The Richmond Cricket Club was fortunate when 19 year old John Leehane, a promising right arm fast medium bowler from South Oakleigh, joined the Club for the 1969-70 season.
He came with a strong family history in the summer game, seeing as his father Tom played 86 Senior games for the Carlton Cricket Club, and was good enough to represented Victoria in 1950.
He began his career that season in the Third and Fourth Elevens and by 1972 -73 had worked his way up to the seniors. In only his second senior game he demolished a strong Hawthorn – East Melbourne batting line up at Punt Road, taking an exceptional, 8 for 16. This fantastic exhibition of fast bowling, and the enthusiasm he displayed in that debut season, convinced the selectors that he would be a long term, successful Cricketer at Richmond.
I quiet man off the ground John was very competitive at match time, he had a dislike for anyone standing at the batting crease. He let them know by sending down the ball with all the speed he could muster, and when at top pace was as swift and dangerous as any fast bowler in District ranks. His lethal bouncer left many an opponent battered and bruised.
John’s bowling action made the ball move inward off the wicket, but when he developed a leg cutter and caused the ball to move away, he became the complete Fast Bowler.
The pace trio of Leehane, Graeme Paterson and Jeff Russ along with star International leg- spinner Jim Higgs, assured the Tigers of success. During the period John was at Richmond as a Player, Selector, or Coach, the Tigers appeared in the Final Series Twelve times, winning Two First, Two Second, and One Third X1 Premiership. The Seven Club Championships achieved during this period were a result of the Richmond Players, Staff, and Official’s consistent efforts, and John Leehane played an integral part in this success.
John went on to play 111 games for Richmond, taking 225 wickets at 18.81, and in doing so, claimed Three Bowling Awards along the way. He capped off a great career by being a member of the Club’s First Eleven Premiership team of 1976-77.
When he was 29 years old and in his Sixth year as a First Eleven player, John was selected to play Sheffield Shield Cricket for Victoria. In the 11 games he played for the Vics over the period 1978-79 to 1980-81, he took 45 wickets, assisting the State gain back to back Shield titles in 1978-79 and 1979-80.
Although John’s right hand batting ability was modest, in a Shield match at the MCG in December 1979, his achievement of slamming the very last ball of the game from New South Wales spin bowler Bob Holland into the Sightscreen on the full, enabled Victoria to secure an unlikely one wicket victory.
The new Century saw John make a comeback to District Cricket, not as a player, but as an umpire. His great love and understanding of the game saw him, in a very short period of time, work his way through the lower grades to become a fine First Eleven District Umpire.
John Leehane was awarded Life Membership of the Richmond Cricket Club in 1982 and now, for the 17 years of outstanding service he gave the Club both on and off the field, has been Inducted into the Hall of Fame.