From the time Dean Jones was harassing Carlton and opposing players, indeed anybody, to bowl to him at Princes Park when he was in short pants, there was never any doubt he would be a quality cricketer.
That his father Barney was club captain and a Carlton legend ensured he never went without long sessions “at the crease”, be that in the dressing rooms, the bar, on the field or around the terraces or car park.
Jones rose quickly through the ranks when he did grow into long pants. He graduated through the Dowling Shield and while Keith Stackpole was taking the Carlton seniors to the 1978/79 premiership, Jones played in the second XI final against Footscray. At 18, he scored 42 before becoming one of the six victims of Merv Hughes whose bowling won the match.
Jones managed only 55 games with the Blues, but was a member of the 1980/81 premiership side. “It was an exciting time because I took six wickets and scored 70 in the second XI semi-final and I was promoted for the First XI premiership match. I was just a kid and had no real impact because we won in a canter”
Then, in 1985, he transferred to Melbourne, where he was a driving force despite his continued first-class assignments. He was a member of the Demons 1988/89 premiership team and captained the club in 1990/91 and 1991/92.
He played for Melbourne from 1985/86 to 1997/98, scoring 2432 runs at 52.86, with a highest score of 125 not out against Fitzroy-Doncaster in 1994/95.
He was a major force in the three premierships he played at the club. He scored 124 not out against Collingwood in the 1994/95 final and, in his last First XI appearance, 84 not out in the 1997/98 to get the club over the line against Camberwell Magpies.
Jones won the club’s batting average twice, in 1994/95 (597 runs at 99.50) and 1997/98 (496 runs at 82.66).
In all First XI District cricket he scored 4021 runs at 48.44, and with four premierships he had achieved much in Premier cricket considering his time away on other duties.
Jones actually played in four decades of Premier cricket. “I started in the 1970s, played in the 190s and 1990s and came back to help Melbourne out with a couple of games as captain in 2002.
“My earliest memories are before I even started playing. I remember dad having a death threat during a semi final following the incident when ice was put on the wicket in the match against University in the late 1960s. I had police outside my classroom throughout the day leading into the final.
“In the early days I played against some great characters such as Eddie Illingworth at Fitzroy, Brendan McArdle at Northcote and even Norm Emerson at Collingwood. You had Keith Stackpole and John Scholes at Carlton and Warren Ayres and Rob Templeton at Melbourne.
“Ayres was the best technical batsman I saw and nobody was quicker than Peter King one day at Melbourne.
“Times have changed a lot. I can remember playing against Illingworth and Ken Eastwood in the second XI. You learned a lot from playing against them and the hardened older players. Merv Hughes also captained the Footscray seconds for a couple of years and he helped develop players that way, as I did and a few others have.
“I don’t think the competition is as tough as it was twenty or thirty years ago. When I went back to captain Melbourne in 2002 for a couple of games, I hadn’t picked up a bat for two years yet it was comfortable enough. There were a lot of soft runs and there were not the senior players around to look after the younger players. I think in the old days, with fewer teams, there were two recognised fast bowlers at every club, a core of senior players and a few kids. Today that is not the case.
“A lot of players finish their careers and seek money outside Premier cricket, or they simply don’t have the time to keep going. I reckon matches should start at 1.00pm to allow blokes time to do some family chores. That’s the way it used to be and I reckon more senior players would stick around a club if that were the case today.”
And Jones believes learning from the older players fast-tracked his career. He certainly wasn’t short of a word or two, and neither was John Scholes. Jones recalls a moment during a match when he was batting and Scholes was fielding at short leg.
“I had left Carlton for Melbourne and Scholes started yapping away about how the Melbourne cap didn’t look good on me and how I truly loved Carlton. I was telling him that I would put holes though him if I received a short-pitched delivery. This was going on while the bowling was coming in, and continued as I stroked the ball away. Umpire Danny Bomford came down the pitch and said we could talk to each other while you are hitting the ball. Barrel just turned around and told him it had nothing to do with him: it was a family matter.”
Jones believes the best combination he encountered was Melbourne’s 1997/98 premiership side. “It had Aryes, Brad Hodge and me in the batting order, Steve McCooke, Brad Williams in attack and Rob Templeton as wicketkeeper. We won as we liked. I think virtually every player had played for the state.”
“But I still remember going to the Albert Ground for finals in the 1970s and watching alongside 8000 fans. They were great days. And it was really tough. I remember Keith Stackpole being hit twice on the chin by John Leehane, and not even flinching. He was as tough as nails.
“There was genuine competition in those days, Carlton against Richmond and Carlton against Collingwood. I guess it had a lot to do with the football, because you played cricket at the ground for six months and the footballers took over for six months. The competitive juices always flowed against an arch rival and you played them on the same grounds as the footy, in front of large and vocal crowds. I loved every minute of it.”
Jones spent more of his time playing first-class cricket than he did at Premier level. For Victoria he scored a staggering 10,412 runs at 52.06 with 33 centuries. He is easily Victoria’s highest run-scorer, the previous record-holder being Bill Lawry with 7618, and his total of centuries is also well ahead of the former record-holder, Bill Ponsford (26). He also overtook Ray Bright as the longest serving Victorian player.
His highest score of 324 not out against SA in 1994/95 was the first triple-century for Victoria since the 1920s and his tally of runs for the state that season, 1251 at 69.50, has only once been exceeded.
He is also Victorias leading run-scorer in limited-overs cricket, his 2260 runs at 51.56 being more than twice that of his nearest rival. Jones also played for Durham in 1992, when he scored 1179 runs at 73.68, and for Derbyshire in 1996 and 1997 - in 1996 he scored 1502 runs at 51.79 and led them to second place.
He was equally busy for Australia, playing 52 Tests in which he scored 3631 runs at 46.55, with 11 centuries and 14 half-centuries. His greatest moment was scoring 210 in enervating conditions against India at Madras in 1986/87 in the tied Test.
He was Australia’s premier one-day international batsman for a decade. He played 164 matches and scored 6068 runs at 44.61, with a highest of 145. He managed seven centuries and 46 half-centuries in an illustrious one-day international career.
In all his endeavours away from Premier cricket, he played 285 matches, accumulated 10,936 runs at 46.93 with 19 centuries and 72 half-centuries. It is easy to see how little time he had to devote to Premier cricket, yet just as easy to understand that he gave his all at that level too.
Like his father, he was an uncompromising competitor. Barney represented Carlton from 1955-56 to 1970-71. He played 185 First XI games with Carlton, many as captain/coach. He captured 379 wickets at the excellent average of 17.4 and scored 3800 runs at 22. He was club champion eight times (five in succession), played in three premiership teams and led the Blues to their 1968/69 premiership.
Keeping up with the Jones boys was really hard to do.
From "100 Not Out" by Rod Nicholson and Ken Williams.