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Ryder, John (Jack) (1889–1977)

by Jim Young

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

John (Jack) Ryder (1889-1977), cricketer and cricket administrator, was born on 8 August 1889 at Collingwood, Melbourne, fifth child of Henry John Ryder, a Scottish-born carpenter, and his wife Ellen, née Whiteley, who came from England. They were, Jack said, `a simple working class family'. Educated at the local state School, he started work at the age of 14, as an apprentice in Thomas Davies' shoemaking firm at Fitzroy. He progressed to storeman and salesman, and later to senior representative of another footwear manufacturer, Whybrow & Co. Pty Ltd of Abbotsford. On 17 June 1916 at the Cairns Memorial Church, East Melbourne, he married with Presbyterian forms Fanny Douglas Smith, a tailoress. He lost his job in the Depression and was employed intermittently until World War II when—on (Sir) Robert Menzies' recommendation—he became an inspector of boots. Subsequently, he was a stores clerk with Australian Motor Industries Co., Hawthorn.

In 1906 Ryder had begun playing for Collingwood Cricket Club in the new district competition. About 6 ft 2 ins (188 cm) tall and strongly built, he made his début for Victoria in the 1912-13 season and, according to A. G. Moyes, `ranked high among the all-rounders'. He established himself as a fine right-handed, middle-order batsman, especially strong in driving in front of the wicket, whom M. A. Noble reckoned `a master of the forcing game'. His most celebrated display of powerful hitting—295 runs in 245 minutes—occurred on 28 December 1926 in a Sheffield Shield match against New South Wales.

After being selected for the Australian XI in 1920, Ryder played in the five Tests against the visiting Englishmen in 1920-21, but contributed little to his country's victory in the series. Although he toured England in 1921, the selectors overlooked him for the Tests. That year he performed well in three Tests against South Africa, averaging 111 with the bat. A back injury delayed his selection for the 1924-25 series against England, but he returned triumphantly to help Australia win (by eleven runs) the thrilling third game, played in Adelaide. Coming to the crease when his side was 5 for 118 in the first innings, he scored 201 not out. An additional 88 runs in the second innings gave him what was then the highest aggregate in a Test match.

Ryder was a member of the selection panel for the 1926 tour of England. He played in the first four Tests, all of which were drawn, but was omitted from the fifth, in which Australia lost the Ashes. Deposed as a selector, he was surprisingly named captain for the 1928-29 home series against England. W. M. Woodfull stood down to let him become Victorian captain as well. The Australians were outclassed in the first two Tests, competitive in the next two, and victorious in the fifth. As captain, Ryder gained the admiration of his team-mates and turned a badly beaten side into one that verged on greatness. In that series he played his finest cricket, scoring 492 runs (the highest aggregate by an Australian) and averaging 54.66. He may have been, as Jack Pollard has said, `a plucky, competent player who made up for technical deficiencies with an indomitable spirit', yet he is one of the few Test batsmen to have averaged better than 50 over his whole career.

When Ryder's co-selectors R. L. Jones and C. E. Dolling picked Woodful as captain and dropped Ryder from the side to tour England in 1930 there was public uproar. Prisoners in Pentridge Gaol lamented `the wrong done to Australia', while eight hundred people attended a protest at the Collingwood Town Hall. Prime Minister Scullin sent his apologies; John Wren sent £50. Throughout, Ryder behaved with dignity, refusing offers to cover the series as a journalist or to visit England for Whybrow & Co. It was the end of his Test career. A testimonial match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground raised £2460 for him. He retired from shield cricket two years later, but led an unofficial side to India in 1935. In 177 first-class games he made 10,499 runs at 44.29 and took 238 wickets.

From 1931 Ryder served as an administrator with the Victorian Cricket Association, retiring as vice-president in 1976. In 1946-70 he was a Test selector and `handed out plenty of shocks himself'. Sometimes—as with the selection of W. M. Lawry for the 1961 tour of England—he was triumphantly vindicated. On other occasions there were suggestions that his enthusiasm for new talent seemed prone to error, especially when the untried youth happened to be a Victorian. He was appointed M.B.E. in 1958. The Victorian Cricket Association instituted the Jack Ryder medal in 1973; it is awarded annually to the best district cricketer.

Ryder had played football in the Collingwood Seconds before turning to baseball, in which he represented Victoria. He was associated with the Collingwood Cricket Club for seventy-one years as player (until 1943), coach, official and selector. His performances earned him the title, 'The King of Collingwood'—a remarkable honour for one who was a cricketer (rather than a footballer) and a Methodist (rather than a Catholic). Widely respected, he was abstemious without being puritanical, plain spoken and unpretentious. Denzil Batchelor described him as having `the face of a grave goblin'. He led the parade of former Australian Test players at the England-Australia Centenary Match in Melbourne in March 1977. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and son, he died on 3 April that year at Fitzroy and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • M. A. Noble, Gilligan's Men (London, 1925)
  • D. Batchelor, The Match I Remember (London, 1950)
  • J. Fingleton, Masters of Cricket from Trumper to May (London, 1958)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket (Sydney, 1959)
  • K. Dunstan, The Paddock that Grew (Melbourne, 1962)
  • C. Martin-Jenkins, The Complete Who's Who of Test Cricketers (Adelaide, 1980)
  • R. Coleman, Seasons in the Sun (Melbourne, 1993)
  • C. Harte, A History of Australian Cricket (London, 1993)
  • M. Fiddian, A Life-Long Innings (Pakenham, Victoria, 1995)
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanac, 1978
  • Herald (Melbourne), 8 May 1945, 4 September 1969, 5 April 1977
  • Age (Melbourne), 5 April 1977.

Citation details

Jim Young, 'Ryder, John (Jack) (1889–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ryder-john-jack-11595/text20701, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 1 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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