After 55 years, ?TJ? finally pulling stumps
By Steve Spinks
Warren Smith is 67 not out, but retiring at 55.
'TJ', as he is better known in Far North Coast cricket circles, will retire following the last round of Ballina District fourth grade next weekend after a career spanning 55 seasons.
The 67-year-old all-rounder will play his last match for Bangalow fourth grade against Byron Bay in a two-dayer.
It is believed Smith is the only great grandfather still playing cricket on the Far North Coast.
"Geez, I love cricket," Smith told The Northern Star.
"But it's time to give it away.
"I'll still stay involved, but I won't be playing any more."
Born and bred at Rous, Smith started playing cricket in the old Rous association.
He remembers fondly playing against the likes of local legends Sam Trimble, Lloyd Strong and Snow Rose of the Clunes association.
One of his greatest cricketing moments occurred while representing Rous against Ballina.
"Ballina batted first and got 300-odd," Smith remembered.
"I opened and hit a single off the first ball."
When the opening partnership was ended for 52, his partner had scored 51 while Smith had added just a single.
"But I was the second last out for 96 and it was the first time Rous ever beat Ballina," Smith added.
Although he just missed out on his century that time, Smith was good enough to score 22 centuries over the years.
He also snared five hat-tricks with his leg-spinners.
He played for Wollongbar, Rous, Alstonville, Wardell and Bangalow, and still holds a Ballina District batting partnership record of 319 with his brother Greg.
Greg Smith, now Far North Coast umpires convenor, even tried persuading TJ to take up officiating a few years ago.
"He'd never make a good umpire," Greg laughed.
"His eyes are too good."
TJ worked as a farmer, a baker and bread delivery man before retiring.
He puts his longevity in cricket down to not smoking or drinking during the week, and riding his bicycle everywhere as a kid.
"I always stayed pretty fit," TJ said.
He doesn't believe in sledging and he's never worn a helmet while batting, even though he's played on some interesting wicket surfaces including glazed, 'Kippax' canvas, synthetic, coier, semi-coier and turf.
The Goonellabah cricketer has six grandchildren and he's keen to coach them.
As for his last match, TJ is considering elevating himself to the top of the order for a final fling.