My memories of Max Walker go back to my days as a teenager in Year 11, when I was producing a documentary on the history of the MCG for a school media studies assignment.
I hand-wrote a letter to Max via GTV-9 Publicity, asking whether he would be willing to be interviewed by me (using the school's elaborate Super VHS video camera!) about his experiences at the ground as a Test cricketer and VFL footballer. For me it was shooting for the moon, as he was well and truly at the peak of his TV fame in those days and I didn't hold out much hope that anything would come from it.
Only a day or two had passed when the home phone rang in the kitchen one night while my brother and I were washing up. On the other end of the phone was that distinctive and unmissable voice. "Hello Jonathan?" he asked. "Yes," I replied, suddenly knowing full well who it was. "Yeees, it's Max Walker mate, I got your letter. How are ya?"
My heart skipped a beat and then all I can remember is trying to shoo the family away as they tried to listen in to the conversation I was having with this national icon! Then again his voice was so strong that they could have been standing in the next suburb and still heard him. None of us could believe it, least of all me.
Soon enough, though, it was down to business as the big Wide World of Sports host went on to ask me about the assignment and politely and very encouragingly told me that he'd be happy to be involved. Not only that, but he would meet me at the "G" and could even "pull a few strings" to get us access to the ground for the shoot. This was too good to be true!
But it was true. Dressed immaculately in a suit and tie he met me and two school mates one afternoon.
Each time I saw him I thanked him for that afternoon. He laughed by saying that he was happy to be a part of it, but was still waiting for his "appearance fee", which was accumulating interest
He introduced himself as "Max Henry Norman Walker" then proceeded to help frame the interview shoot, showing us school kids the angles Channel Nine used to help capture his "good side". He chuckled after that, saying that no man with umpteen broken noses could possibly have a good side!
As the camera rolled, that enormous smile broke out along with an endless supply of anecdotes and gags. He proceeded to fill up a couple of tapes talking about the ground and his sporting memories at the MCG from playing under the legendary Norm Smith to the Centenary Test.
He was insightful, funny and supportive and for that reason I will never forget that afternoon or his generosity. He even signed my school diary with the words, "Well bowled Jono. Hope you get a good mark." Thanks to Max that's exactly what happened.
In later years I crossed paths with him when I became involved with cricket through work. Each time I saw him I thanked him for that afternoon. He laughed by saying that he was happy to be a part of it, but was still waiting for his "appearance fee", which was accumulating interest.
I will always think fondly of the great Max Walker. Not for the fact that he was a gun Australian Test cricketer, a ruckman for my beloved Melbourne Football Club, or a loveable TV personality, but for that fact that he was a wonderful human with a great heart. I will miss him.
Jonathan Rose is a former head of communications for Cricket Australia. He is also a lifelong fan of the Melbourne Football Club