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Full name Francis Leonard Hugh Mooney
Born May 26, 1921, Wellington
Died March 8, 2004, Wellington (aged 82 years 287 days)
Major teams New Zealand, Wellington
Also known as Starlight
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm bowler
Fielding position Wicketkeeper
|Test debut||England v New Zealand at Leeds, Jun 11-14, 1949 scorecard|
|Last Test||South Africa v New Zealand at Port Elizabeth, Feb 5-9, 1954 scorecard|
Wisden Cricketer obituary
With a very ordinary Test record (14 Tests, batting average of 17.15, 30 wicketkeeping dismissals), Frank Mooney, who died aged 82, might be consigned to history's waste-paper basket. Yet before, during and after his brief career Mooney was an astonishing character - possibly the most colourful character New Zealand cricket has known. Mooney loved the outrageous risk, the impromptu punt on whatever took his and his band of friends' fancy. As a cricketer Mooney was a stylish `keeper and a batsman so determined to make the most of his modest talents that during playing hours he would be as silent and serious as a tomb. Which explained the fact that when the stumps were up Mooney's alter ego, nicknamed Starlight, would be out twinkling round the bars and dance floors of Wellington. Not long after his cricket career finished in 1954-55, Mooney re-emerged in the public eye after a spectacular five-figure bet. To win, Mooney had to drive the 410 miles from Auckland to Wellington in under seven hours. In those days the roads were indifferent and mostly back-country. Mooney had a cool planner's brain behind his gamester face. He had a powerful Jaguar engine further super-charged. He arranged for seven petrol stations to be open at small hours of the morning. He started about midnight, rocketed through the night, and was in Wellington about six-and-a-half hours later - without being cited by the traffic police. Inevitably, the news of Mooney's stampede leaked out. Politicians and senior traffic officers were mightily embarrassed. Mooney forestalled what might have been a manhunt by owning up, paying a modest fine (a small percentage of the bet) on the police belief that at some stage he must have exceeded 100mph. Not long afterward Mooney, by now in his forties, and his friends were arguing about the merits of Olympic champion runners Peter Snell and Murray Halberg, both Kiwis, and the magic of the four-minutes mile. No magic, said Mooney. He could run a mile in under five minutes. The betting money poured in. Mooney gained a month to prepare, had an expert design him a four-week crash course training programme - and won the bet with seconds to spare. Mooney had his ups and downs, in cricket, business and life. If there remained one regret it concerned Lawrence Rowe, the West Indian batsman. Mooney, then a national selector, accompanied New Zealand on the 1971-72 tour of the West Indies. After Rowe, little-known outside Jamaica, had scored 227 for Jamaica against the tourists and 214 and 100 not out in the first Test, Mooney was quickly acclaiming Rowe as the `next Bradman'. Mooney rather implied that he had `discovered' Rowe as a world-class player. Sadly for Mooney, and perhaps world cricket, Rowe did not complete that 1972 series, and later illness did not allow Rowe's genius to develop. As a result, Mooney was never immortalised for discovering the `next Bradman', but he did leave a colourful imprint on cricket history.
Don Cameron, The Wisden Cricketer, May 2004
Frank Mooney played 14 Tests for New Zealand between 1949 and 1953-54 and subsequently become a national selector. On the field Monney was taciturn, almost never smiling and rarely speaking; but away from the middle he was the life and soul of the party, and his endless socialising and tireless dancing earned him the nickname Starlight. A neat, undemonstrative wicketkeeper, he made his debut for Wellington in 1941-42, and in 1943-44 played for a New Zealand XI against the New Zealand Services side. But his batting was limited, and he was generally considered to be second or third choice for the national side. His selection as first-choice wicketkeeper for the 1949 tour of England was, therefore, a surprise - dockside workers in Dunedin went on strike, preferring the claims of Otago's George Mills - but he enjoyed a successful trip, playing in all three Tests and scoring a hundred against MCC at Lord's. He played against England at home in 1951, West Indies in 1951-52 and South Africa in 1952-53, well enough to keep rivals out of the reckoning. In 1953-54 he toured South Africa, and despite being hampered by a finger injury sustained while exercising on the voyage from New Zealand, he played in all five Tests. He retired at the end of the 1954-55 domestic season.
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