Ray Lindwall, probably Australian cricket`s greatest fast bowler since the Second World War, died on Saturday night 22 June 1996, in Brisbane at the age of 74. Much has, and will, be written of his achievements on the cricket field, however not many people would be aware of his prowess as a rugby league player in his younger days.
Lindwall played first grade rugby league for St George in the 1940, 1942, 1943 and 1946 seasons and was a very talented fullback and goalkicker.
He missed the 1941 season through illness, a year in which St George won the New South Wales Rugby League premiership. Incidentally. it was in the 1941-42 season, in the last first-class game in Australia before Pearl Harbour, that Lindwall made his NSW cricket debut.
In 1942 he was back on the football field, and the Dragons made it into the grand final for the second year running, but this time they were defeated by Canterbury-Bankstown 11-9. Ray Lindwall and his brother Jack, who played on the wing, scored all of the Dragons` points, Jack scoring a try and Ray kicking three goals. It was only a last minute penalty goal that gave the Berries victory.
Army committments intervened during the 1943 season, and Lindwall did not reappear in the red and white of St George until 1946, by which time he was an Australian cricket representative (although his one “Test”, against New Zealand, had not been accorded that status straight away). St George qualified for the grand final against Balmain – unfortunately Lindwall`s goalkicking prowess deserted him on the day, as Balmain won the game 13-12, scoring three tries to the Dragons` four, with Lindwall missing every kick at goal.
Following the 1946 season, Lindwall`s mentor, Bill O`Reilly, convinced him to stick to cricket. The rest is history. At the age of 25 Lindwall`s rugby league career was over.
Ray Lindwall played 31 first-grade rugby league games for St George, scoring 7 tries (then worth 3 points) and kicking 123 goals for a total of 267 points. Those two close calls in the 1942 and 1946 grand finals prevented him from emulating Bert Collins` unique feat of following a NSWRL premiership victory with captaining the Australian cricket team. Lindwall`s brother Jack was, at the time of his retirement, the club`s leading try-scorer with 110.
Finally, Ray Lindwall was one of the few players to represent NSW in both cricket and rugby league. His longtime bowling partner, Keith Miller, represented Victoria in both cricket and Australian Rules, another rare feat.
Vale Ray Lindwall, 3 October 1921 – 22 June 1996.