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The Amazing Story of Success

by Swan Richards on October 05, 2021

No matter which way one looks at it, the life of Swan Richards has been an amazing story of success against the odds.

It all began in the northern suburbs of Adelaide where Swan grew up battling a trifecta of afflictions that severely handicapped his early years. Dyslexia, a touch of autism and a debilitating stutter, made the early years extremely challenging for a sensitive youngster.

Two people were great supporters in those early years. His grandmother was a rock in the turbulent early years and Colin Burchett who was a teacher at the special school where Swan spent the bare minimum years of secondary education. Burchett realised that Swan was good with his hands and let him use his woodwork skills on repairing the meagre school sporting equipment.

The turning point in Swan’s life came when Barry Jarman, Test cricketer and sport’s store owner visited the school in 1960. Colin Burchett showed Barry some of Swan’s handiwork which led Barry Jarman and his business partner, David Rowe, giving Swan a job in the repair department of their iconic Grenfell Street store.

At Rowe and Jarman, Swan came under the management and tutelage of the warm-hearted Russell Moyle who took the youngster under his wing. The young introvert really began to blossom in the caring environment that Moyle provided for all his staff, but it served to release the latent genius of the young Richards.

It soon became apparent that Swan’s skills were not restricted to his handiwork. Everyone around him realised that his mind was sharp as a tack even though his tongue could be equally keen and targeted if he saw something that could be improved.

In 1970, Gray-Nicolls, the cricket-bat maker, were looking for someone to train up as a bat craftsmen to take on that role with the planned Australian expansion.

Rowe and Jarman had no hesitation in recommending Swan for the opportunity that would take him to Robertsbridge in Sussex for 18 months to work under the direction of Len Newberry who was to become another critical person in the education of Swan. Working with Ted Jolly, Bill Lucking and Bill Beadon, Swan absorbed everything that he needed to become a master bat-maker.
While in England, Swan played club cricket and was offered a trial with Sussex County Cricket Club. The ever astute Len Newberry realised that Swan’s skills were more likely to be best served by focussing on his apprenticeship and burgeoning business career than going down the capricious path of professional cricket, so he advised against taking up the offer.

Swan came back to Adelaide after his stint with Gray-Nicolls and resumed his life at Rowe and Jarman and rejoined his beloved Prospect cricket club where he had learnt the game under the watchful eye of another of his mentor’s, Ray Sutton.

Having begun his time at Prospect as baggage boy with the A6 team, Swan doggedly developed his game by sheer will and hard work to the point that he opened the batting and the bowling for the B Grade team. He made 45 and batted through the innings on a wet wicket in his B Grade debut and was to make his A Grade debut, but a fractured skull in a training accident had him spend 6 weeks in hospital instead.

Swan eventually made it to the A Grade team where he opened the batting with the great South African opener, Barry Richards, in a line-up that boasted seven first-class players. Apart from Richards, Bob Gilbourne, Bob Blewett, Graeme Clarke, Jeff Hammond, Ashley Mallett, and Barry Robran had all played for South Australia. Richards, Mallett and Hammond were Test cricketers. Pick the odd-man out.