In 1949 in his first year at Preston Tech, Bill Lawry was recognised for his prowess with a cricket bat. He would go on to become a legend in Australian cricket.
Just 11 years old (and playing for the local Thornbury Presbyterian Sunday School Cricket Club) Bill Lawry was encouraged by John Reid (the science teacher) to play for the senior Northcote Cricket Club. Without John Reid’s direction, Bill said he might never have transcended church cricket. ‘It’s one of my favourite memories of school,’ he explained.
‘John Reid pushed me from a junior club to a senior club and I played for Northcote for several years. I was the youngest member of the club at the time, and I spent two years in the fourth XI, one year in the third and another in the second XI and then joined the firsts. It was a real buzz for me and we played on turf, not matting as we did at the church club.’
Bill attended Preston Tech for four years until 1952 and played for the school cricket team. On one occasion, the cricket ball missed its mark and found Bill’s nose instead. The 1952 school magazine states: ‘Bill Lawry received a bad blow on the nose against Essendon but the damage was only superficial. The side played well together and Bill Lawry proved an able leader. His general handling of the team was commendable, while his general organisation of equipment and practice proved very helpful.’
Bill was also the captain of the school baseball team and led them to a premiership in 1952. It was in baseball that his teachers believed Bill could possibly carve out a sporting career.
Bill came from a sporting family, he played baseball in winter and cricket in summer. Neil Harvey and Wally Driver (two big names in cricket) were umpires at Preston Tech’s baseball games and were a great inspiration for Bill. ‘They inspired me a lot and I was pushing down their path. I think the school was as much sports-minded as it was education-minded.’
After his years at Northcote, Bill’s skills as a cricketer continued to improve. In 1956 just before the Melbourne Olympic Games, Bill was picked to play for Victoria. ‘I was really pleased that I’d reached that level, but I still wasn’t aspiring to play for Australia. I had a few lucky breaks and I guess some talent helped.’ In 1962, Bill was picked to play for Australia for the English tour.
In between establishing himself as a cricket legend, Bill also played baseball for 17 years with the Collingwood Baseball Club. At 24, he was asked to try-out in America for the Cincinnati Reds, but by that time he had been picked to play cricket for Australia and baseball faded into oblivion.
For Bill, his years at Preston Tech were all part of a positive perspective on school. ‘There are no unpleasant memories at all,’ he said. ‘I still have my friends from there and I thank John Reid for helping me get started.’