Arthur Morris has described his former team-mate Sam Loxton as a great competitor and a marvellous team man who was great fun off the field. Loxton died in Queensland overnight at the age of 90, leaving Morris and Neil Harvey as the only remaining members of Don Bradman's 1948 Invincibles, and Morris, 89, as Australia's oldest living Test cricketer.
The three men had enjoyed a trip to Darwin together last year, 62 years after they had toured England in a legendary squad that did not lose any of their 34 matches. Harvey and Loxton were especially close friends, having first met as state team-mates when Loxton was the room-mate of the teenage Harvey.
Morris said Harvey had flown to the Gold Coast on Saturday on a pre-planned holiday during which he had intended to see his long-time friend.
"He was hoping to see Sam," Morris said. "He was going on holidays up there and would have seen him. Neil would be very upset."
Harvey and Loxton combined for a memorable 105-run partnership during the Leeds Test on the 1948 tour, in a match that was famous for Morris and Bradman leading a record chase of 404. In the first innings, Loxton struck five sixes in his 93, a typically aggressive display, and Morris recalled the way Loxton kept attacking even as a maiden century seemed to be approaching.
"When he was 93 at Leeds he went up the wicket and I think he tried to hit a seven!" Morris said. "He missed and was bowled, but that's the way he played the game.
"He was very aggressive on the field as a bowler. He was a brilliant fieldsman. I remember a couple of times he would run people out at the other end of the pitch, running a leisurely single. Sam would knock over the stumps. I remember saying to him once 'that's the second time you've done that', and he said 'you'd think they'd learn, wouldn't you?'
"He was a great competitor. He was a fine bowler and a very good batsman, a great fieldsman and a marvellous team man."
Colin McDonald played several seasons for Victoria with Loxton, who went on to serve as the team manager on the 1959-60 tour of the subcontinent. It was on that trip that Loxton, in his no-nonsense manner, told the president of Pakistan, the general Ayub Khan, that his country could not expect to progress as a cricket nation until they stopped playing on matting pitches.
"Ayub Khan listened to this with a great deal of interest and he issued instructions, and instructions from Ayub Khan in those days were not broken," McDonald said. "Pakistan didn't play any more Test matches on matting. Sam Loxton had a fair bit to do with that. He was a man who was listened to. He was very intelligent.
"He was a great manager. He knew a tremendous amount about cricket and he didn't suffer fools gladly. He had such a good knowledge of cricket himself, so he understood us and our thinking."
Loxton went on to serve in the Victorian parliament for 24 years, and was the party whip in Henry Bolte's government.
"I think that was a very good place for him in the party, because he rounded up the ones who were lagging," said McDonald, who himself considered a career in politics. "He would keep them in line."
Also an excellent Australian rules footballer who played for St Kilda in the VFL, Loxton's wholehearted approach and all-round skills led the commentator John Arlott to write that "eleven Loxtons would defeat the world - at anything."
Even in his later years, after he had moved to Queensland from Melbourne, Loxton retained a strong interest in the game. The Cricket Victoria chairman Geoff Tamblyn said Loxton always made time for young players.
"He was a legend around Victorian cricket for many years," Tamblyn said. "He has been living in Queensland for a few years and always made an effort to speak to the young Victorian players when they were up there playing. He was a tremendous person."