There's a story they still tell in Nelson about Jock Edwards.

Legend has it he once hit a cricket ball out of Trafalgar Park and onto the back of a truck which eventually ended up in Blenheim.

It's one of many tales that'll be fondly recalled as the close-knit sporting fraternity in New Zealand's sunshine capital remembers one of their favourite sons, who died this week at the age of 64.

Nelson held the Hawke Cup – New Zealand cricket's symbol of district association supremacy – from 1979 to 1983, chalking up 14 successful defences.

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The side was stacked with batting power and included the likes of Andrew Jones, Roger Pierce, Matt Toynbee, Tony Blain, Wayne Hodgson and Richard Hayward. But the cult hero was Edwards, who thrilled fans with his massive hitting, sharp wicket-keeping and easy-going nature.

His stunning ball striking quickly became the stuff of legend. Three-day Hawke Cup matches would often start on Fridays and if Nelson won the toss and batted, word would spread like wildfire through the town and hundreds would leave work and flock to Trafalgar Park to watch Edwards and co dispatch opposition attacks to all parts of the ground.

In many ways, Edwards was ahead of his time, departing from the traditional, often dour style of red-ball cricket to play expansive shots early in his innings. The smash-and-bash of the modern-day T20 game would have suited him down to the ground.

Born Graham Edwards in 1955, he was dubbed "Jock" on his first day at primary school and the name stuck. His first-class debut came for Central Districts as an 18-year-old in the summer of 1973/74 and he would eventually play 67 first-class matches and 31 one-dayers for the province.

One of Edwards' most memorable innings came for CD against the touring Australians in February 1977. Against a test strength bowling attack, spearheaded by Dennis Lillee in his prime, Edwards made 49 in the first innings before being struck on the elbow early in the second innings and having to retire hurt, unable to even hold his bat.

Following a trip to the doctor, Edwards ignored advice from many people – including his own mother – and returned on a far-from-perfect wicket to flay a swashbuckling 99, an innings punctuated by flashing strokes all around the ground. More than one Nelsonian lost their job that day, choosing to remain at Trafalgar Park to witness the carnage rather than return to work.

"That was the best innings I ever saw Jock play without a doubt," remembers younger brother Dave Edwards.

"He was just right in the zone. They were coming off the middle of the bat and they were great cricket shots. They were cleanly struck and the right shot for the right ball. He made the Australian bowlers look second-rate."

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"I think he was destined not to get a hundred because on 96 he played a late cut which was going for four until an Australian fielder just cut it off inside the boundary and they ran three. We were all standing to acknowledge his hundred. Instead he was out LBW to Lillee next over."

New Zealand cricketer Graham Neil (Jock) Edwards. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz
New Zealand cricketer Graham Neil (Jock) Edwards. Photo / www.photosport.co.nz

A week later, Edwards made his test debut against Australia in Christchurch, replacing an unwell Jeremy Coney. He went on to play eight tests, keeping wicket in four of them and scoring a pair of fifties against an England attack featuring Bob Willis, Ian Botham and Phil Edmonds at Eden Park in 1978. He was a popular member of the team that toured England later that year and finished his test career as part of the New Zealand side that won a home series against India in 1980/81.

A broken leg kept Edwards out for the best part of two years and he retired from all cricket at the end of the 1984/85 summer. In his final innings for his beloved Nelson, he struck a majestic 236 against North Canterbury, including six sixes and 29 fours.

Edwards was a talented all-round sportsman, also playing representative basketball, rugby and football for Nelson. Both of his sons, Ryan and Ricky, were rep cricketers.

"Many of the stories that have been coming out since he passed have been more on a personal level," says Ryan Edwards.

"They're about the time Dad had for people, the extra mile he would go, the ear he'd lend or the cold beer he'd have with you."

"I've heard all the stories about his famous innings and the battles he'd had on the field, but it's been really nice hearing the personal ways he affected people, often away from cricket."

"I've had some unbelievable texts, messages and phone calls about just what a bloody good person Dad was. As a family, those are as important to us as the stories about him on the cricket field."

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Written tributes for Jock Edwards can be submitted via www.nelson.simplicity.co.nz/send-a-tribute. Audio and video messages can be emailed to nelson@simplicity.co.nz