Australian cricketer and media personality Max “Tangles” Walker died today, aged 68, after a two-year battle with melanoma.
Walker, who was as well known for his commentating, books and good humour as for his performances on the cricket field, took 138 wickets in 38 Tests with his unorthodox right-arm-over-right-leg bowling action.
But he started his top-level sporting career as a footballer with the Melbourne Football Club.
Former Australian test captain Kim Hughes said Walker was an inspiration to Australians in all fields.
“He was what you’d call a unique Australian, great sense of humour, could laugh at himself, brought a lot of joy to a lot of people,” he said.
“He could tell a good yarn, he liked people, he was very, very genuine and you got the feeling that when you were around him, he was interested in you.
“It didn’t matter if you were a doctor or a lawyer, you could’ve been Joe Blow.”
After retiring from cricket in 1979, Walker became a well-liked commentator, host and newsreader for several sports programs. He also wrote 14 books, many of them showcasing his trademark wit and becoming bestsellers.
Former state cricketer and sports journalist Kim Hagdorn said Walker was respected well beyond the cricket world.
“I certainly admired him as a player and as a leader of how to play the game; highly competitive, but certainly very fair, and I think he took the same into his commentary,” Hagdorn said.
“Another reason for how he was so widely respected is also the accessibility of his storytelling … because of the way he played, it took him into the confidence and respect of so many other great personalities so he could then tell us all great stories about them.”
Hagdorn also said there were lessons to be learnt from the way in which Walker died.
“So few of us realise how potentially dangerous it was through the 60s and 70s when we just used to expose ourselves [to the sun] with very little … zinc or sunscreen,” Hagdorn said.
Veteran sports commentator Glenn Mitchell said he and many others felt the impact of Walker’s loss.
“The room lit up every time he walked in just with his smile and the power of his positive, jovial personality,” he said.
“He really was a larger than life personality and I think that’s why so many people that have come into contact with him are feeling today, his loss.”
Walker was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2011 for his services to cricket as a player and broadcaster, as well as for his charitable community work.
He was a notable member of the ‘It’s Crunch Time’ movement, which raised awareness of bowel cancer and its screening processes. Walker also worked with other charities, including Disaster Aid Australia and Rotary Overseas Medical Aid for Children.
A host of Australian celebrities and organisations have already paid tribute to Walker’s unique personality and contribution to the game, including both the Australian Cricketers’ Association and the Melbourne Football Club.