As a teenager, all Mike Whitney ever wanted to do was surf and play cricket with his mates.
He grabbed attention dominating park cricket every weekend, but would repeatedly turn down requests to make the jump into grade cricket.
Until one day his mother Beryl would answer a call from Randwick Cricket Club’s Lyall Gardner, forcing her reluctant son to play a fourth XI game at Snape Park that weekend.
Gardner‘s eye for talent paid dividends as Whitney would claim figures of 4/16 on his debut for Randwick, igniting an illustrious career for state and country.
And 43-years later, Gardner would nominate Whitney for the Order of Australia.
“If it wasn’t for Lyall making those phone calls, I would never have gone down to Randwick,” Whitney said.
“He’s been an unbelievable mentor for me and he’s been a very close and dear friend of mine.”
A fan favourite, Whitney played 12 Tests and 38 ODIs for Australia over his 14-year career.
Following the conclusion of his playing days, he ventured into the world of television, and is still serving as the host of Sydney Weekender after 24 years.
He returned to community cricket following retirement and has been operating as club president for Randwick-Petersham for 18 years. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Baggy Blues, the ex-NSW players association, among other community projects.
“I had a wonderful career at Australian level but my career at that level is quite small,” Whitney said of his national representation.
“My career with NSW was much more substantial and I loved playing for the Blues.
“I gave everything I had when I went out there and I played in a wonderful era for NSW and my record for the Blues is amazing,” he added.
“But I think my award is more at the community level.
“I’ve never lived anywhere else and I just dug in and tried to help a few people in my community as well,” he said.
“The big thing for me with this is that I’ve had some tremendous support in my life.
“My father died when I was 16 so my mother just stepped up to the plate and picked up all the loose ends. She went out and got three jobs.
“She put me through school and my apprenticeship and she’s just been an unbelievable rock. I dedicate this (my Order of Australia) to her, my mother Beryl.”
Alongside Whitney, former Australian fast-bowler Faith Thomas, the first Indigenous person to represent Australia in any sport, was also honoured on the Queen’s Birthday List.
Thomas played one Test match for Australia against England in 1958 and played for the South Australia Women’s Team between 1956 and 1958.