In the summer of 1959 our latest recruit was a skinny, gangling country kid wearing a big, baggy, brown-peaked cricket hat 10 times too big for him.
Fourteen-year-old Terry Jenner leaned on the wall of our ancient wooden pavilion at Shearn Park in Mt Lawley, an inner suburb of Perth. "I'm a wicketkeeper," he said with a grin, "But I plan to become a legspinner."
Terry spoke as though the world was his oyster. He exuded confidence, probably the legacy of his old man, Arthur Jenner, who ran the general store in Corrigin, 200km south of Perth. One day at his "local", Arthur hit triple 20 with his first two darts and instead of "following his dart", as would all top pub players, invited all the drinkers at the bar to the corner where "you can watch me make it 180!". Arthur had a propensity to boast. Before the dart hit the board, he had turned his back on its flight, smiling. He knew where it was heading. Terry was pretty cocky then, like his old man.
When barely 16, he played A grade for Mt Lawley. He grabbed a couple of wickets, but his main thing was 60 not out, batting at No. 11.
Soon Terrance James Jenner was given a label, "TJ", and the nickname stuck.
TJ and I finally teamed up in the club's A grade. Together we'd go to the Inglewood Hotel after matches, to soak up the cricket talk and down a few beers.
We had a good attack; too good for TJ and I, because early on he was the No. 6 man to get a bowl and I was No. 7. Most spin was handled by Ron Frankish, a quickish offspinner who had the doosra before the word was coined. But Ron, as with all the rest in later years, had to bend and straighten his arm to deliver it. In those days we called it a "chuck."
Despite a lack of long spells at the crease, TJ's cricket came on fast. He made the Western Australia side at the age of 18, but with Tony Lock, and sometimes Tony Mann, in the side, there wasn't much hope of getting to bowl a lot.
Round that time TJ and I were batting together for Mt Lawley against Subiaco once, who had the raw pace of left-hander Jim Hubble to call on. He was bowling quick and short to TJ. Each ball got progressively shorter and flew higher, eventually forcing TJ to tread on his stumps. One bail fell to the ground. TJ quickly looked at the square-leg umpire, Warren Carter, who, not unusually, happened to be looking anywhere but the actual play, so TJ nonchalantly leant over, replaced the bail and settled over his bat for the next ball.
Two matches later, skipper Frank O'Driscoll took TJ out of the attack. It was a silly move, for TJ had four cheap wickets to his name and had the veteran Ken Mueleman nearly stumped four times. TJ lost his cool, grabbed his jumper and walked off the ground. We could see him sitting under a gum tree on the hill. Next day TJ was in damage control mode. He fronted O'Driscoll's house and summoned all the considerable powers of his personality to talk his captain around.
Logic didn't quite win as it turned out. But before the next summer's first match, the team voted for a new captain and TJ won hands down. In our first match TJ was still dragging on a cigarette as we took the field. The umpire, Carter again, had TJ hauled before the tribunal, and he was fined one guinea.
TJ and I lived for cricket. On Sundays we played for a club called Miling, some 200km north of Perth. The competition had six teams and we got Miling into the "four" for the first time in 50 years.
TJ's first attempt at cricket coaching there was a disaster. There was TJ giving the three brothers, Ray, Des and Les White, instruction on how best to defend their wicket against a big, burly fast bowler. Each of the White brothers was clean-bowled first ball. Surely this was the only time identical triplets had featured in a hat-trick - and all clean-bowled.
TJ first came up against Les Favell, in a match in Perth. Western Australia captain Barry Shepherd threw TJ the ball, and before he had started to move in to bowl, Favell was singing "happy birthday to me!" Favell charged down the track like Victor Trumper and hit the ball over cover for four. Shepherd sent John Parker to field on the fence. Favell was still singing "Happy Birthday" when TJ moved in for his second ball. Again the ball went over cover, first bounce to Parker on the boundary. Non-striker Ian Chappell raced through for the run, but when he arrived, Favell, with his back turned to him, and his bat behind the popping crease, yelled: "Piss off Chappelli, it's my birthday, not yours!" TJ learnt two things about becoming a spinner. You needed patience and you had to have a sense of humour.
"TJ's first attempt at cricket coaching there was a disaster. There was TJ giving the three brothers, Ray, Des and Les White, instruction on how best to defend their wicket against a big, burly fast bowler. Each of the White brothers was clean-bowled first ball. Surely this was the only time identical triplets had featured in a hat-trick - and all clean-bowled."
I had been 12th man for WA and TJ had played 30-odd state matches, but with Lock at WA, we had to go elsewhere. We picked South Australia. Favell was an attacking captain and SA had no spinners. Adelaide Oval was apparently a bowler's nightmare, a flat, unresponsive pitch. However, instinctively we knew it couldn't be as tough as the flint-hard Perth wickets. We knew Adelaide turned and bounced for most of the match, and we figured that the side needed two spinners, certainly for home matches.
Lessons under the tutelage of Clarrie Grimmett - the old craftsman emphasised getting the ball above the batsman's eyes - proved decisive in the development of us both as spin bowlers.
Playing for Prospect against Glenelg in a one-day match also was a pointer of things to come. TJ dismissed Greg Chappell and I got Ian, so the state selectors may have been a little interested. I missed the first match with a dislocated finger, but TJ played and he grabbed a five-wicket haul.
TJ loved Favell's attitude as captain."After I went for runs in my first couple of overs, I thought I'd be taken off," TJ told me, "But it wasn't like WA. Les said, 'C'mon, son, give me one good over and you're on for the session.'"
Soon TJ and I were playing together and bowling in tandem. We soon became the "spin twins". After the game we enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere in the company of such luminaries as Ian Chappell, Favell, Barry Jarman and Neil Hawke. Favell and Jarman treated us like family.
We got A$30 for the four days of a Shield game, but $7.50 was taken out for tax. And if you won in three days they docked you a day's pay. One time TJ was bowling late on day three. Queensland was 180 for 8 or so, chasing plenty. Ross Duncan swung lustily and the ball went high in the air. Aware that the game might not go into the fourth day, Hawke yelled with a laugh: "Drop it, drop it… drop the ball…"
Of course we would have loved to have been paid big money like they get today, but we were glad we played in the 1970s, especially under the leadership of Ian Chappell.
When TJ and I bowled in tandem there was never a need for us to stop at the end of an over and talk about which one of us wanted to bowl to whoever. We instinctively knew, for we could read one another's game so well. If TJ reckoned Ian Chappell gave me too much of a go and he was ignored, he would front the skipper at the end of play. Chappelli might already be sitting at the table. TJ heralded his arrival by thumping his long-neck bottle of beer on the table top, and the captain would say, "Okay, TJ, what's the problem?" There was always a robust debate. Once Chappelli said to TJ after he complained of not getting much of a bowl: "Oh, sorry TJ, I forgot you were out there."
TJ maintained friendships with his mates at Mt Lawley, especially O'Driscoll and opening bat Barry "Scrub" Rayner. While he craved a better relationship with his dad, TJ always received great support from his mother, Queenie, and his sister Lorraine. So too his beloved partner, Ann. The day I paid $90 for my first car, a gleaming 1956 FJ Holden, I drove TJ and Queenie to Scarborough Beach. We all sat together on the front bench seat, but the seat gave way. TJ and Queenie ended up tumbling backwards and TJ maintained that it was a miracle I hung on to the steering wheel.
Ian Chappell reckoned TJ would make a good coach. And Rod Marsh agreed to give TJ a go coaching at the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide. There he linked up with the young Shane Warne. They were alike in personality. You just knew Warne was special. He had that sparkle in his eye, much the same as TJ had all those years ago.
His genius as a spin bowing coach lay within his manner of getting his message across. People know how good he was at illustrating a point or telling a good yarn. He did that so beautifully when commentating on ABC Radio, giving a speech or running his famous TJ Test Match brekkies.
Spin bowling was his passion and he lived and breathed the art. The past year must have been so difficult for TJ, given that he could no longer get out to the nets with the young spinners.
He taught Warne a lot. If you ever get a chance to talk cricket with Warne, you'll be impressed with his great passion for spin bowling. He talks of bowling to stay on, just as TJ spoke of it. He talks of "spinning up", again a TJ trait.
We were almost inseparable in the early days and throughout our time with SA and Australia. In recent years we'd catch up occasionally, usually at a cricket function, or the ground. No matter how much time had elapsed when we met we just took up where we had left off.
Right now TJ is probably talking legspin with Don Bradman and Victor Trumper. Imagine Bradman extolling the virtues of Bill O'Reilly and Trumper talking up Arthur Mailey. TJ would be using all the great persuasive powers of his personality to convince Messrs Bradman and Trumper, pushing the case for his protégé, Shane Warne. I can just see him now, "Gentlemen. You are right. O'Reilly and Mailey were something great. But statistically and realistically, Warne was the best of all."
With TJ's passing, the cricket world has lost a great servant. Those who knew him are richer for it.
So long, old mate. God bless you.