Geoff Lawson OAM
Born in the Riverina town of Wagga Wagga which produces so many top sportspeople, in southern New South Wales Geoff “Henry“ Lawson has had an outstanding career in Australian cricket both nationally and internationally.
He came from the bush in 1976 to attend the University of NSW and went straight into 1st grade where he played for another 16 seasons, winning the Richie Benaud Player of the Year Award in his first season in Sydney. He followed up the next year by winning the “Young Australian Cricketer of the Year”
In 1977-78 as World Series Cricket dominated our screens young “Henry,” debuted for the Blues in the Sheffield Shield against Western Australia at the SCG. Since that game he has taken 395 wickets for NSW ( 367 in Sheffield Shield games ) which remains a record. On his retirement he had played the most ever first class games for the Blues, 115 and was the second highest wicket taker in the whole of Sheffield Shield history. Only the great wrist spinner Clarrie Grimmett had taken more. Henry had also played the most limited over games for NSW and taken most wickets. He has played in five successful Sheffield Shield sides and four domestic limited over title winning teams.
“Henry” first represented Australia in 1979, having been called up to India to replace an injured Allan Hurst. Since that initial trip he has been on 12 tours including England four times, Pakistan twice, India three times, the West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
“Henry” made his Test debut against New Zealand at Brisbane in the 1980-81 summer and then went on to complete 46 test matches and 80 one -day internationals. He took 180 wickets ( 7th on all time Australian list on retirement ) and 893 runs in Test matches with his best bowling being on the batting paradise of the Adelaide Oval when he took 8-112 and 11 wickets for the match and made 49 against the West Indies. Eleven times he took five or more wickets in an innings including two hauls of 11 for the match. His highest score with the bat was an even time 74 at Lords in 1989 in a record partnership of 130 for the ninth wicket with Steve Waugh.
“Henry” was named Player of the Series in consecutive years against England 1982-83 and Pakistan ‘83-84 and Australia’s best player of the Pakistan tour of 1982.
Along with Terry Alderman he was a key bowler in the great triumph of the 1989 Ashes, taking 29 wickets and claiming the Man of the Match award in the series winning Test at Old Trafford.
Geoff captained NSW from midway through the 1988-89 season until his retirement in 1991-92. He led the Blues to the Shield final three years in a row, winning in Sydney in
1989-90 and also being successful in the FAI Cup in ‘91-92. He also captained Australia in a tour match at Lords against Middlesex. His attacking style of leadership was widely applauded and appreciated and brought the crowds back to the SCG and Shield cricket. “Henry” was not afraid to take a gamble or back the ability of his players. Losing was not something to be feared as many other captains perceived, but to be challenged, thereby quickly disproving the myth of fast bowlers being poor leadership candidates. He is the only captain in the history of Australian 1
st class cricket to have declared his team’s first innings closed at 0-0.
The style of play that the Blues eschewed under Lawson’s leadership is now widely echoed by all the teams in the Sheffield Shield and also by the Australian team under Mark Taylor’s captaincy and on to another pupil of his in Steve Waugh.
Geoff qualified as a Level III coach in 1996 and took charge of New South Wales successfully for two summers in the mid 1990’s, was the NSW first class fast bowling coach under Steve Rixon for three years. He has been the senior club cricket coach at the University of New South Wales for the past decade. He is a regular lecturer at Level II and Level III coaching courses specialising in fast bowling, captaincy , tactics and strategy and leadership including lecturing at the Asia Cricket Council’s Level III course in Dhaka in November 2009 .
Geoff’s foray into the coaching world was to take on what has been described as “ The toughest job in world cricket” ie coaching the Pakistan National team ( where he came within a few hundred metres of Osama Bin Laden when conducting a national squad cricket camp at a military camp in Abbottabad !). He took them immediately to the final of the inaugural 20/20 World Cup where they fell just 4 runs short of the title, this was after only 6 months since not progressing past the 1st round of the World Cup. After a change in the Pakistan government there follows a change in Pakistan Cricket and a change in management and coaching staff and Geoff returned to Australia in November 2008 with a whole new perspective on coaching, life and religion. He has a unique perspective on cricket and life in central Asia and describes this period “ as an experience of a lifetime”.
In May 2010 Henry coached in India at the professional level of 20/20 cricket in the Maharashtra Premier League, which is a development competition for the massive Indian Premier League, once again broadening his experiences and perspectives in the cricket world. Coaching took another branch as he was appointed as the Head Coach of one of the new teams in the IPL, The Kochi Tuskers which he has currently just completed his first successful tournament.
Having shown tremendous strength of mind and body over 15 years at the top, including a miraculous comeback from a crippling back injury, Geoff is more than qualified to teach leadership, motivation and team work because he has “..been there, done that” at the top level in some incredibly varying environments.
In 1990 he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to cricket and in 2002 the Australian Sports Medal. Just recently he has added the Centenary Medal for services to the community through sport, to his impressive list of achievements.
Geoff’s interests are wider than cricket. He has a degree in Optometry ( currently is the prime Ambassador for Optometry Giving Sight, an international charity delivering optometrical services to indigenous Australia and 3rd world countries ), commenced an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, was a director of the NRMA for 10 years, retiring in 2001. He was a foundation member of the NSW Sports Federation Board, a former member of the Sydney Children’s Hospital Appeal committee, spent seven years on The Advertising Standards Board of Australia and six as a Trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Football Stadium Trust until he had to resign to take up his Pakistan post.
Since 1998 he has been on the Australian Universities Sport Alumni Committee and in 2002 was elected as a graduate member of the UNSW Council. At UNSW he is also executive vice president of the Sports Association.
He has the rare mix of success at the top level of international sport, academia and business. He has lectured on is range of subjects from elite sport and business, teamwork, leadership and discipline.
Since retirement from 1st class cricket he has been a part of he ABC and BBC Radio, Channel Nine, Foxsports and international commentary teams in India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies has written a weekly column for the Sydney media as well as writing features for cricket magazines in Australia, England and India.
On September 2nd 2002 he was made a life member of the New South Wales Cricket Association for his services to the game and in November 2008 was made a Life Member of the Optometrist Association of Australia for his services to the profession.
He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org