Test cricket legend Robert “Dutchy” Holland has died following a battle with brain cancer, two days after he attended a tribute night in his honour in Newcastle. He was 70.
Holland died suddenly and peacefully on Sunday afternoon after suffering a brain bleed while in hospital being treated for broken ribs suffered in a fall last week.
The Southern Lakes, NSW and Australian spinner refused to go to hospital after the fall and attended a function in his honour, hosted by former Test captain Mark Taylor, at Toronto Workers Club on Friday night.
“He had the best time of his life on Friday where he spent time with a lot of his mates at his dinner,” son Craig told the Newcastle Herald on Sunday night.
“He showed no pain on the night and stayed till the end of the show. My family were amazed as we thought he might stay an hour or two.
“He went to the grand final of the Newcastle baseball and watched his grandson play in two games.
“He had a bad night last night and Mum decided to take him to hospital this morning. It was confirmed he had broken a few ribs.”
Holland was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer in late March and had surgery a week later to remove part of the tumour, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Craig said his father had “quickly and peacefully passed away” after suffering the brain bleed.
“We knew this day was coming, but we thought considering how well he had been we had more time,” he said.
“My family are humbled by and appreciate the support of the community and his friends for their support in the past and recent difficult times.”
Holland made his Test debut in 1984 at the age of 38 and famously spun Australia to victory with 10 wickets against the West Indies at the SCG in early 1985.
He played in that year’s Ashes series in England and took another 10-wicket haul against New Zealand in Adelaide. He appeared in 11 Tests in all, taking 34 wickets, and in 95 first-class matches, most of them for the Blues, and was still playing state cricket into his forties.
Friend and Test batsman Rick McCosker told the Newcastle Herald in July that Holland’s popularity extended throughout the cricketing world.
“They’ve always respected him, not just the guys he played with but the guys he played against, whether it was for the Australian team or the NSW team,” McCosker said at a function where his friend was presented with life membership of the Hunter branch of The Lord’s Taverners Australia.
Holland last played for the Lord’s Taverners, a cricketing charity organisation, early last year.
The Southern Lakes life member and former president was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in January after decades of service to the sport as a player, coach and administrator.
“He’s already got a wonderful legacy of what he’s done. Nothing can take that away,” McCosker said.
He is survived by his wife Carolyn, sons Craig and Rohan and daughter Naomi.
Cricket NSW pays tribute
Cricket NSW has paid tribute to former NSW and Australian spinner Bob Holland.
Cricket NSW chief executive Andrew Jones said Mr Holland was not only a fine player, coach, administrator and mentor but also a delightful man.
“Bob’s death is a sad loss for Newcastle, NSW and Australian cricket,” Mr Jones said.
“He was an inspiration as a player, not only because of his skills but also his persistence. He was first picked for NSW at the age of 32 and became a cult hero during the mid `80s when chosen for Australia at the age of 38.”
"I and many others will never forget Bob's performance at the SCG in 1984 against the West Indies, when the world's nicest man beat the world's most feared cricket team".
Cricket NSW chairman John Warn said that in addition to his career at State and International level, Holland made an enormous contribution to the game at grassroots level.
“Bob gave us an enormous amount of pleasure as a player and put even more back into the game,” Mr Warn said.
Holland’s contributions include:
• 427 games for Southern Lakes/Toronto Workers Cricket Club, where he took 1,127 wickets, including 67 five-wicket hauls
• Holding all committee positions at Southern Lakes at various times, Culminating in 16 years as President
• Regular contributions as a coach to Toronto Workers Academy, Hunter Academy of Sport, Hunter Sports High School, various Newcastle youth representative squads, multiple Newcastle Grade clubs, many Level 1 coaching courses and numerous young spin bowlers
• Leadership in the implementation of MILO in2Cricket in the Newcastle region, which is the game’s entry-level program
He is a Life Member of Toronto Workers Cricket Club (1978) and Newcastle District Cricket Association and was also inducted into the Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame.
“We will miss Bob’s genial and warm-hearted nature,” Mr Warn said. “Our thoughts are with his wife Carolyn and family at this difficult time.
“Bob will forever be a member of the NSW cricket family.”