One of the great “quiet achievers” of St George DCC, Keith Francis, was awarded a Life Membership recently. He becomes Life Member No.57 in the clubs 108 year history.
Keith was a mainstay of the St George First Grade bowling attack for the best part of 16 seasons taking a jaw dropping 508 wickets. This is the 3rd most behind Australian legend Bill O’Reilly and Ross Longbottom. All up he took 616 wickets which sits him 7th for all time wickets in all grades. He played in 4 First Grade Premierships and enjoyed 9 Club Championships during his time with St George. Many Grade cricketers would be happy with at least one of each.
In his recent book Mr St George, John Rogers (father of Test Cricketer Chris Rogers) wrote “From the mid 50’s to 60’s St George lacked quality opening bowlers. Much of the burden fell on Keith. Slim and of medium height, his shortish run up ended in a classic skip action that enabled his deliveries to kiss off the wicket and thump into an unsuspecting pad”. “Just above medium pace Keith probed and teased the batsman offering little to hit, playing the patience game, waiting for the loose shot or zipping one into the pads when he saw the heave-ho coming”.
St George legend Warren Saunders remembers Keith as one of the quietest blokes you could play with. Once the days play was done he was out of the sheds in a flash". "That was just Keith and no one minded" said Saunders.
His impressive results in 1st grade results culminated in two 1st Class games for NSW in 1957. He took 4 wickets at 24.75 with a best of 2-11.
Keith was born locally in Arncliffe in November 1933 and is currently 84 years of age (as of November 2018). He eventually lived on Dora Street in Hurstville which presented plenty of opportunity to watch the likes of Bill O’Reilly playing for St George. He played Green Shield for The Saints in 1950-51 and made his First Grade debut in 1952-53 which was a premiership year under the captaincy of Wicket Keeping legend Ernie Laidler.
You could say this life membership was well overdue but why did it take virtually 50 years to come. I guess you could say he simply flew under the radar.