him he should head back to the shed. Instead McCosker faced up to Lever, who welcomed him with another bouncer. Everyone at the MCG knew it was coming. All those who watched in their lounge rooms around Australia knew it was coming. Even the passing truck driver heading to Wangaratta with his radio on knew it was coming.
It went to the boundary for four, the crowd booed, then cheered and then sang Waltzing McCosker.
He and Marsh put on 52. Australia won by 45.
It stirred the soul of cricket fans worldwide.
Richard Bede McCosker played in 25 Tests and 14 One Day Internationals in a career spanning from 1975 to 1982. In today’s year-long schedule he would have played almost 100 Tests.
In an era of no helmets, smaller bats and larger ovals and unlimited short balls and the West Indians, his average of 39 would have been higher.
He was an unassuming player and is an unassuming, humble man.
Away from the cricket field, Rick started a business in financial planning and insurance while he was still playing the game.
He retired from the business less than a decade ago, and about 18 months later Rick was offered a position as Catholic chaplain to the Port of Newcastle.
“Newcastle has a very busy coal port, it’s the biggest coal port in the world actually, and part of my work there was to do whatever we could for the seafarers who come in off the cargo vessels.
“We would get a couple of buses and get the seafarers and bring them into town, where they could contact their families, go shopping, and just basically get off the ship.”
Rick worked as the chaplain for about four years, and is still involved as a volunteer, along with his wife Meryl.
He has always downplayed his performance on the field, pointing to the legends, Lillee Marsh and Hookes.
We only wish there were more of him today.