Just 451 players have donned the baggy green and played test cricket for Australia in 140 years.
Of those players, only a portion have been lucky enough to take to the hallowed turf of the mighty MCG and represent their country – and very few have made the most of their chance on the biggest of cricketing stages.
Leslie ‘Chuck’ Fleetwood-Smith, born in Stawell on March 30, 1908, wore test cap number 153 for Australia.
After dominating in Wimmera cricket leagues during the 1920’s, Fleetwood-Smith caught the attention of premier league clubs in Melbourne.
The left-arm spinner was given a chance at St Kilda Cricket Club, were he shone. His efforts earned him a call up to the national side in 1935, where he played along cricket icon Sir Donald Bradman.
His career began with a tour of South Africa, where he claimed nine wickets in his first three matches.
However, it was Fleetwood-Smith’s performances in Ashes series for which he is best remembered.
The Stawell-product played seven of his 10 test matches against England, but just three of the 10 a home in Australia.
It was the 1936-37 series in which the spinner made a name for himself.
After his promising tour of South Africa in 1935-36, Fleetwood-Smith had to wait until New Years day in 1937 to get another chance at test cricket.
With Australia trailing 2-0 in the five match series, England was in the box seat to regain the Ashes after losing the 1934 series 2-1 at home.
Heading to Melbourne, captained by legendary Bradman, Fleetwood-Smith was brought back into the team with Australia desperate for a win.
Bradman did what he did best and scored a massive 270 in the second innings to give Australia a mammoth 689 run lead.
Fleetwood-Smith backed up his captain’s efforts, taking his first test match five-wicket haul to get Australia back in the series.
The series then headed to Adelaide, where a similar story unfolded.
Another double century from Bradman set the Aussies up for victory, but it was Fleetwood-Smith who finished England off, claiming six second innings wickets – 10 for the match.
With the series now level at 2-2, play returned to the MCG for the penultimate match.
The left-hand spinner picked up four wickets to take his tally to 15 for the series, as Australia won the series 3-2 and won the Ashes.
Fleetwood-Smith’s success emanates that of the current Australian team, which leads 3-0 heading into the Boxing Day test.
The efforts of himself and many others in the history of Australian cricket set the tone that when England travels down under, the little urn will not be easy to take.
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