I am sure you are all sharing the sadness we are experiencing following the sudden passing of Dean Jones (Deano). The outpouring – publicly and privately - from those that played with him, played against him, that knew him, that didn’t know him personally but still looked upon him as a sporting hero, a must watch cricketer, a must listen commentator, a must attend coaching clinic participant, and many other ways in that Deano involved himself, is testament to the person that those people gravitated to and admired.
His playing record and statistics for the Melbourne Cricket Club are not something that we need to specifically absorb at this time, but are worth reflecting upon to help understand the contribution he made to the club on the field.
First of all, it should be acknowledged that Dean was introduced to the District/Premier scene at Carlton Cricket Club where his father Barney was a larger than life figure. Our condolences are shared with members of the Carlton Cricket Club.
It was the off season of 1985 when Dean joined the Demons, having debuted for Australia just over 12 months earlier. Over the course of the next 15 years or so, he played 67 1st XI matches that included three premierships, plus five one-day competition matches that also produced a title, and played part of a season to mentor the up and coming 2nd XI after he had retired from 1st class cricket.Dean ended up with making 2,535 1st XI runs for Melbourne at an average of 52.81, which included four centuries and 22 fifties, his top score of 125 n.o. made against Fitzroy in the 1994/95 season. Even his right-arm offies nabbed eight wickets @ 13.62 with a best of 4/15 (can’t mention who dropped his only ‘Michelle’ (Feiffer) opportunity as he used to say).
To say Deano was an outstanding big game performer for the Demons would be an understatement. In the 1988/89 final the Magpies got off lightly when he made a class filled 60. He stepped it up in the 1994/95 final, finishing unbeaten on 123, combining with Darrin Ramshaw (97) in a 3rd wicket partnership of 192 that chased down Collingwood’s 306 in rapid time. The 1997/98 final, also against a Magpie outfit (now Camberwell), played out in similar fashion; Dean there at the end of a 229-run chase on 84, having put on an unbeaten 3rd wicket partnership of 202 with Warren Ayres (126 n.o.) to seal victory.
The following recollections from current and former club leaders point not only to his on field contribution, but the positive effect he had on other club members and the club itself. Our current Premier Cricket chairman Andrew Kent said of Dean:
“He was such a significant figure in our recent history and we all loved to hear of his professionalism and desire to win whether it be for Australia, Victoria or Melbourne.
“Deano and his generation of MCC cricketers definitely helped shape a strong culture at our club….the best change room stories always involve Deano and his performances in finals.
“Those of us who were fortunate to be involved with him would know how he always valued ‘district’ cricket very highly, and made you understand the importance of how you performed every time you turned-out for the MCC.”
Our Chairman of Cricket, Peter King, who also happened to be Dean’s captain and coach in that 1988/89 premiership year said:
“At whatever level of the game of cricket he played, Deano was a true and authentic participant. From a personal perspective, I played with him in the Victorian side in his early days through to our time playing for the Melbourne Cricket Club and you definitely stood taller when Dean was in your team.
“Whenever he took the field, he was a fierce competitor and he thrived in the contest – he loved the game, the camaraderie, the way he could contribute and the impact he could have. You always knew what you were going to get from him and he never disappointed. His energy and passion were forever evident in everything he did.
“He was a deserving inductee into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame and his feats won’t easily be forgotten. Our sincere condolences go out to Jane and his family.”
Michael Sholly, captain and coach of the 1994/95 and 1997/98 premiership successes, was privileged to toast Dean when Dean was honoured with the opening of the Dean Jones Bar at the MCG in 2010. Michael has allowed me to share parts of the transcript from his speech that night:
“Whenever Deano played, it went from being a cricket game to a major event.
“As an ODI player, Deano really changed the game. He became the best player in the world at one-day cricket, which is a compliment bestowed on very few. For him, he was always about how he could improve the game, and he did it remarkably well. He batted at no. 3 and he used to take on the opposition, the crowd, he would run blokes out from the fence and he even took on a few fashion statements. I think he was the first player to field in sunglasses and Oakley would be pretty happy with him.
“He always seemed to attract attention and he thrived on it. Whatever sport he played or whatever time, that game was always the most important to him. For me, to be able to play with him on a Saturday, he would play a game of international sport on Friday night in Sydney, for example, and get up at 6am to fly back to Melbourne to play district cricket for Melbourne; and be the first one there sitting in the change rooms in his Melbourne kit! So he had that earnest reputation for contributing at all of those levels. That’s highlighted by the fact that when he finished his career, unlike most people who fade off into the distance and go and do other things, Deano didn’t do that, he went and played in the Melbourne 2nd XI.
“We had a hot side at Melbourne and on most occasions we were fairly certain we were going to win, so sitting up on the balcony at the Albert Ground on a Saturday afternoon listening to Deano’s stories from his weeks away with the Australian team kept everyone on the edge of their seat. Playing golf with Greg Norman, or off to the US Masters the next month, or he’s got Elton John as his buddy, he’s got tickets for you to go off and see the concert. Before the season started, he’d have bags of gear to offload and he’d just dump it in the centre of the change room and say “here you go boys”. I know that he used to give Fairy (Clive Fairbairn) a team tie from every Australian tour that he went on. Every time he came home from a tour he’d drive around to Fairy’s place and deliver the tie.
“To be a good cricketer is one thing, to leave a legacy through his mentoring of Brad Hodge and other young guys is another, but to be a really good guy is a quality that makes him a person in society that is well respected.
“When we won the 1997/98 premiership, about a month later he opened up his house and invited the whole club over for a party at Romsey. It wasn’t exclusive to the First XI, the whole club came. And what a day it was. You don’t do those things unless you care for people. You don’t open up your house to what could be 100-150 people unless you’re a generous person, without having consideration for others. So while he was a magnificent cricketer, he had all those other qualities.
“He made every game a great event. I played plenty of games of District cricket and most of them have gone from my memory. But every game Deano played, I can remember. There was a different feel about those games. He took a club cricket game and turned it into a first-class match because of the way he approached it.
“Deano has contributed in many ways to the Melbourne Cricket Club, he has coached and assisted Doug Patrick with the young blokes and helped them, played for us up at places like Bendigo and White Hills, Werribee, we’ve been to Hong Kong, what an opportunity to play with the great man and something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life”.
I’m sure you will join me in offering our deepest sympathies to wife Jane, daughters Phoebe and Isabella (Gus) and the rest of the Jones family.