“In the very simplest of terms, Robert Holland was a very good man who just happened to be a very good bowler.”
So said Greg Singleton, the South Lakes Cricket Club stalwart who knew Robert ‘Dutchy’ Holland for 45 years, before the former Test leg-spinner succumbed to brain cancer earlier this month.
The care and respect for Holland was clear on Thursday, as hundreds of Dutchy’s family, friends and cricket mates packed out Christ Church Cathedral to say their last goodbyes.
Holland is known internationally in the cricket world for tearing apart the West Indies batting order at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1984, taking 10 wickets against a near-unbeatable side that included the likes of Viv Richards, Larry Gomes, Desmond Haynes and Clive Lloyd.
But he was loved locally for decades of tireless work with South Lakes Cricket Club – now known as Toronto Workers Cricket Club – which he returned to after his brief but eventful Test stint and successful first class career for NSW.
Singleton wore the South Lakes “baggy yellow” as he told stories about his great mate on Thursday.
“Robert laughed a lot with the rest of us, easily and frequently,” he said.
“His whole career, he was the first player at practice and the last to leave.
“People knew that Dutch didn’t walk around with the Baggy Green in his back pocket.
“How many former Test players do you see selling raffle tickets on a Saturday night?”
Former Test fast bowler Mike Whitney, who was Holland’s team mate in the NSW side, also spoke.
“Wonderful, generous, humble, likeable, ego-less person,” was how Whitney described Dutchy.
“Around the world, wherever you go… I’ve never heard a bad word said about the bloke. In the cricket world, he is much loved and he’s going to be sorely missed.”
Dutchy Holland played 11 Tests, after he made his debut at the age of 38, and took 34 wickets. He played first class cricket for a decade, claiming 316 wickets in 95 matches, after he debuted as a 32-year-old.
Whitney said Holland was a “wonderful mentor” for the young players in the NSW side – and recalled the time he had a t-shirt made up with the words emblazoned on the front: Dutchy spins me out.
He told the gathering that Holland was instrumental in NSW finding its way out of the wilderness in the 1980s. After almost 20 years without winning the Sheffield Shield – the side claimed the championship three times in four years during Dutchy’s career.
The third Sheffield Shield win, Whitney said, showed Dutchy’s character.
“It had come down to the last hour of the fifth day, [Queensland] needed a couple of wickets and we weren’t going to get the runs. It was Jeff Thomson’s last game,” he said.
“Murray Bennett is batting nine, Dutchy was batting 10 and they’re in there and they’ve got to block out the last 45 minutes to draw the game so we would win the Sheffield Shield two years in a row – and they did it.
“This was the nucleus of the NSW cricket team that marched through the 80s and the 90s.
“He will be remembered not only today but forever in the annals of NSW cricket – he is and always will be one of the greats.”
Holland’s daughter Naomi McKee recited the traditional poem Dear Friends I Go, before a slideshow of Dutchy’s life in pictures – to the sounds of Cat Stevens. His sons Craig and Rohan read passages.
At the end of the service, a guard of honour was formed outside the church as Dutchy Holland was clapped from the field for the final time.