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“He was immaculately groomed, he never had a hair out of place. His playing whites were always cleaner than others, he cleaned his gloves, his pads… he was immaculate in everything he did.”
These are the words of St George Cricket Club Patron Warren Saunders when describing First Grade player No. 63, Ernie Laidler.
Ernie was a wicket keeper and made his first grade debut in 1928-29.
In what became a remarkable career he remained the clubs first choice keeper for the next 30 years when at the age of 47 and after the 1957-58 season, he put his keeping gloves in his kit bag for the last time.
“I rated him very highly, he was outstanding and every bit as good if not better than Bert Oldfield.”
The kind words were spoken of Ernie by the great Bill “Tiger” O’Reilly.
Tiger O’Reilly was a team mate of Ernie’s and formed a wonderful partnership as O’Reilly mesmerised batsman at all levels. O’Reilly forms part of a select group of 12 men who were selected in the Australian men’s Team of the Century.
Sadly, Ernie never got to wear a baggy green or the baggy blue of NSW. Despite the Tiger O’Reilly’s personal opinion, NSW selectors were set on Oldfield until 1938 and then Ron Saggers who toured with Bradman’s 1948 invincibles to England.
In 1942-43 Ernie was selected for a NSWCA team to play the Australian Services team and in subsequent years became a NSW State selector.
For St George he captained the first grade team for 8 seasons and sits above all of the clubs wicket keepers with 557 first grade dismissals including 320 catches and an astonishing 237 stumping’s, many of whom would’ve come from the bowling of Tiger O’Reilly.
He also scored 2859 runs including a highest score of 100 not out.
Loyalty, stability and integrity were characteristics Ernie also displayed outside cricket as he worked as a Life Insurance Agent for AMP for over 25 years.
Whilst we reminisce Ernie’s career, there is a wonderful historical piece to the story from the clubs perspective, as the club’s 2nd grade keeper George Barter, was Ernie’s understudy for over 20 years.
George was determined to play first grade and his dedication and loyalty was rewarded when he made his debut after Ernie retired, at the age of 43.
Remarkable, we salute First Grade player No.63