THE local sporting community is mourning the loss of one of its most talented and likeable all-round performers.
Tyrone Wildman, who excelled in a number of fields but notably bodybuilding and cricket, died suddenly on Saturday morning aged 59.
Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Tyrone was a dominant sprinter back in his homeland before his artistic talent was spotted by a tutor from Hastings College while in the Bahamas, earning him a scholarship to the area in 1972.
It was towards the end of the 1974 season that Tyrone arrived at Sidley Cricket Club following a casual conversation with Mark White. He stayed there ever since, becoming club president and a life member.
Phil White, also a Sidley CC life member and who opened the bowling with Tyrone for around 20 years, said: “He was such a lovely guy and just played with a smile on his face all the time.
“Everybody just really respected him, not only as a cricketer but as a guy. I never ever saw him lose his temper and you looked forward to playing a game of cricket with Tyrone involved.”
Tyrone was a key figure in Sidley’s East Sussex League title-winning sides of 1976, 1978, 1983 and 1985, and was sensational in the six-a-side format with Sidley winning the Hastings Six-a-Side in 1977, 1978, 1985 and 1996.
Quick enough to hurry batsmen off just a few paces yet maintaining a consistent off stump line, he achieved the almost unheard of feat of taking 50 league wickets during the hot summer of 1976.
The highlight of that haul was the remarkable 6-9 Tyrone took in skittling Hellingly for 43 as he became virtually unplayable on desintegrating pitches during the latter part of that campaign.
On his day Tyrone was a devastating batsman who struck the ball with ferocious power using an extremely heavy bat. He smashed several hundreds in the East Sussex League and later a few in the Sussex League at a rate of knots.
After Sidley progressed to the Sussex League in 1986, Tyrone had battles with a number of county professionals, particularly when the league consisted of one division, and the odd Test cricketer such as Meyrick Pringle.
In recent times, Tyrone represented Sussex over-50s and over-60s, and his popularity around the county was reflected by condolence statements on the Sussex League and East Sussex League websites as early as Sunday.
His loyalty to Sidley in cricket was mirrored by that he showed to Hollington at table tennis. Tyrone played for Hollington in the Hastings & District League since the early 1970s until the present day, generally in Division Two.
With his semi hard bat which he used for years - so much so that both sheets of rubber were like glass - Tyrone interrupted a predominantly defensive game in which he was very adept at getting the ball back with the occasional flat hit.
Neil Stapley, Hollington Table Tennis Club secretary, said: “It’s incredibly sad and it just leaves you numb. Tyrone was one of the nicest, most genuine blokes you could ever wish to meet, and you would have to go a long way to find anybody who had a bad word to say about him.”
Tyrone, of Hopgarden Close in Hastings, was one of the country’s top natural bodybuilders for more than three decades, becoming British champion in 1982 having previously been a Southern powerlifting champion.
He won Mr Brighton twice in three years, appeared on the front of natural bodybuilding magazines, featured in a local ITV documentary on bodybuilding and jointly organised shows on Hastings Pier.
Tyrone, who didn’t drink or smoke, even competed in the Natural Physique Association South East Championships only three months ago and quite a few bodybuilding enthusiasts have sung his praises at www.naturalmuscle.co.uk
He was also a jet-heeled winger on the football field, a successful shot putter for Hastings Athletic Club and completed 12 Hastings Half Marathons, probably barely breaking sweat in doing so.
Besides the hundreds of people who knew Tyrone through sport and his work as a fitness instructor at Falaise Fitness Centre, many others would have recognised a remarkably fit man who walked just about everywhere wearing figure-hugging, sleeveless tops, even during winter.
On a personal level, I will remember Tyrone for his friendliness and ever-present smile. He was the only player I’ve ever seen leave a cricket field grinning after being dismissed and wherever Sidley happened to be playing, people would invariably enquire about Tyrone.
Tyrone, who played an indoor cricket match for Sidley only 13 days before his death, is survived by his children Jodie, 24, Lizzy, 17, and 13-year-old Joshua, his partner Cheryl Dudley and her two children Evelyn-Grace and Ruby-May.
All who knew him are welcome to what is bound to be a superbly-attended funeral on Tuesday January 4 at Hastings Crematorium from 11.45am. There will be a wake at Sidley Cricket Club immediately afterwards and another, this time with a Jamaican theme featuring a DJ from Kiss FM, at Venuu in George Street from 7pm.