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The Sydney Morning Herald

Some of his best mates were the Aussie batsmen he tormented

Author: Alex Brown
Date: 22/11/2006
Words: 611
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 12
EVERY four years, when the Ashes are contested in Australia, Enid Todd has cause to reflect. For it is that series, and that particular urn, that has shaped much of her life, and those of her family.

Mrs Todd's connection to the Ashes, and its most controversial series, has not been entirely obvious since her marriage and subsequent change of surname. Before that Mrs Enid Todd was Miss Enid Larwood - a surname that tended to catch the attention of her contemporaries in Sydney in the years after her father, Harold, migrated from England at the end of his cricket career.

"Even before we left Blackpool, I remember having an Australian maths teacher who recognised my name and said, 'I don't know whether to love you or hate you'," Mrs Todd said from her home near Tweed Heads. "But I don't think we ever realised what a big deal my father was until we moved to Australia. He was quite worried about how he would be received early on."

Harold Larwood died 11 years ago, aged 90, and his body rests alongside that of his wife, Lois, in a church cemetery at Kingsford. But when the Ashes are mentioned and the Bodyline summer of 1932-33 is inevitably raised, his name polarises opinion in a manner that few cricketers ever have.

Bodyline, or "leg theory" as it was referred to by the English, was a tactic by which fast bowlers aimed directly at a batsman's body to a packed leg-side field. And there was no better practitioner of the controversial, violent theory than Larwood, a former coalminer and a terrifyingly fast bowler, acting under orders from his captain, Douglas Jardine.

"I was on a radio show in Nottingham last year, and I was on hold while someone was on air talking about how my father refused to play for England after that series," Mrs Todd said. "That wasn't right at all. He was told that he could never play for England again unless he apologised for the way he bowled in the Bodyline series. But he was under orders from his captain, so he never apologised. Also, his mother, who was a huge cricket fan, said that she would never talk to him again if he said he was sorry."

In 1948, cricketer-journalist Jack Fingleton suggested that Larwood, with his wife and five daughters, might consider moving to Sydney. Six weeks later, he was on a ship, the Orontes, which also brought him to Australia for the Bodyline series.

Though initially concerned at a public backlash upon his arrival in Sydney, Larwood and his family soon settled into everyday life. "There is so much made of the Bodyline series, but what a lot of people don't realise is that he became quite good friends with a lot of the old Australian cricketers when we moved here," Mrs Todd said. "I remember meeting Bill Woodfull, and when Bert Oldfield had a shop in Sydney, dad used to go there for lunch with him sometimes."

Mrs Todd grew up to support the Australian cricket team, which her father apparently teased her over. He remained a keen watcher of cricket until his death, and became a Roosters fan.

"But he always stayed an Englishman at heart," she said.

 
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