On January 27, 2015, I received the sort of email that keeps you coming to work each morning.
That day I had written a column praising Cricket Australia for a welcome change of attitude towards spectators at international matches.
The seven-word correspondence came from the business sales and broking manager at Shepherd & Heap Commercial.
“Brilliant article this morning mate, loved it,” said the email.
It was signed “Benny”, the name by which its sender was known throughout Launceston, and indeed Tasmania.
That was Tony Benneworth for you.
Such praise was appreciated because you knew he would be just as direct with criticism.
Once, in a splendid rant about The Examiner’s political coverage, much of which cannot be repeated for libel reasons, the former MHA told our general manager he had bought the paper for the last time.
He was obviously swift to forgive – the email about my column came just a couple of months later.
Like the batsmen who faced his right-arm medium deliveries across an eight-year first-class cricket career, at least you knew where you stood with Benny.
And sport played a pivotal role in a life which ended so tragically at Ansons Bay on Saturday.
Cricket, bowls and golf dominated his interests but a trawl through The Examiner’s archive of Benneworth photos also finds him doing everything from horse riding to weight training.
And when we needed a guinea pig to face a few ceremonial deliveries to christen the newly-installed drop-in wicket at Aurora Stadium in 2013, Benny happily padded up and defended a few teasers from Launceston City Council general manager Robert Dobrzynski.
Anthony John Benneworth retains a cherished place in Tasmanian cricket history.
He played in the state’s inaugural Sheffield Shield win in 1977-78 and was also in the side that won Tasmania’s first ever one-day title, taking 3-14 in a final long remembered by the 10,822 who squeezed into Hobart’s TCA Ground.
Hailing from Riverside Cricket Club, he debuted against the World XI in 1971 and was the first Tasmanian to take five wickets in an innings in a Sheffield Shield match when he claimed career-best figures of 5-115 against South Australia in February 1978.
Tony Benneworth spent a life fighting for causes he believed in and as a beneficiary of one of those fights I thank you sincerely great manJamie Cox
Benny played 15 first-class matches, scoring 580 runs at 23.20 – including three 50s with a top score of 75 and took a total of 26 wickets at 38.92. He played 10 List A games scoring 72 runs and took nine wickets.
As news of the 67-year-old’s death spread, Cricket Tasmania led the tributes to its former director.
Chairman Andrew Gaggin described Benneworth as “a passionate supporter of cricket in Northern Tasmania” and chief executive Nick Cummins added: “A tragic weekend - Tasmanian cricket loses one of its pioneers and a key figure in Northern Tasmanian cricket. Vale Tony Benneworth.”
Players swiftly followed suit on Twitter, including a trio of batsmen with a formidable combined run tally.
Deeply saddened by the tragic death of fellow former commentary box colleague Tony Benneworth in a boating accident yesterday. A passionate advocate for Tasmanian, and particularly Northern Tasmanian, cricket. One of Tasmania’s pioneer Sheffield Shield players. #RIP— Ric Finlay (@RicFinlay) March 11, 2018
Dan Marsh called Benny a “champion human being”, Michael Di Venuto recalled a “lovely man” and Jamie Cox added: “We sadly lost a great Tasmanian at the weekend. Tony Benneworth spent a life fighting for causes he believed in and as a beneficiary of one of those fights I thank you sincerely great man. Condolences to family and to other tragic victim #valebenny.”
Statistician Ric Finlay remembered a fellow commentary box colleague, passionate cricket advocate and Sheffield Shield pioneer while a Facebook post from Cricket North mourned the passing “of one of our greatest” adding: “He shone as a pioneer player, a coach, a community advocate, down to earth politician and good friend to so many people.”
In a state and a sport so often weakened by regional divisions, it is entirely appropriate that the Tigers will wear black armbands to honour Benny in their Sheffield Shield match against Victoria this week.
A Liberal candidate for Bass in the 2001 Federal election, Benny was also a long-serving real estate salesman until February 26, 2015, when he sent an email to everybody on his mailing list declaring: “I write to advise that after 26 (interrupted) years in both residential and commercial real estate, the time has come to close the files!”
He described receiving the Order of Australia Medal for service to sporting organisations in 2014 as the crowning moment of his career and told The Examiner: ‘‘I’ve been in cricket and golf and bowls all of my life and I’ll stay in it until the day I die.”
True to his word, Benny pulled up stumps as the incumbent president of Trevallyn Bowls Club.