TAMWORTH’S first test cricketer John Gleeson has been remembered as a loyal mate, fierce competitor and a great raconteur whose love for the game never wavered in his 78 years.
Mr Gleeson was farewelled by hundreds of family, friends and former teammates at a packed-out St John’s Anglican Church in Tamworth on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr Gleeson died on October 7, after an unprecedented career that saw him take 93 wickets in 29 test matches between 1967 and 1972 as the 42nd Australian to wear the baggy green.
His brother, Roy Gleeson, delivered a eulogy that spoke of his love for cricket “from the day we could hold a bat.”
“He loved the game, he loved everything about the game and he was a very fierce critic of the game,” he said.
“Cricket-hours only – that’s the name they gave him and to a degree that was one of the most accurate nicknames he could ever get.”
Mr Gleeson carved a successful career in cricket after being selected to represent NSW in a 1996 southern tour, on which Sir Donald Bradman told him “by by the end of the season, you’ll be playing for Australia”.
On that tour was teammate and former Australian captain, Brian Booth, who was pleased to play with and not against Mr Gleeson, feared for his rare ability to spin the ball both ways.
“But John was more than a cricketer,” Mr Booth told the funeral service.
“He will also be remembered as a loyal team man, an honest contributor to the game … he was a great story-teller. He (was) as a man with a strong faith, a loyal friend, a good mate with a wry sense of humour and friendly disposition.”
Mr Gleeson made the easy transition from cricket to lawn bowls when he returned to Tamworth, joining the Tamworth City Bowling Club in 1980 to become club champion just three years later. Mate Greg Harris said Mr Gleeson came to be a huge asset both on and off the greens.
Mr Gleeson’s former test teammates were among those to form a guard of honour as his baggy green and a cricket ball were walked out ahead of his coffin.