Feature: Jock Edwards
GREAT NELSON PLAYER
There are players with better career statistics but those with crowd pulling charisma, the outcome of his stocky build, controlled aggression with the bat and ebullient nature do not readily come to mind.
He was classless in chatting to a third division player in his club as readily and with the same cheerful enthusiasm as he would a Knight of the realm.
His cheerfulness and a good nature ensured that he was on friendly terms with everyone and his personality brought life to any company.
Cricketing ability ran in the family with two uncles playing for Nelson (one in a South Island trial for the 1949 NZ team to tour England) and a brother and cousins who played premier cricket in Nelson with distinction.
Jock was outstanding for the Nelson College 1st XI for three years, starting in year 10 (the fourth form) in 1969 at 14 years of age as keeper batsman before playing for the Wakatu Cricket Club.
His career with Wakatu Cricket Club spanned 20 years from 1971/72 to 1991/92 long after his last game for New Zealand in 1980/81, for Central Districts in 1973/79 to 81/82 (apart from one match in 1984/85) and Nelson from 1971 to 1986. That he continued to play Club Cricket with obvious enjoyment when he could during his representative career and long after his representative cricket had finished is the measure of the man. He scored 4911 runs for Wakatu at an average of 41.62 over 105 matches, with 8 centuries, 28 fifties, taking 91 catches, 15 stumpings and 69 wickets.
He first played for Nelson in 1971 at the age of 16 years, continuing until 1986 when he made 59 against Hawkes Bay in a Hawke Cup defence. Most of this period from 1979 to 1986 involved Hawke Cup defences – a particularly high standard of cricket. In all he played 59 matches and 73 innings for Nelson, made 2334 runs at 36.46 average scored 4 centuries with a highest score of 236 and 8 fifties. That he captained the side in the 1983/84 season when four Hawke Cup challenges were repelled reflects the respect in which he was held.
His Central Districts playing days started in 1973 at 18 years of age. His first match was against Auckland at Eden Park where his response to a Bob Sutton sledge after Jock’s first ball in 1st class cricket was to tell him to get back to his mark and have another go.
In all he played 67 first class matches for Central District, 122 innings, 3709 runs at an average of 31.7 with 5 centuries, 19 fifties, 99 catches, 15 stumpings. He bowled 6.3 overs for 1 wicket and 20 runs. His runs are the 15th highest for Central Districts and appearances the 14th highest.
In addition, he played 21 limited overs matches at an average of 19.94 from 379 runs with a highest score of 49. Again, he captured a wicket from 1 over conceding 5 runs!
He broke a leg playing soccer for Nelson United in 1982 but was recalled in 1985 to play once more for Central Districts against Wellington at the Basin Reserve in a successful Shell Cup final. He made 28 not out in 26 balls which indicated a going skill.
His New Zealand career started in 1975 at the age of 20 years on an Australian tour playing Tasmania, Western Australia and the MCC in a limited overs series. He made 11, 12 and 26. It was in the Western Australia game when he essayed a hook off Denis Lillee which went through to the keeper. Lillee, a few feet from Jock asked, “where did you learn to hook sonny?”. Jock responded with “I’m still learning. I thought I’d practice on you”. He hooked the next ball to the boundary and Rodney Marsh called to Lillee “bloody big back yard Dennis”. Lillee apologised after the game saying he didn’t realise Jock was so young.
Neither Jock nor Wally Lees established themselves as the favoured son in the next few years but later in the 1975/76 season against India Jock appeared in two limited over internationals with 41 and 32 justifying his selection for the winning side.
He missed the India and Pakestan tour in 1976 but in 1976/77 he reappeared in the New Zealand side against Australia. Scores of 49 and 99 in 86 minutes of 78 balls for Central Districts against Australia at Trafalgar Park, Nelson cementing his selection. In this match suited men and some women in high heels were observed running from shops and offices down Trafalgar Street after word spread that Jock was on fire and dealing to the Australians. That personified his appeal and popularity. Jock said that when he was on 99 there were four LBW appeals in the over, three of which would have justified his dismissal but not the fourth which was successful. The irony was that a Nelson umpire gave it.
435 runs for Central District at 31 average that season also made a point. His New Zealand selection for two tests against Australia was justified with 34 in the first innings (in 91 minutes showing he could be patient when patience was required), and 51 in the first innings of the second test .
In 1977/78 Wally Lees was the preferred keeper in the first two tests against England but Jock was back for the third test making 55 in the first innings and 54 in the second, thus displaying his resolve after non selection.
His game was not at his best on the England tour in 1978 which followed his Australian success. He started promisingly with scores of 83 against Sussex, 25 against Somerset, 36 against Glamorgan and 32 against Yorkshire but home sickness, disappointment with his form and playing in 19 of the 20 tour matches took its toll. The tour was not wholly unsuccessful as he played in the first two tests of the tour and scored 401 runs on the tour at an average of 22.
He did not find favour with the New Zealand selectors in 1978/79, 1979/80 season but his resolve to achieve a recall had him scoring 477 first class runs at 31 in 1978/79, 530 runs at 35 in 1979/80 and 679 runs at 56 topping both aggregate and averages in 1980/81 with undiminished wicketkeeping skills. This success and 103 for Central District against India in even time was not overlooked by the New Zealand selectors and a 36 in 78 minutes in a limited overs international against India showed he could exercise restraint when it was called for. Picked for all three tests against India he had scores of 23, 23 again and 34.
A poor first class season in 1981/82 combined with a broken leg playing club soccer for Nelson United in 1982 terminated both his international and first class playing days but not his club career.
He was a gifted sportsman apart from cricket playing rugby for his province, Nelson Bays at fullback in 1975. Five matches with his versatility shown with 2 conversions and 4 penalties during the season. He was described in one publication as eager to link up an attack, having boundless energy, an adventurous spirit, fast reflexes and keen anticipation – attributes he carried forward to the cricket field but that was his last rugby season. He played premier soccer for Nelson United, a sport where he believed he was less prone to injury but that proved, in 1982 to be an incorrect belief.
In addition he represented Nelson in basketball at under age level and after his cricket days was a prominent club bowler and low handicap golfer.
He was for some time as the pay clerk at Baigent Timber Co Limited – then the largest private company in New Zealand by asset value. Subsequently, he managed hotels in Murchison and on the West Coast, suffered a back injury as a bar manager at the Suburban Club when he returned to Nelson and for some years had been employed by Port Nelson.
Watches could be set at the times of his arrival and departure at the Turf Hotel in recent years. His attendances, although frequent were not extensive.
He was fortunate to be playing in days when cricket was the number 1 sport in Nelson and he was the prime entertainer. He attracted many more people to matches whenever he played than would otherwise have attended.
Many tried to restrain the tempo of his run scoring and he listened to them but continued to bat his own way. He deserved enjoyment from the game playing it his way and it was not without success.
These notes would be incomplete if no mention of Sam, a long time Nelson representative softballer and Jock’s wife of 42 years who was his proud but restrained supporter receiving great pleasure at his accomplishments and those of their two sons Ryan and Ricky who followed in their father’s footsteps, both playing for Nelson as wicketkeeper/batsmen and Ryan the present Nelson selector and coach, for Central Districts B.
Born Nelson 27 May 1955
Deceased Nelson 7 April 2020