Whether in sport or politics, Loxton played it hard but fair




29-3-1921 2-12-2011


SAM Loxton always said without rancour that his time as a sportsman had been in the considerable shadow of his mate Keith Miller, as both careers encompassed playing cricket as all-rounders for Victoria and Australia, and football for St Kilda.

As a member of Don Bradman's 1948 "Invincibles" as was Miller Loxton was also being modest, at least in some aspects. For while Miller flew Mosquitoes against the Luftwaffe in World War II and famously played down talk of pressure on the sports field, saying "pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing is not", Loxton, who was in an army reserve tank unit, also knew how to handle pressure on and off the field.

Possessing a solid jaw to match his gruff exterior, he exerted maximum pressure on sporting and later, political opponents. Yet he was a stickler for the "old fashioned" protocols of cricket, "playing the game hard but fair", and in retirement often berated latter-day cricketers for bad etiquette and behaviour.

He even delivered a stinging rebuke to the Australian captain, Greg Chappell, after Chappell ordered his brother, Trevor, to deliver an underarm ball to New Zealand's No. 10 batsman, Brian McKechnie, to rule out any chance of defeat.

Loxton saw it as a "betrayal" of cricket. As the skipper prepared to take a shower after the game, Loxton, the only national selector at the game, put his hand firmly on Chappell's shoulder and said: "You might have won the game but you've lost a lot of friends."

He revealed for the first time to the author that those words had, in fact, been suggested to him by then opposition leader Billy Snedden, who happened to be near him as he composed himself for the confrontation. Loxton said he was so upset that "I was teary all the way on the drive home to Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula".

Revealingly, Loxton said he took exception to the way the underarm ball was bowled, because an underarm delivery was then still within the laws of cricket. "He [Trevor Chappell] bowled it like a lawn bowl, rolling it all the way down the pitch. If he had put a loop on it and pitched it say, halfway down the pitch like a normal delivery, then it would have been acceptable."

Two months after the underarm incident, Loxton severed all links with Australia's cricket administrators and selection he had been a selector since 1970.

Loxton, who has died at age 90 on the Gold Coast where he had lived since 1981, played in the last three Tests of the famous Invincibles five-Test series in England.

A hard-hitting batsman and fast-medium bowler, in all he played 12 Tests for Australia between 1948 and 1951, scoring 554 runs at an average of 36.93, and took eight wickets at an unflattering 43.62.

His first innings 93 in the fourth Test at Leeds when Australia was struggling included five towering sixes his knock helped set up a record-breaking second innings run chase, when he was not required to bat. Again, when Australia was struggling in the first Test against South Africa at Johannesburg in the 1949-50 series, he scored 101.

In 140 Sheffield Shield matches for Victoria from 1946 to 1958 he captained the side in 1955, the year he was elected to the Legislative Assembly in the Victorian Parliament Loxton scored 6249 runs at an average of 36.97, and took 232 wickets at 25.73. His top first-class score of 232 not out was on debut against Queensland and he became the first parliamentarian to score a Sheffield Shield ton when he bludgeoned 111 not out against South Australia in January 1956.

He not only intimidated opposing batsmen with belligerent fast-medium bowling and "gamesmanship" he loved bowling bouncers, and welcomed them in turn, on the basis that he would "put 'em over the fence" but terrorised his own team's wicketkeepers. Australian wicketkeeper Don Tallon, would berate him for his "needless" stinging throws from the outfield after the batsman had made his ground.

Loxton did what only a few former sportsmen are capable of at district (Prahran), state and national level crossing into management. His blunt demeanour caused a few ripples when he was appointed manager of the Australian cricket team to tour Pakistan and India in 1959-60. There was some concern good-natured, at least outwardly that there could be diplomatic fallout.

Cricket historian and former Age writer Gideon Haigh recalled Loxton's former captain, Lindsay Hassett, saying tongue-in-cheek that he would advise then prime minister Bob Menzies to put the army and navy on standby because, "a week after Sam gets to India, war is bound to break out".

Born in Albert Park into a keen cricket family, he was educated at Armadale Public School and Wesley College, and began playing for Prahran Cricket Club's third grade in the district competition at age 11. At age 16 he was selected for the Victorian Colts, and returned to Prahran and a first XI debut at age 19. His father, Sam snr, was the scorer at Prahran, and his mother, Annie, made the club's afternoon tea and sandwiches for 20 years.

The following year (1942) Loxton made his debut for St Kilda in the then VFL. A full-forward, he played until 1946, and kicked 114 goals in 41 games, often swapping with Miller on the forward line. (Miller played 16 games for the Saints and kicked 28 goals.)

In 1955, Loxton captained Prahran to its first district premiership in 32 years he took seven wickets and scored 129 and went on to become a club stalwart, from where he ascended to the Victorian cricketing hierarchy and then to national selector and MCG trustee.

Loxton was combining cricket with work in the travel department of the ES&A Bank when then premier Henry Bolte recruited him to contest a Legislative Assembly seat in the Victorian Parliament for the Liberal Country Party in 1955. He won by 14 votes after a re-count and, from 1961, was the party whip until he retired 24 years later at the 1979 state election. Along the way, he defeated Richmond football legend Jack Dyer, who contested Prahran for Labor at the 1967 state election.

Loxton retired from state cricket in the 1957-58 season, but continued playing district cricket for Prahran, with huge success, until 1962-63, scoring 6032 runs and taking 351 wickets for the club. He was named captain of Prahran's team of the century.

The rarest of tragedies struck in 2000 when, on the same day, his wife, Joan, drowned in the family swimming pool and one of his sons, Michael, was taken by a shark.

In November 2008, Loxton, who was by then legally blind, was operated on to restore partial sight by ophthalmologist Andre Theron, the cousin of South African Hollywood star Charlize Theron.

Loxton married firstly Gladys (Ashton) in 1952, but the union was annulled after nine years secondly, he married Caryl (nee Bond), whom he met on the 1949-50 tour of South Africa and they had two sons before divorcing next he married Joan (nee Shiels).

He is survived by his son Peter, a schoolteacher.

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